As an SAS teacher, Lisa Zitur has coached the badminton girl’s team for six consecutive years now: three years for JV and three for varsity. Though she never played competitively in her younger years, she’s always loved the game of badminton. So when the school needed a JV coach, Mrs. Zitur decided to “step up and volunteer.”
When I asked what she likes most about coaching, Mrs. Zitur replied humorously with her usual one-liners: “I think your question should be ‘Do I like coaching?'”
Then in all seriousness, she revealed to me that what she likes most about coaching was simply “seeing the girls try their best.” Naturally, this included “the winning,” but she added that she just likes “everything” and getting her team “excited about the game.”
So what is it that Mrs. Zitur likes about badminton in the first place? Besides reasons like being “a really fast” and “indoors” game, she said, “this is a game that’s not just about fitness. It’s also about strategy. So it’s brains and brawn” – meaning both physical strength and willpower.
But it must take a lot of willpower to train the girls themselves. I asked her how she trains her team, and she gave me the response, “I usually.. have a.. just– a group of tigers and crocodiles behind them to chase them.”
As I took down notes diligently, thinking she was talking figuratively, she interrupted, “You know I’m joking, right? Where are we going to find all these animals?” I laughed.
She continued, “Basically – first of all – we work on fitness, so I request the girls to go to APEx to get training…at least once a week.” When it comes to badminton training, she teaches them “skills,” “footwork,” and “different strategies of the game.”
“We try to get as many games as possible in because the experience from games really help. You can teach them all you want, but if you freeze during games, then you’re done.”
After a short pause, she added, “…And of course, I use my good old fashioned Mrs. Zitur sarcasm.”
I smiled, recognizing a pattern. She called it “harshness,” but “…some love.”
“Tough love?” I asked.
“Yes, tough love.”
I attempted to inquire into the specific strategies she uses.
“Huh? Must I reveal the strategies?” she blurted out in a rhetorical tone. I laughed again.
“Well, basically, I tell the girls it’s a reactive game – meaning you have to react to whatever’s happening in the game.” She carried on, “There’s no set strategy. When you step onto the court, you have to see what your opponent’s doing – they’ll also be sussing you out – and from there, you have to form your strategy, based on the weaknesses and strengths of your opponents and the mistakes you’re making.”
“So,” she concluded, “it’s a fluid strategy. There’s no hard and fast one.”
Finally, I asked her about this year’s IASAS tournament and how confident she feels about us winning. She answered, “I think we have a good shot at home, as long as the girls stay confident with themselves.”
She ended with one final coaching wisdom, “What I tell my girls is that I do not take it well when they lose a game [for not trying] their best, or [not giving] their one hundred percent. But, if they lose their game because their opponent is way stronger, and they’ve done their best.. I’m fine. I would not give them hell.”
She paused. “Otherwise, they get hell.”
Tough love’s the way she treats the girls, but it sure seems to work in getting our team kicking the other schools’ butts!