Badminton team experiments with practices in attempt to recover from last year’s season

March 28, 2020 — by Andy Chen and Alan Zu

Editor’s note: This story was written prior to the suspension of all spring sports and the closure of the school starting in mid-March.

The badminton team had a rough season last year, finishing 3-1-9 as one of the bottom three schools in the league, which resulted from the increased difficulty they faced transitioning from the lower El Camino division to the upper De Anza division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League. As a result, the team struggled to improve morale after their first conference game on March 10, where the team lost 24-6 to Monta Vista.

“The team wasn’t entirely confident going into this season,” said junior Wilson Fung, who played mixed doubles for varsity. “We lost a lot of seniors and we didn’t have any outstanding freshmen, so a lot of JV players had to step up. Most players don’t train outside of the season as well, so a lot of players were pretty shabby and had a lot to improve on with very little time.”

According to varsity captain senior Alvin Ren, one of the team’s major problems was their lack of female players. The team struggled to organize mixed and women’s events, since each player can only play once during a badminton meet — one girl cannot play against two mixed teams, meaning that some girls in JV will need to play varsity mixed matches.

In an effort to strengthen the team, head coach John Li implemented a variety of changes that he feels makes the team more competitive. Most notably, he held off on creating an actual division for varsity and JV to keep players motivated to gain or retain a spot on the starting lineup — although the strategy proved somewhat effective, some members of the team complained due to the lack of structure, Fung said. 

Additionally, Li required all players to experiment with every event to see what they were best at, and he emphasized conditioning and footwork far more than in previous years. To Fung, these changes were important because it allowed the team to have its best possible lineup, but he acknowledged that for many players, these changes made practices significantly less fun.

“During practice, our coach would put four players on one court and they would have to play all combinations of singles and doubles,” Fung said. “Coach could see if a pair worked well together or if someone was getting better at an event and made changes to the roster based on that, but because of this, players were not allowed to choose what they played and I think that often caused the players to not have as much fun.”

Li believes that even if some players didn’t agree with these changes, they will ultimately help the team become more successful in future seasons.

“Before, it felt kind of like a P.E. class, and the players decided too much,” Li said. “I told them: ‘I’m investing time in you guys, so if you’re not serious, you should probably just go home.’ They may not fully like it because they’re kids, but I think it’s for the best — every year, we’ll just get better and better.”