When picturing the quintessential Paly athlete, one might envision a tall, burly student clad in a decked-out letterman jacket, his face recognizable by all as he walks across the quad with his similarly-dressed teammates. And in all probability, this archetypal athlete would not be a badminton player.
Although badminton has been at Paly since the 1970s, and boasts a roster of roughly 60 players each year, the team receives very little recognition in the athletic community. The challenges of the sport and the inner workings of the team are a mystery to many, which eaves the masses questioning: behind the closed doors of the Paly gym, what is the deal with badminton?
The first than that Paly's badminton team wants people to know is that badminton, or "baddy", is a real and challenging sport.
"I always have to defend badminton," Hillary Yuan ('10) said. "It's more difficult than you would expect. There is a lot of strategy, agility and quick thinking involved. The birdie goes up to 200 miles per hour; you can't even see it. I would like to see a football player try to play badminton. They may be strong [athletes], but if you shoot behind them, they'll lose their balance and fall backwards."
Yuan's claims about badminton's challenges receive some support from an April 2004 ESPN Page 2 investigation that determined which sports were truly the most difficult. A panel of experts decided that badminton ranked 30th overall out of the 60 sports rated, due to extremely high scores for agility, hand-eye coordination and analytical aptitude. While not an entirely definitive analysis, badminton did beat out skateboarding, bull riding and diving, among other sports, to claim a spot in the top 30.
Badminton player Ivan Zhao ('10) agrees with Yuan that the sport is misunderstood.
"Most people don't understand how hard it is, and they would probably get their butt kicked if they tried to play," Zhao said. "It's not a sport you naturally know how to do, like running. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be good at badminton. And you do have to condition."
Badminton conditioning at Paly entails roughly two miles of running, in addition to drills such a frog jumps, push-ups and liners. Conditioning focuses on footwork, which is considered the foundation of badminton.
"Footwork is the most important aspect of the sport, yet it's the most unappreciated," Zhao said.
According to Zhao, the badminton conditioning at cross-town badminton powerhouse Henry M. Gunn High School is more strenuous than football conditioning.