Thursday, April 3, 2014

Badminton and Volleyball (with a twist)

I want to make a quick blog post on sports in Korea.  Now, I’m sure I’ll get exposure to more, but I just have to share my badminton experience as well as a new sport I learned about.  First…badminton.

I joined a badminton club for teachers.  We meet every Wednesday after school.   The first meeting was two weeks ago (March 26).  I knew Koreans took badminton very seriously…that came up a few times in my research.  However, I feel like I’m a fairly coordinated and athletic individual, so I thought I would at least be somewhat decent.  So I walked into the gym, and I was the only female teacher with four male teachers, essentially making me the 5th wheel.  The club leader quickly got me a racket and invited me to warm up with him and another teacher as the other two changed and got ready.  At this point, I still feel like I can do this.  And then the birdie…oops, sorry “shuttlecock” (no backyard badminton cutesy names over here)…comes my way.  I hit it and, to my dismay, it doesn’t even make it over the net!  Talk about embarrassing!!!!!  My first observation…the shuttlecock in Korea is much lighter than what I expected.  As a result, technique and timing become crucial.  My Korean colleagues were so patient about showing me the technique using their limited English (luckily, a sport is something you can explain through gestures).  After warming up, and still looking a little pathetic, I might add, the four men left me to practice as they played a game.  The leader actually instructed me to practice my swing with the wrist snap 100 times, to which I replied, “Fair enough,” and commenced the drill.  

I apologize for the poor video wouldn't insert correctly.
At least it gives you some idea of my Wednesday badminton time.

After the men played a few games, two of them spent some more time helping me out and giving me tips.  So although I felt like an uncoordinated doofus on the badminton court, I did feel welcomed by their patience and willingness to help.  Koreans are definitely very friendly and patient people.  And I’m happy to say…all their guidance paid off!

Round two of badminton happened this past Wednesday, April 2.  Even the warm up started off better.  I was more relaxed and not overthinking it, which is always helpful.  There were two other female teachers this time and a total of 9 people in attendance.  So a couple of the gentleman sacrificed the serious game to play with us girls.  I think I surprised them by holding my own.  They’re pretty competitive, though, so when the game got close, they went for the weak spot (i.e., me).  I am happy to report that I was not the weakest link on the court.  I think I even surprised the Koreans when I made a dive for the shuttlecock and…it…almost…made…it…over.  (Those of you that know me from my volleyball days are probably not surprised to hear about my diving play.)  When the play was done for the afternoon, one of the teachers even gave me a racket with a carrying case as a gift.  Gift giving is a pretty important part of Korean culture, so I feel honored by the gesture!  I’m really looking forward to future Wednesdays on the badminton court!

Okay…now on to the new sport I learned.  I was walking around Grand Park with another English teacher on Sunday (BTW…Grand Park is Ulsan’s equivalent to Central Park in NYC), we paused to watch some older gentleman playing a game I had never seen.  It looked like a volleyball court, but they were using their feet and heads…no hands.  Hmmmm…Then today in class, a student asked me for the English word for feet volleyball.  I had a flashback to the park.  I said, “I don’t know.  I’ve never heard of that.”  I then had him tell me the Korean name while I attempted to write it in Hangeul on the board to look up later (my students really got a kick out of me attempting Korean).  So after class, I did a Google search for “feet volleyball.”  And, low and behold, this is what I found:  

So, for all my volleyball friends…when you’re ready to step up your volleyball game and make it a little different give this a try.  And if you do try it…good luck with that!  ; )

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