Tennis Tour to Beijing
I just returned from a trip to Beijing where through my role as Head Coach of St Mary’s Tennis, I got the opportunity to be coach of the Independent Girls School Association (IGSSA) Tennis team and be a part of their trip to China to compete in the friendship games.
I have always been fascinated by old Chinese traditions such as Tai Chi, Acupuncture and philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism.
I was very keen to be immersed in such as culture and also see the new modern China where they are experiencing huge economic growth and a foray into capitalism.
Old and New – Tradition and Enterprise
After a stopover in Singapore we got to Beijing and was greeted by our friendly guides and headed out to the hotel where the traffic was dense and the atmosphere intense as premium brand cars mixed with cheaper transport in a battle for saving time and getting ahead. Whilst the modern China was on display, the more traditional bikes, motorbikes and tuk tuk’s were also fascinating to follow.
Our hotel was a nice 4 star place on the south side of Beijing and we were in walking distance to supermarket and other shops. My room was nice and overlooked the chaos that is Beijing with its skyscraper apartments and old shops and homes.
Serious Players.. Normal Teenage Girls Afterwards
Our first match was held at a sports university in Beijing. The courts were empty in the mid afternoon and there was around 12 courts with a very basic toilet attached and a desk at the entrance to the facility. Their team was very strong and too good for our girls but a good experience and after the match the selfies were out in force as the girls traded photos and their choice of social media/chat apps.
We traveled out to International School of Beijing where we were welcomed into their purified airtight 6 court dome. There was another dome’s also which had a fitness centre along with soccer and athletics. The girls enjoyed playing under the great facilities and where this fixture was more a practice session for the ISB players, it was a great experience.
China’s National Tournament Winner
Our trip to Rising Stars Academy saw the girls take on some very high quality opposition. This included a recent national tournament winner and #6 for her age in China. We ended up doing some mixed doubles matches with a Perth girl teaming with a Chinese girl. This was seen as unusual from the Chinese girls but they enjoyed the bonding and social side of changing the teams up.
Sleep at the Courts
Chaudau Academy was a live in tennis school that reminded me of what a stereotypical communist sporting program would look like. There was 20 plus well worn indoor and outdoor courts with shopping trolleys full of old balls ready for drill based tennis session where repetition is the priority. This is the place where kids train 4 hours a day in tennis, do 2 hours a day in conditioning and then 4 hours a day of study. We played in the indoor courts where the kids dorm rooms and hung out clothes were above the courts so they literally slept at the tennis courts. We also enjoyed a school lunch which was tasty but an experience in itself and also gave a great snapshot into the traditions of the Chinese school system.
Outside the tennis our tourist highlight reel was plentiful. We visited the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Tianamann square. The history and the grandiosity of the buildings and environment was remarkable and awe inspiring. Some highlights were playing a form of ‘hacky sack’ with the local retirees who play outside the temple of heaven and also experiencing the sheer size of a place such as Tianamann square and Summer Palace. We also did a traditional tea ceremony learning about all the various tea varieties and the health benefits that the Chinese strongly believe in. As a group we also had tickets to see an amazing Acrobat show and one of my personal highlights was a Kung Fu show we saw towards the end of the trip.
Our taste buds were tempted at the street markets where we passed spiders, snakes and starfish which were all fried up for our enjoyment. We were told to just observe and not take part in the cuisine to avoid any unwelcome health. I cant say that I would have been tempted anyway but it was nice to see not only the modern shopping centres but also the street market and traditional stalls which make Beijing such a great experience.
The travel on the tour bus was fun. The girls traded play lists where they used their bargain speakers they bought at the markets to blast out the latest Justin Beiber, Jason Derulo and more. Our small tennis group treated each other with respect and inclusion and this made my job and the job of Amy, our team manager, easy and enjoyable.
Overall the trip was fantastic and for me personally really gave me a new lease of life. It gave us all an opportunity to take in the culture, enjoy and develop further as tennis players, whilst enjoying the benefits of a very well organised trip through China Stars.
Is the referee making things easier or harder?
The referee was very keen to do a ‘lottery’ for who plays on what courts. I initially thought it was the position number of each team member that was being raffled but the positions could be nominated but the court number that you play on had to be raffled off. This was quite strange to me as all the courts were the same and it was easy to start at 1 side with the highest rank and finish at the other side with the lowest rank. However it was interesting and we each took turns raffling off the players and which court they are playing on!
Observations of Chinese Junior Players
As I had seen previously, they tend to hit flat and pretty hard. They all have decent serves and tend to hit through the court opposed to angles. Our number 1 girl managed to compete in a tight first set by getting the ball back with slow and high shape which was a rhythm the more elite Chinese girl didn’t enjoy.
We had several lunch and dinner’s out where we had the opportunity to stare at and I assume eat a couple of chickens heads and other interesting Chinese customs. We enjoyed the shared meal culture, fumbled but improved our chopsticks skills over the trip duration and practiced our Ni Hao (Hello) and xiè xie (Thankyou) to the wait staff who through an extensive language barrier, catered well to our taste buds and smiled with us as we embraced the experience.
I Look forward to hopefully going again in 2 years time, it was a well organised and fun trip.