Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How life is like a game of badminton

I started playing badminton when I was 9 years old, which means I’ve been playing badminton for almost half of my life. I’ve been competing from fourth grade to fourth year for inter-school, Provincial, Mayor’s Cups, Governor’s Cups, Invitational cups, etc.

There was this certain time in 4th year during training that a thought just struck me. I’ve been hearing the words “drive, drop, smash, forehand, backhand, lob, drills, ready” and all the other badminton jargons millions of times since I was 9, and I never got tired of it.

Yes, I’ve been smashed on the face a couple of times, hit myself with a racket, tumbled towards the umpire’s chair, got badly bruised on the shoulder, experienced body ache for days, injured my hand, been screamed at. I had to give up ballet, piano, drawing, crafts, my grades, my friends, my parents’ trust, but why did I hold on to badminton?

That was the day I realized that life is like a game of badminton.

I realized that words like “smash, drop, drive” meant so much more to me than just imperative single-word sentences being yelled to me which I immediately needed to follow like a routine-based, battery-operated robot.

In a game of badminton, you may join a singles or doubles event. Either you play alone, or in pairs. Same goes for life, there are things that you have to do yourself, and there are things that you just can’t. A good friend always comes in handy, to tell you that you are not alone and you are fighting together.

Every little move in badminton counts. You hold the racket like shaking hands with someone. It is going to be the most important thing you need during the game.

Before every game, you warm up. You stretch, you work up a sweat. You prepare. You try to remember the things you do in training. In life, we also have warm-ups. For example, we go to school to prepare us for our real game, which is the future. Or it may also simply mean just studying for an exam.

 Before the official start, there is also a coin-toss. Here, you decide who gets to serve first, or which court you want. It may also be the time to meet your opponent. It symbolizes our decisions in life, be it our everyday decisions or life-changing ones, our opportunity costs (for choosing serve, opponent gets to choose court). The opponent may not necessarily symbolize a person or hatred personified; it may also mean certain objects or events like school, family, career, a relationship.

During the event of a game, every move you make on court matters because badminton is a give and take sport. You and your opponent may exchange a lob, a drop, a smash, a forehand, a backhand, or a combination of those. How you receive it and what you give back means something.

If he lobs the shuttlecock over, it’s a test how far you can push yourself to your limits. If he gives you a drop like a cross-court drop,  
he tests your ability to how fast you adapt to change. If he gives you a smash, you have to know how and be fast enough to demonstrate defense against him. A smash is the hardest shot to receive, but if you are able to block it, that’s already an achievement. For example, right now, the school year’s about to end, and we have a lot of exams coming up and requirements to submit. That’s just like a smash.  If we study hard and submit everything, it’s a block. The best one there is, I suppose.

On the other side of the court, when it’s you giving a lob, it means you have accomplished something, so you have time to get ready for the next shot. If he gives you the perfect shot for a smash, make sure you know the perfect angle, and give it your best shot, for you never know, it might win you a point.

Badminton is not a strength game. Being strong does not guarantee you winning. It’s a strategic game, where you need thinking, focus, and placement.

Sometimes, your score may be leading, but sometimes, you just have to catch up. Sometimes you win; sometimes you don’t. Winning is something, but it’s how you play the game that counts. In badminton, there is no such thing as failure. Losing is not equal to failure. It’s what gives us a drive to say “try harder”.

So the next time you play badminton, I hope you remember to play it with faith, with everything you’ve got, and with every fiber of your being, because the same goes for life.

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