5. Badminton, My Life & My Path - The time in Middle school (3 years age 12-14) - The 3rd Year

The coach of the middle school club had to go the national military service at the end of my 3rd year. All the males in Korea had to go to the military service for three years. He really wanted us to win the middle school national championship and put so much effort to train us and to have us win.

We had to train Monday to Saturday for about 3-4 hours. During the summer school break from July to August, we had to train all day from Monday to Saturday from 6:00am - 7:00am, 10:00am - 12:00pm and 2:30pm - 6:00pm. Often we rented a small property and all of our club members including the coach lived together for 1 month or so. It was the same during the winter break. We did the same amount of training as the summer break. Below were the things I remember we did during this year.

The Hardest Training

It was Summer Break Camp, all of us were living together in a house including the coach. We got up at about 5:45am to start morning training at 6am. This day we had to do one of the hardest training in my whole life. You may know “Rabbit hopping” where you have to bend your knees and hop like a rabbit. Also, you may know “Duck walking” where you have to bend your knee and walk like a duck. In both types of training, you do not stretch your knees. When you drive a car, you will sometimes see a “Power pole” on the side of the road. I am not sure if the distance between the power poles is 25 meters or 50 meters. We had to do “rabbit hop” from a power pole to another, then we had to do “duck walking” to the next power pole. We had to train like that for about 2 km. We were not allowed to stand up and stretch our knees. No one dared to stand up and stretch knees. There were no questions, once we got the order, we just had to do it. I still remember the pain and the darkness as it was early morning, cars were passing us and the wind was strong.

Footwork training

We were doing footwork training. The coach said “start” and then we do footwork training on the court for about 2 minutes and then the coach said “stop” and then we stop and rest for about 1 minute. The coach said “start”, we started and I saw him go outside. I was not sure if he went outside to smoke or to go to the toilet. But after about 2 to 3 minutes have passed he did not comeback. We were still doing the footwork and we were looking at each other asking what to do. Should we continue or should we stop. We did not dare to stop by ourselves and we continued for about 20 minutes non stop. I think he forgot that we were doing the footwork training. He came back and said “stop”.

Hard physical punishment during footwork training

When we were doing footwork training, the coach held a wooden stick and when ever he saw one of us slow down their speed, he would call the person and hit their bum with the stick. After the person had been hit, he had to run to the court and continue the footwork training. It was 50 years ago. All of us were scared of being hit.

Things we did in early morning (6:00 - 7:30am)

When we were having a school break, we all lived together and trained all day, starting in the very early morning. There are many mountains in Korea and the city I was living in had a mountain in the city centre. The property we were staying in was very close to the mountain. We had to run to the middle of the mountain, it took about 30 minutes. There were many hills. After we ran, we had to sprint up a hill about 30 meters long 15 times. We had to use one leg and hop the same length uphill 5 sets on each leg. I really did not like this training as it is very hard. When I was doing this, I closed my eyes and did it and I hopped into a ditch and fell down. I was lucky that I was not injured as the ditch was not deep. In Summer training, sometimes we brought our racket to the mountain and did many smash and clear swings with steps in the mountain after running. In the Winter, when the temperature goes down to -10C to -15C and it was snowing, we had to run in the mountain. At that time getting up at 5:45am and training 1 hour and 30 minutes in Summer and Winter school break was very normal to us. Not only to us but the other kids who were training other school sports did the same.

I was the best and the worst player in our group.

When I played a match against other players in our group, I was able to beat all of them but when I played in any competitions I was the worst player. I became so nervous that I could not move and lost to many players. My coach was so frustrated with me that I was not able to play to my ability at tournaments. At one tournament the coach even made me drink half a glass of wine with the hope that I would relax and play better. But it did not work.

I made the coach totally disappointed

As we were training very intensively, our playing level was getting much better. Our coach’s goal was to win the most important middle school national team championship. I did know that the coach really put all of his effort and soul into training us and wanted us to win before he had to leave to go to the national military service for three years. It was his dream to achieve, but I totally destroyed his dream and all of his efforts by playing so poorly and lost a key match, when I was supposed to beat the player, as the player was number 3 on their team and I was the number 1 player of our team. Our team lost due to my worst performance. The last two years of the coach’s hard work and the dream was broken by my extremely poor performance. He went the national military service after the competition. We were very sad that we could not win and we really made our coach so disappointed and destroyed his dream and made his heart broken. I do like the coach very much and I do respect him very much too. He is in Korea. He is my first respected coach.

Badminton status in Korean during this time in 1970s

People saw that I was doing some kind of sports and they asked me what sport do I play. I said "badminton", then most of them say to me "is that a sport? The one you try to catch mosquitoes?", or some other says "Ladies sports". They say, "you should be doing Judo" as I was bigger and taller than my friends. When I hear that I was so angry but I had some kind of self pride of doing the sport. The status of Badminton in Korea during this time was very low. Badminton was known as a very easy sport or it was not a sport. People thought that badminton was only played in the park, not a court, with no net. But today, badminton is one of the most popular sports in Korea.