Spring is in the air. It’s warm and sunny in Sydney and locals are flocking to the beach. It’s so nice to drive past the beach to have a social badminton game with friends. But a dark cloud has descended: I’ve become a player who’s picky about who I play with.
Let me explain before you think I’m arrogant. I can play with anyone – old and young, beginners and professional players – as long as they’re happy to play with me. I have watched many players and observed the culture at many clubs. I’m happy to chase after shuttles and make silly mistakes, and for my partner to do the same. Badminton is more for leisure than competition to me.
I play games with friends when I just want to have fun. As a rookie I had a hard time getting a decent game. When I played with more serious players, I had to tell myself “ok, placement and fewer mistakes!” because they would glare at me. But sometimes I wasn’t in the mood. That’s when I became selective about the group I joined. If I had to choose between partnering a semi-pro player (who glared and told me off) and a friendly beginner, I’d gladly play with the friendly one and practice my shots.
Finding a non judgmental group who were around the same level as me or better wasn’t an easy process. Amongst the higher level guys, I regularly got trashed. But I was ok with that. I appreciated it. The benefit of playing against stronger players is that I got to recognise the weaknesses in my game. A net slice too high, a weak lift to the mid-court, moving too slow…any loose shot was deservedly punished. I was a happy loser because I got the chance to practice and improve. And my friends were happy because they won. Win-win.
Social games have provided a good opportunity to apply what I learned in training. When I practice I’m conscious of why my errors occur. I’ve trained myself to get ready for the next shot because 99% of the time it can come back faster, flatter or at a different angle.
What about playing with weaker players? Their shots can be unpredictable, making it hard to establish a rhythm. If they struggle with footwork, I can practice placement and control. My key goal currently is to improve the quality of my shots and control of the pace. But if my partner is weak, there’s only so much I can do to control the rally or keep it going. I need to get better at carrying a game. It’s not that exciting to play a slow game, but it’s humbling and I enjoy having a laugh.
So hopefully my pickiness is justified. Snobbery is one of the top 5 things I hate most about badminton. At some “social” sessions, people can be idiots. I don’t like hearing players put other players down to make themselves look good. I don’t enjoy playing with people who are overly competitive and judgmental. One time, a strong player who never wanted to play with me before pointed at me and said let’s have a game. He brought his friend – a beginner – over and said he’s not very good so he would pair with him. He thought (a) I was weak enough (b) he was doing me a favour by giving me the opportunity to play against him (c) he still smashed and tried various tactics to win. Note when players invite you for a game, question their motives. Sometimes they aren’t being friendly, they are doing it for themselves. If you aren’t comfortable then politely decline citing the need to rest. Perhaps that makes me kind of a reverse snob(!)