Making room for badminton

Team competes for recognition and practice space

Junior+Justin+Teng+returns+the+birdie+at+a+match+against+Wesmont+in+early+March.
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Making room for badminton

Junior Justin Teng returns the birdie at a match against Wesmont in early March.

Junior Justin Teng returns the birdie at a match against Wesmont in early March.

Jessica Berton/Bear Witness

Junior Justin Teng returns the birdie at a match against Wesmont in early March.

Jessica Berton/Bear Witness

Jessica Berton/Bear Witness

Junior Justin Teng returns the birdie at a match against Wesmont in early March.

Annalise Freimarck, Managing Editor

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Under the fluorescent lights of the gym, Branham’s badminton team sweats and pants as they keep up with the fast pace of the birdie, intent on winning their match. The birdie soars over the net in a fraction of a second, rattling off of the racket in a flash.

Before every game, the badminton team warms up on six courts in the gym, practicing different types of shots: the drop, which plummets just over the net, and the drive, a clean swoop that arcs over the net with hopes of deceiving the opponent.

Senior Robert He stands with his friends, joking around, instructing the less experienced players.

“As long as you can hit it; that’s the goal,” he said to a junior varsity player while rallying with his partner before the match.

After warming up, pairs begin to line up on their assigned courts, ready to start their matches. Surrounding the courts are parents supporting their kids, while other team members sit and stand on the lines outside of the courts, close enough to catch the action.

The other team lines up on the opposite side of the net, and some players dip their shoes in water on the side of the court to keep from slipping. The matches begin, with six pairs competing at once.

Senior Emmalyn McCarthy cheers along with other teammates, shouting “You got this!” and “Let’s go Branham!”, encouraging their teammates during their matches.

Co-head coach and math teacher Neeraja Nambula circles the courts, watching her players and pulling them aside during breaks in matches to instruct them.

“Have fun!” she says, telling a doubles team to relax.

Nambula has been playing badminton since she was in fourth grade, and began coaching at Branham a couple years ago, officially becoming one of Branham’s head coach this year. She became the first coach to make badminton a cut sport, in order to better the sport and make it more recognized.

“When I’m on the court, I lose track of time,” she said. “It makes me forget things that I don’t want to remember.”

Despite the high intensity of the game, badminton remains a degraded sport at Branham. Those who attend events are restricted to the small amount of space between each court. According to Nambula, materials are limited and team members are asked to bring their own equipment.

A lot of this has come with starting the team from scratch, as Nambula and Perez were forced to do when they first took over the program. The team’s main financial support comes from team parents and fundraisers that they organize for themselves.

“50 percent (of funding) is coming from families, and the other 50 percent is coming from fundraising money,” Nambula said. “We are trying to do as much as we can to support the program.”

The money the team will need for new equipment, among other much needed items, is estimated to cost around $3,000. So far, the team has raised $1,500 from fundraising alone.

For freshman Anjana Hariprasad, keeping the badminton team running and making it recognized is valuable because of the bonds she has made playing the sport.

“I originally joined badminton because I needed another sport for Sports P.E., but it’s become a lot more than that,” she said. “I have a good amount of friends who are doing it with me and it’s a great way to connect with people.”

Hariprasad is helping to raise money through the Branham badminton fundraiser on Vertical Raise, a fundraising website. They have raised $2,760 out of their goal of $6,500, most of the donations coming from families and friends of the players.

Along with the fundraising, Nambula wants more recognition for the sport as a whole throughout Branham.

“I would like to see this sport recognized as one of the good sports on campus,” she said. “I want this to be a sport, not just a game.”