Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Badminton

There are a number of world sports which tend to be under the radar here in the USA. Notably; cricket (bigger than baseball); rugby (bigger than gridiron football); and, of course, football (not soccer - bigger than anything).

Then there are sports that are virtually unheard of, at least at a competitive, international level.

That's not to say that it's impossible to play those sports in the USA. Association Football has its ups and downs but now the USA national team is no longer a joke as more and more players gain experience in European and S American teams.

Rugby has a following in college and ex-pat communities, and cricket has outposts, once again in ex-pat and Indian and Pakistani communities.

As a matter of fact, the oldest international sporting event in the modern era was a cricket match between the USA and Canada in the 1840s.

As for badminton ... I used to play some years ago when I was quite handy ... not an expert ... but I could hold my own.

Badminton here in the USA tends to be looked at as a summer lawn sport, gently tapping the shuttle back and forth across the net. People don't seem to know that badminton is a serious sport in the rest of the world. For a start it's the fastest racquet sport in the world; shuttles can travel at over 200mph/320kph!!!

So, feeling I could do with some exercise I've been looking for a game somewhere. Badminton is hard to find here except for Universities and colleges, which usually have a club for students, and some expensive racquet clubs. A few weeks ago I was really pleased to find that our local township runs a seasonal badminton club, which I have joined.

That was the first step. The next was finding equipment. That really is quite difficult. Local sports suppliers only seem to cater for the big three; baseball, US football, basketball, plus the next tier; golf, hockey, tennis ... and that's it. Well, maybe in-line skates ... Badminton gear is limited to toy-like garden sets ... two racquets, a net and a plastic shuttlecock ... $15.00.

Once again, the internet came to the rescue. I got a nice Yonex racquet from Badminton Alley - in California - and classic HiTec Badminton shoes from eBay.co.uk. You'll have to google these yourself ... they're hard to find.

Last Monday, not knowing what to expect, I turned up for the first meeting of the season at our local school gym. Of course, there was a booking problem - just like back in England. This was quickly sorted out. But, badminton being what it is here, there were no courts marked out, so using a magic, knotted piece of rope, the assembled players marked out the courts in masking tape.


The standard of play was pretty good, so I wondered if I would be better off on the other, less competitive evening. But for the most part, I didn't look too rusty. Stuff like position on the court seeped back into my memory, although I had some difficulty returning high lobs both on the forehand, and on the backhand - previously a speciality of mine.

Maybe I just need a bit more practice. It's been more than five years since I last played, but I'm a bit suspicious of my glasses. They have varifocal/progressive lenses and I'm wondering if they're part of the problem, or maybe that's my excuse and I just need to get back into the groove.

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