Girl’s badminton optimistic despite challenges


Photo by Erin Fagan

Senior, Georgia Jackson, lifts her racket to hit a clear shot.

Erin Fagan, Staff Writer


With sports looking much different this year due to Covid-19, the girl’s badminton team is no exception. 

  “[There are] more water breaks. Obviously the mask is a hindrance when you are running sprints. Some of the places we are using our own birdies which is not normal, social distancing more, some of the general things you would kind of expect,” Ryan Wilhelmi, coach, said.

  The team is now looking ahead to conference and state competitions that are coming up at the end of March. 

   “It’s a very competitive conference, and while our dual record doesn’t maybe match some of the other schools, we try to measure our season by how the kids are performing at the end of the year in the conference tournament and then at sectionals,” Joe Hames, head coach said. “What we have been able to do the last couple of years at sectionals even though our dual record isn’t stellar, we have outlasted other conference schools at sectionals.”

   While the team is preparing to compete, there is still some uncertainty as to whether the competitions will happen at all due to Covid.

  “They are saying there is going to be a sectional and a state, but nothing is defined yet,” Hames said. 

  With all the uncertainty and issues that have happened this year though, both players and coaches were very happy and appreciative to be playing. Senior Georgia Jackson relayed a motto the team has, and the outlook the team tries to maintain overall.

  “Coach Hames and Coach Wilhelmi always stress ‘have fun and be an athlete’ which I think applies to all sports because sports is about having fun,” Jackson said.

  The team also faced challenges due to the season being moved from spring to winter.

  “Normally we are pushing 60 girls, now we are pushing about 30,” Wilhelmi said. “Some kids didn’t know. I feel it may not have been communicated that this got moved up to a winter sport because normally it is a spring sport. Some kids after the fact asked, and I had to say we have actually already started. I think there was a miscommunication somewhere.” 

   On the other hand, an unexpected positive that came with this season was the addition of athletes from other sports who are able to play on the team this year because of the change from a spring to winter sport.

  “We were able to get some other spring sports athletes that wouldn’t be playing because they would be in their season, they are participating this year,” Hames said. “We are very fortunate to have them because they have all contributed.” 

  However, while some were out of season, others ended up with two seasons at once.  

  “I play varsity basketball too, so I have been hopping in between the two of those this whole time,” Jackson said. “I’ve had games almost every day, so I’ve been going to parts of practices, and then going to games, and then having practice afterwards. It’s been tough, but having the coaches be so accepting and understanding has helped me significantly.” 

  The fitness of the players was another concern brought up by Hames.

  “The girls have not done anything active for close to a year, so conditioning was a major thing. We are still not in shape,” Hames said. “It is kind of a double-edged sword because we are not sure what to focus on. Should we focus on conditioning, or should we focus on drills to focus on the skills and development of technique? We have to play around with that. A lot of girls are still learning the game. I think that is probably one of the biggest drawbacks. This is the first time they have been up and moving around pretty much in eleven months.”

  Hames was also apprehensive that all these modifications could take a toll on the players.

  “A challenge I think is just keeping the girls motivated and excited about coming to practice,” Hames said. “With the different protocols we have with temperatures, and they have to self certify, and that can be waning. It just grinds on the kids. Also wearing the mask. They are not in shape as much as they should be and wearing a mask they get tired quickly.”

   Sophomore Elle Thompson felt that Covid impacted her season as well. 

  “I don’t practice as much as I used to with my team anymore,” Thompson said. “I miss seeing everybody, but what we are doing now is so much more than what we were doing a few months ago.”

  While Covid may be making things difficult in many ways, not all its impacts have been negative. Senior Grace Heisen actually found the lack of spectators due to Covid to be helpful for her.

  “It’s affected me personally positively just because I would get super stressed when people watch me and it would make me mess up,” Heisen said. “Now, not actually seeing the spectators all around has really helped me focus more.” 

  Others highlighted how the lack of spectators has increased reliance and support from teammates. 

   “Having no spectators just shows you how much the team supports each other because even though family and friends outside of badminton can’t be there to watch you and support you, your whole team is there for you, and honestly sometimes that’s better,” Jackson said. “Sometimes it’s better to have girls who understand what’s happening and what we are all going through and the rules. Having the team there supporting you makes it feel normal.”

  Despite all of these changes, both the players and coaches embraced a sense of optimism and overall gratitude for the ability to play this year and simply be together. 

  “My favorite part about being on the team is being able to hang out with my friends,” Heisen said. “Because of Covid, I haven’t seen a lot of them, so coming here I get to see a lot of close friends and have fun with them rather than just sitting at home like I’ve been used to.”

  Thompson said that being on the team has helped her meet and connect with new people.

   “I definitely feel super accepted on this team,” Thompson said.  

  Coach Hames also expressed his gratitude for the help and support of others that has gone into making this unconventional season run smoothly.

  “We are getting a great deal of support with the live streams,” Hames said. “We have had teachers volunteer and they are filming for us. I have had teachers come up to me and other girls saying I watched your match the other night, and that’s a real feel-good moment for the kids because it’s not a forgotten sport. The fact that even in this setting where there is not a lot of people in the building, they are getting a little recognition, and that’s a real bonus because they put in the time, and it’s not a real talked about sport.” 

  He also spoke about his appreciation for the players and their overall attitude this season.

  “Another thing I think is a strength is the kids get along. They are good kids,” Hames said. “One of the things that Coach Wilhelmi and I always say is that we get the best kids. They are good students and we have no issues, no drama, and they are fun to be around.”