Badminton gets back to basics

March 16, 2010 — by Kevin Mu

“One, two, swing! One, two, swing!” head coach John Phung repeats as he slowly circles the members of the varsity badminton team, who stand organized into rows and are practicing their racket strokes at the top of the quad steps.

In a departure from last year’s more free-form practices, Phung, who is returning to coach the Falcons for his second year, is focusing on improving players’ core skills through basic drills and more intense conditioning.

“My goal for the team is to finish in the top three or maybe to even win the league championship,” he said.

Last year, the team was unable to place among the top three teams in the West Valley League mostly as a result of the loss of many experienced players to graduation. This year, however, the roster boasts many more seasoned players who are ready to attempt to restore Saratoga’s dominance in the sport.

Look to sophomore and junior national player Jeff Kuo, who leads Varsity boys’ singles, to help Saratoga secure 3 points in nearly every game. Freshman Derek Chao is a newcomer to the team but not to the sport of badminton (he is also a national player); with him playing mixed doubles, expect Saratoga to have a substantial advantage against their opponents.

The Falcons soared through two scrimmage games last week against Homestead and Prospect High Schools. They defeated Homestead 26-4 and Prospect [insert score]. But Saratoga will have to overcome some much tougher opponents to accomplish their goals; key match-ups to watch out for this season include games against Gunn, Wilcox and Milpitas.

“In order to beat them, I think we just have to push our players to do our best,” Phung said. “We can’t control what types of players the other team has, so we just have to train our own players to be ready.”

Many players on the team have noticed the training differences that this year’s coaches have instated.

“It’s a lot more physical work,” said mixed doubles player Jasmine Lee. “But I think that’s good. It’ll help us get ready for intense games and I think it will help us win.”

One more change that Phung instated this year has been to make the sport non-cut. Anyone who was genuinely interested during tryouts was given a spot on the team, although members of the training team cannot participate during official matches.

“My philosophy of coaching is that I have been given an opportunity to train students to become athletes,” Phung said, “and I don’t want any student who wants to exercise and get healthy to miss out on that opportunity.”

With these changes in mind, Phung is determined to learn from last year’s mistake. Despite being uncertain of Saratoga’s chances in the league, he is still confident that his team will perform well.

“We have the personnel, and we have the players,” Phung said. “More team leaders have risen to the occasion this year, and I think that it is a great benefit for us.”

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