As I walk into the University of Lethbridge gymnasium, the first thing I notice is how quiet it is. Aside from the constant, gentle squeak of badminton rackets and the occasional announcement of the latest match, it is almost silent. I’m volunteering at the 2014 ASAA Badminton Provincials, and I’m more than a bit late.
As I rush into a small room on the side of the gym, I see several people in blue t-shirts gathered around, looking at papers and computer screens, hurriedly completing some task or another. Every so often, as they are called, pairs of badminton players walk in and wait around. After they’re done doing that, they are told which court they’re playing on and are given a small card. Around the same time, I’m told to get to work. I join a dark-haired man sitting on a chair at the end of the gym, staring intently at someone’s Facebook status. I introduce myself, still entirely confused as to my duties. He explains that I’m to give each court three minutes of warm-up time before each game, at which point I’m supposed to tell them to get started. I nod, pretending to understand, and he walks away.
As I sit there for an approximate eleven hours, I have time to think a lot of thoughts. Soon after debating with myself as to what ASAA stands for, I decide to figure out how to play badminton.
It looks a lot like ping pong, except on a considerably larger scale.
Around that time, I fall asleep for a few seconds.
I quickly drink some water and walk around the gym to wake myself up. As I return to my post, I start to notice something I hadn’t before. Despite my expectations of a loud, aggressive sport, this is anything but. More often than not, teammates not only high-five each other after successfully hitting the shuttlecock to the other side, but also when they are not successful. And even, at the end of the match, the opposing team! (Also, I witnessed some weird high-five variants where they hit their rackets together. That can’t be good for the rackets, can it?) It seems, upon second thought, that this tournament is about something different than what I first thought. I decided to continue watching.
As two girls intensely battle it out in front of me for what was later estimated as over forty-five minutes, I realize that few, if any of the competitors there are focused on winning. Surely, that takes up a certain amount of their thoughts; winning is fun, yet most seem to be focused on something more important.
They are all completely in the moment.
I decide that that must be important to any sort of competition. They’re not worried about what they’re going to wear tomorrow, or how they’re going to do on that test, or if they’re going to get to stand on that podium and get a medal. And doesn’t that sound like a bit more fun than the alternative?
As the matches wrap up, and winners are announced, I help to take down everything that was set up for the game. I recognize some of the winners, having watched them play for the past eleven hours. I decided which ones I like and which ones I don’t. Certainly, everyone who participated appreciated the experience, and maybe even took something away from it. Perhaps some learned the value of hard work, discovered that they really, really like badminton, or maybe just met someone interesting in the bleachers. I know I learned a few things.
I still didn’t figure out how to play badminton though. Maybe next time.
Jack Harvey is a Grade Ten student at CCH. He enjoys triathlons, making films, and evidently writing blog posts. His favourite thing about CCH is himself.