The Duke of Beaufort would have been pleased that so many people were playing and watching his game in Scottsdale today. In 1836, the Duke invented the modern version of a game that dates back to ancient Greece and China, and that the British had run across in their then-colony of India. He named the game after his English country home — the House of Badminton.
Today’s scene at the Firebird Invitational badminton tournament at Chaparral High School was far removed from an English country home. Sixty-five girls from nine Valley high schools filled nine badminton courts in the Chaparral gym, which had five state title badminton banners hanging on the wall.
Two of the players, the doubles team of Danielle Mark (at left in photo) and Carissa Pappas, from the currently top ranked team in the state, the Xavier College Prep Gators, shared with me some things about badminton that most people don’t know.
Despite its elegance, badminton is a lot of work, they said. The Xavier team practices three hours a day, five days a week. They start the day at school at 6:30 a.m. for an hour of conditioning work, which includes sprints, footwork agility drills and core/abdominal exercises such as the plank, bicycle crunches and working with medicine balls. After school, they have two hours of practice on badminton.
Both Danielle and Carissa first played badminton in freshman P.E. class. Danielle started playing competitively as a sophomore and Carissa as a junior.
“It is not a common sport and not something that people would expect to be competitive,” Danielle said. Carissa likes the mental side of the game. “You can have all the physical skills, but if you have a bad mental game, you can’t win anything.”
“I don’t know what I would do without badminton,” Carissa said, noting that there are no college scholarships available in the sport. “I would love to play in college.”
“So what don’t people appreciate about badminton?” I asked them.
“That it’s actually hard,” Danielle said. “It uses a lot of physicality and balance. You are constantly moving.”
Carissa compared badminton to tennis, which she once played competitively. “Badminton has more quickness and little spurts of energy,” Carissa said. “Tennis is more fluid.”
So what advice do the two Xavier girls have for those of us who play badminton once or twice a year at a picnic? “Hit through the bird. Don’t tap it,” Carissa said.
Danielle had more general advice, which extends well beyond badminton and other sports. “Our coach always says, ‘You’ve got to show up.’ Show up both mentally and physically.”
The 5A high state badminton championship will be played this year at Dobson High School in Mesa. The team competition will be Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 and 4. The individual singles and doubles championships will be Nov. 6 and 7. Admission is $5 and kids under 5 are free. If you or your daughter is interested in learning more about badminton, you should go. I have a pretty good feeling that Danielle, Carissa and the rest of their Xavier teammates (below) will show up. — Dan Barr