Columnists: Badminton is totally a sport

January 6, 2009 — by Tiffany Tung and Melody Zhang

The fastest recorded tennis stroke belongs to Andy Roddick at 153 mph. The fastest recorded squash stroke belongs to John White of Scotland at 172 mph. The fastest recorded badminton stroke belongs to Fu Haifeng of China at 206 mph.

The shuttlecock may be composed of merely cork and feathers, but its power and speed should not be underestimated. In a world where tennis reigns supreme among other racket sports, badminton is pushed aside and seen as weak—if acknowledged as one at all.

Badminton downplayed in America

A sport originating from ancient Greece and now mainly popular in Asia, badminton is known in America as a game to be played out in the grass at family picnics. Many schools in Asia, on the other hand, even have programs dedicated to training students to become Olympic-worthy badminton players. While some predominantly Asian-American Bay Area schools have badminton available for their students, other parts of the United States, such as the Midwest, don’t have large enough Asian-American communities to promote the sport.

Even many Saratoga High students’ scoff at badminton. They think it’s a “wimp” sport and assume the team doesn’t train as hard as others do. It has become a joke to numerous students who try out every year in order to avoid PE. And yet, the number of students who drop out prior to tryouts due to brutal conditioning is astounding. It has become customary to see nearly 100 students try out for about 50 positions, and every year about 20 students drop out during the first few preseason weeks.

It’s really not that easy

The truth is, the aerobic stamina, agility, strength and precision required in badminton greatly exceed that of other sports. As a result, badminton is much faster both physically and mentally. Repetitive movements, fast reaction and direction changes require intensive drills, conditioning and quick decision-making.

The lightweight racquets, which have led to much doubt over the dedication needed to excel in badminton, have encouraged the development of sophisticated racquet movements and don’t restrict players from making lightning fast shots the way other racquet sports often do.
Wounds and casualties

Badminton players condition as much and sometimes more than other sports. Though the small court gives the illusion that a player doesn’t need to move around much, the shuttlecock compensates for that by traveling between opponents quickly, requiring players to reposition themselves for the upcoming shots as fast as possible.

The need for instant reflexes and agility in the relatively small court often leads untrained players to trip over their own feet, resulting in the same sprained ankles and knee injuries seen in other sports. Badminton also causes tennis elbow, golf elbow and other conditions diagnosed in other types of athletes.

And in addition to the common sprains, being pegged in the eye by a small piece of hard cork traveling at 150 mph also is not a fun experience. Just ask guidance counselor Alinna Satake whose contact lenses shattered into numerous small pieces in her eye from a shuttlecock hit during her badminton years here at Saratoga.

Way back when

Saratoga Badminton experienced its glory days from 2003 to 2005, when the team placed first in it’s league for three consecutive years. But the team has been on a downhill slope ever since, annually experiencing coaching changes and a lack of support.

Despite the team’s dedication and training, they have never heard supportive classmates cheering, “Go Saratoga badminton!” during games. When leaving class early for games, teachers rarely say, “Good luck with your badminton match,” and game days always go unnoticed. But the plaque-covered gym walls tell the truth, proving that it truly is a sport to be recognized.

Every year, the school chooses a male and female athlete of the year. Someday, we hope they’ll choose a badminton player and give the sport the recognition it deserves.

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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