Over the Net

Learn About How Gunderson’s Badminton Team Practices for Games & Tournaments

Kenny Vu

More stories from Kenny Vu

Spring is here, and it’s also the season for badminton. Many schools compete against each other in games to prove who’s better. Gunderson’s badminton team is one of these competitors and has given everyone a chance to see what they do to bring victory back home.

Badminton may look simple to those who don’t play, but the rules should be covered. To put it simply, there is a net and two areas on each side of the net. One or two players are positioned in each area, who are tasked with hitting a birdie into their opponent’s area. A birdie is a small cone with a round tip that players must land on the floor where their opponent(s) are standing to score a point. 

Players must keep the birdie from landing in their own area to avoid letting their opponent score. In some ways, badminton is similar to volleyball.

The first side to reach 21 points and win by 2 points wins the round, meaning that one side can go above 21 points if the other side is less than two points behind. In a usual game, two rounds are played. If both sides win once, then a tie-breaker third round is played to determine who is the champion.

However, it’s not all about the game and its rules. Team members must also practice preparing for competitions, especially when pitted against teams other than themselves.

“[The] usual practice routine is [that] we start up with stretches, and then we warm up throughout thirty minutes,” Coach Neilson Vuong said. “Whether players are beginners, or intermediate, we do different exercises. [We] try to focus on beginners […] in terms of getting them to play well, which basically means technique, right form, [and] a little bit of the mental game.”

Vuong is the current coach for this year’s Badminton team. Originally, he was an English teacher here at Gunderson.

“I wanted to be involved in the school somehow, more than just being a teacher,” Vuong said. “I heard that there was an opening, and they said they needed someone as long as they didn’t require me to be an Olympian who knows how to turn amateurs into world-class players.”

Practicing obviously isn’t just stretching and exercising. It involves playing games with fellow team members or rallying. Rallying is similar to playing a game but is geared more toward practice than competition. The score is not counted, and there is no rule on which team starts with the birdie every round. Usually, practice is hosted by the team every spring weekday. 

Junior Sethia Kes is one of the five team captains for Gunderson’s badminton team. As a captain, he helps other people improve their skills.

“I just practice and do drills,” Kes said. “I always go to as many open gyms as I can [which] are three hours [long] and official practice times [after] school are two hours. I usually stay for the whole thing.”

An open gym is an event hosted by the badminton team. It usually happens every Saturday, and is open to Gunerson students. Those who do not currently attend Gunderson are able to sign up to attend an open gym.

However, what does the badminton team do right as they’re about to face off against a different school?

“If I can, I try to maximize my warm-up time,” Kes said. “I try to get to [their] school, or [our] school [as] early as possible. Once I’m there, I warm up as much as I can, so I don’t mess up during an actual game.”

Warm-ups are especially important before a competition, and following a certain routine can help increase a player’s chances of winning.

“I do arm stretches, leg stretches, and I just practice different shots over again,” Kes said. 

Warm-ups aren’t the only strategy to get better at badminton. It’s also beneficial to watch the professionals play.

“Before a game, I would usually watch some BWF (Badminton World Federation), [which are] competitive videos, and then imagine myself doing those shots,” Pak said. “[I’d] try to analyze the play so that I could re-enact them.”

In badminton, it seems like all people do is hit the birdie towards the opponent, but there’s also different ways to hit the birdie in order to make it harder for the opponent to return it.

“You hit the birdie, obviously, but there are different ways to hit it,” Kes said. “So if you hit it hard and super high, it’s called a ‘clear’. You could practice a ‘smash’, which is hitting it hard but at an angle so it goes very steep. You [also] practice ‘drops’, which is tapping the birdie so it barely goes over the net.”

Another type of shot that can be seen in badminton is a drive. It’s easier for most people to execute, but still important.

“Drives are straight shots,” Senior Amelie Pak said. “Fast, straight shots that are mostly wrist work where your arm is not as bent or swinging as the other shots. They’re quick, back-and-forth shots [between opponents].”

Pak is another of the five team captains currently on the badminton team. 

Playing in a competition for any sport is an extremely exciting event, but players must ensure that they are prepared beforehand. Members on Gunderson’s badminton team use varying tactics to help bring them closer to victory, whether it’s stretching or watching the pros perform.

“Join the badminton team, we need players all the time,” Vuong said. “Everyone’s welcome as long as you’re willing to put in the work.”

Cheer on!

To encourage good sportsmanship during Badminton games, spectators often cheer for the players in hopes of gaining a slight advantage for their team, even if it’s strictly for morale.

“One cheer would be saying ‘Good shot!’ or ‘Nice shot!’,” Coach Neilson Vuong said. “Usually, it’s pretty universal. If someone hits a good shot or does something that’s admirable, you just say [a] good or some kind of positive word.”

‘Good shot!’ and ‘Nice shot!’ is seen in a lot of other sports and games, but there is also cheers which are mostly used in badminton alone.

“When our team makes a mistake and we want them to get over it, a cheer would be [that] they ‘shake it off’,” Vuong said. “Which means like [a] Taylor Swift kind of thing, just forget about it.”

Badminton also has unique cheers for cheering a player on rather than telling them to forget their mistakes.

“Another cheer would be ‘Good eye!’ which basically means that you see a shot going [off the court], and then you let it go [out] rather than letting the point go on,” Vuong said. “It’s really important to have good spatial awareness of

where the birdie can be, because at the end of the day, when you’re in a competitive situation, you want to get any advantage you can. If you’re going to play an extra shot, it’s going to tire you out more than if you had a good eye.”