Editorial – ISBT London – Back on court

Back on court… By Raphael Sachetat. Badzine Chief Editor. Photos: Olivier Duband/ Conor Flatley I had forgotten how it felt. First, the pre-competition excitement. Preparing your bag. The rackets: 2? […]

Back on court…

By Raphael Sachetat. Badzine Chief Editor. Photos: Olivier Duband/ Conor Flatley

I had forgotten how it felt. First, the pre-competition excitement. Preparing your bag. The rackets: 2? Naah, 3 maybe – you never know. The shoes – which pair did I feel good in? The shirts – how many? Towel, grip, bottle. Shuttles. All set. Then comes the first time when you enter the venue with your sports bag on your back, with a mixed feeling of apprehension and excitement. Who will be your opponents? How will you play today? It’s very early in the morning, you’re half asleep but something is in the air which makes you awake… Remember that? Most of you, Badzine readers, probably know that feeling and experience it on a regular basis.

On my end, it had been a while that I hadn’t even come near a racket.  A bad back experience had forbidden me to even think of holding one for a while. Almost 4 years without touching a racket, while I still kept coming very close to the world’s best badminton courts, with my camera around the neck. Often wondering when it would be my turn to sweat again. So here I was, at the entrance of the Sobell Leisure Centre in London, UK.

This is where the 3rd edition of the ISBT was taking place this week-end. ISBT usually stands for “International Student Badminton Tournament”. Only for the London edition, the organizers had made it an “International Solibad Badminton Tournament”. With students, and non students. That was for me the best tournament to get back on the courts, as it was all about enjoying the game, no pressure, play for fun in a Swiss Ladder format. This is a great format,  where players keep playing , no matter if they win or lose – against opponents with similar records of victories and losses. Clever as you end up meeting people who are playing at your level. Al that with a fantastic software (invented by ISBT players!) which allows you to check on your smartphone when your next match is up! My Solibad buddies Sandrine, Loic, Olivier had made a last minute decision to join me to play in that special tournament to add a French flavour to the otherwise British (and Dutch) hegemony.

First strokes and that strange feeling – between “yes, it’s like riding a bicycle, you never forget it – and a huge number of mishits and frame shots that remind you that, no, it’s not all coming back all of a sudden.  The first match in mixed doubles was very strange as well. Losing track of where I was supposed to be on the court, losing track of score, trying to remember my old habits. Not that I was ever a good badminton player – just average – but at least I seemed to know what I was doing. On that Saturday morning, it was like I was re-discovering the sport. My random local partners – Katie in the mixed and Ian for the men’s doubles, were kind enough not to shout at me for my loss of focus and my bad calls, and matches kept coming. We won some matches.

We lost some others, but it didn’t really matter. It was just feeling good to be out there, working my ass – and other muscles – off. I could understand what those top players feel when they are back on court after a long injury for instance. It’s hard, it’s tough on your body, but your mind just enjoys every single one of the points you play. I guess it gives you another perspective in the sport – no matter what level you play in.

I played  total of 12 matches in two days – that’s what all my body could take. On the Sunday morning, my muscles were so sore that I thought I would never be able to hit a shuttle properly, but with a light practice and muscles getting warm again, it was ok. Of course, on Monday morning and Tuesday morning, getting up from my bed was a painful process, but it didn’t matter. I loved that time spent with new friends from the UK. Even if results didn’t matter, I was still proud to have finished on the podium of the “B” tournament in men’s doubles!

I must thank Conor and the organizing committee – a group of 10+ people who spend a lot of their free time organizing this event – that was the third time. In the first two editions, more than US$ 2500 were raised for our Solibad programs as the London ISBT gave all their profits to Solibad.  They made a huge difference in the lives of the children we help.

We really had a great time, between the long hours on the courts, or chatting between matches, making new friends, enjoying the disguised party on the Saturday night (the theme was “O”), making funny pictures on Olympic trampolines (You’d never believe how scary it gets when you fake a jump smash and end up over 2 meters in the air!).

So much fun! If I can, I will definitely come back next year! If you want to join, you can find more about the ISBT London here.

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.