A single point in the game is about 30 seconds of intense swings, forward lunges, frantic backpedalling and monstrous smashes. Watching the club’s weekly practice on Tuesday, it’s fascinating to see the constant agile movements that every player makes.
This evening, one particularly intense double’s game is going on and one point goes more or less like this: a gentle serve to get the shuttlecock just over the net, after which it is returned high with a clear shot by the other team. The same player who serves takes a couple of steps back, raises his left hand to sight the shuttlecock then swings his right arm like a whip, snapping his wrist downwards in the process and driving the ball over the net, too fast for the eye to see and straight to the floor on the opposing team’s side (OK, you could see it, but it was really, really fast).
B.V. Erasmus hosts a mix of experienced players and beginners. In the early months of the academic year, there’s always an influx of new students who enrol in the club and try out for the sport. Many do so believing that badminton is easy to play, a notion that’s very quickly dispelled after a couple of sessions. There are two teams in the club, one advanced and one intermediate. The club has roughly 100 members, with about 40 classified as “active members” who show up to practices and go to tournaments.
Usually, around 10 to 15 people participate in tournaments held by other clubs. Sign-ups are individual, but the people going usually meet beforehand and travel there together. B.V. Erasmus is the only university badminton club in Rotterdam, so students usually compete at non-school sports clubs in and out of the city. There’s a friendly vibe at tournaments, usually with more experienced players going to play. Some of the newer players don’t feel confident enough to join tournaments, but there are always advanced players willing to help and provide encouragement.
Suet Yin and Donovan Liauw, two members of the board, talk about the club and its atmosphere. “It’s not just an Asian sport!”, Liauw says. “The club right now is about 60 percent Asian, I think.” Laughing, Suet adds: “Well, I think it’s more like 90 percent Asian… and then 10% multicultural.”
At the beginning of this academic year, the badminton club tried to up that percentage by hosting activities during Eureka week to engage with incoming students. They organised a mini-badminton game, handed out flyers, had people take pictures and basically just tried to get the word around that B.V. Erasmus was a fun club worth joining.
Food and new company
It’s not all about making the shuttlecock fly at B.V. Erasmus. Socialising is a key part of being a member. The cycling dinner, for example, was a great way for newer members to meet the rest of the players at the club. A new and old member paired up, prepared and cooked one course, after which other players came into their home to eat and talk.
Then, the evening continued with players cycling to another pair who had prepared the second course, culminating with a final round of cycling to dessert. The whole evening lasted around four or five hours and ended with a round of drinks. The initial shyness of many members faded after a couple hours spent jostling in a stranger’s kitchen, followed by more spent stuffing themselves with food and enjoying new company.
More events like pub crawls, weekend trips and a camping excursion are also being planned, so there’s always something going on to make the club feel like an extended family of badminton players.