Friday, May 27, 2011
Rotational intensive badminton
Last fall, I was lucky enough to find an intact, well supplied badminton set at a thrift store, and was able to initiate the girls into one of my favorite sports from my high school days. (My friend Conley and I played many hours of badminton in gym, demolishing the birdie with whatever clique or boyfriend-related aggressions needed outlet at the moment.) For the winter, the set simply sat in the yard, tolerating the snow and waiting for better days ahead. The lawn was none the worse for it.
This spring, we've come to rely on this $6 find for entertainment much more than I would have guessed. It turns out to be good for all the ages in our household, good for short or long moments outside, good for relaxation or, as I found in high school gym class, for peacefully working out more - shall we say - intense emotions. We're wearing out the rackets and the birdies both, and I think replacements will be in our future before long.
What I didn't anticipate - but should have - was wearing out the turf. This is a subject I think about by day (teaching in sustainable agriculture class about rotational intensive grazing or talking with local field managers about complaints over soccer field rest periods), and a subject I thought about occasionally as a child (our front lawn sported two matching bare spots where I caught or batted while Dad pitched). I've sometimes heard myself telling the girls to switch spots for their soccer goalie practice, so as not to compact the soil - poor children! But I'd never really thought about it much.
Brian and I both see that the ground is too wet for the turf to handle this kind of abuse. We've moved the net a couple of times (note the matching worn spots a few feet apart in the photo above). We've tried to put it in the least-soppy areas - a challenging task in a relentlessly wet spring. We both try not to stand in the same spot all the time, though the reality is that setting up in a central part of the court is critical to badminton success. In our own rather vague way, we're still trying to rescue the poor grass from its doom.
If I were a real scientist, perhaps I would take this as a learning opportunity. I could try to experiment, to find out how many hours of play and how much recovery time is necessary to maintain healthy turf under badminton pressure. I could do treatments to see whether aeration or modified mowing treatments helped abate the damage done by our competitive feet. But really - it's a *backyard*, and the whole reason I wanted one of these silly grassy spaces was for the kids to *play*. They're doing it. I really can't complain.
Because in reality, we're having a great time. It's a lot of fun to play. The game is compact enough (unlike tennis) that you can still talk (without shouting) while lobbing the birdie back and forth. It works for the beginning player (Hazel, who does a charming lift of her opposite foot each time she swings) and the take-no-prisoners grouchy spouse or moody 11 year old. At the same time, badminton is hard to take too seriously, and there's nothing quite so humorous or humbling as a noisy, swishing whiff followed by a birdie hitting the ground, unhit, at my feet.
So we have some bare patches, and some very mortally wounded grass in our backyard. Big deal. It's less to mow, and represents a lot of fun in progress. It's just irritating enough to make me wish for a really compaction tolerant weed to come in and make itself a home there. At least that way I won't get muddy when I slip and fall while trying to whack a line drive at some poor member of my family.