by Asami Nelson
Keeping a ball from touching the ground may seem like a difficult feat, but imagine doing this with a small, cone-shaped object weighing about five grams. The ladies of Reedley High School’s Badminton team master this feat using a thin, lightweight racquet, with months of diligent practice and relentless effort. This indoor sport may seem like a typical picnic activity, but the girls aren’t here just to play.
Competitive badminton is a rapid sport with similarities to volleyball and tennis in its playstyle, but has many rules and tactics that players must follow. With each game ending when one player reaches 21 points, the players must prevent the “birdie”—formally known as the shuttlecock—from landing on their side of the court over the designated net. If the player is able to land the bird on their opponent’s court within the regulated boundaries, it is considered the player’s point. When the player’s hit goes out of bounds, or “out,” it is the opponent’s point, and the players will earn one point for each “rally” performed and won.
The RHS Badminton Team has currently won the North Yosemite League (NYL) for two years in a row since 2017, competing against high schools in the Fresno School District at home in Reedley or at their opponent’s gym. All grade levels at RHS are encouraged to join the team, from Freshman to Senior, and no previous experience is required to join. The team is divided into Junior Varsity or JV team, and a Varsity. The JV team houses solely doubles players, with seven teams. The Varsity team consists of six doubles teams and seven singles. Both teams equal 34 total players playing for RHS. Doubles are pairs of athletes working together against another pair of opponents, while singles are individual games against one other person.
The head coach for the RHS Badminton team is Natalie Baumann, who also teaches Physical Education at the high school. This is her fifth year as a coach; she states that the beginning of the program was difficult to develop. “Since then, it had been fun. The best part is seeing the girls improve. As a whole, the girls are sweet, kind to one another, and always give their best effort. I feel like I have the nicest girls on campus!” The highly competitive coach also claims that it’s exciting to win, and hopes to win the league once again this year. “Badminton is underrated,” she expresses, “so come support our team!”
Assistant coaches include Kathy Schwamb and Abby Quiroz, the latter of whom is a former athlete who was playing as the top doubles team just two years ago. All three coaches are hardworking and dedicated to their job of directing and assisting the players throughout the season. Coach Shwamb is in her third year with the team, and describes badminton as, “fun and a new sport for me. It can be very intense, especially with this team! All the girls are coachable and willing to learn.”
This is Coach Quiroz’s second year as a coach herself. Since she was a player on the team just two years ago, she declares, “I like to see how the girls that were younger when I played have grown so much.” Her experience as a coach has been, “Wonderful! Coaching has always been something I’ve wanted to do, so I get to live out my dream. I really love this sport and how competitive our girls are, and that they try so hard with every game and every point. I am happy to get to coach them.”
Varsity singles player Lauren Betancourt, who is in her second year of badminton, said, “It has been really, really fun and a great experience because it is my first time playing singles. I have made a lot of friends and they have made this experience even more fun, because I enjoy coming to practice every day to see them. I like the coaches’ energy that has made practice fun as well, and they push me to improve in my playing every day.”
JV doubles player Alondra Becerra describes her badminton experience to be, “Extremely exciting. And it’s fun to see the improvement that you make after a year.”
Julie Scott is in her fourth year of playing, and is partners with Destiny Renteria, another fourth-year athlete. Scott comments, “It has been really fun and I’ve loved playing with my partner, Destiny. I love the competitive part of it and I didn’t it expect it to be so intense. Destiny is a great partner and I wouldn’t be able to play without her. The coaches are amazing and are always there to answer any questions we have, and they are super nice and understanding.”
Renteria has also spoken about her experience of being a badminton athlete. “It’s been very fun and I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people. The coaches are very kind and helpful, and I can rely on them. Playing with Julie has been the best four years of my life, even though we bicker sometimes.”
Being a part of the RHS badminton team is an unforgettable experience in any student’s high school career, teaching them many important traits such as teamwork and endurance that will be essential to their futures. The athletes of the program are welcoming to any new student, as are the coaches. Joining the badminton program is an excellent decision that a high schooler will not regret, as the memories will remain with them forever and remind them of the memorable days of playing on the court.