The badminton season was moved to winter from spring, which made the season longer than usual. Playing an average 2 matches in a week instead of the 3 matches typically in a non-pandemic season, the team had to make adjustments in their practice plans to ensure the health and safety of the athletes.
Coach Alvin Chiang said the biggest adjustment for the program is keeping training sessions to smaller groups and avoid crossover. However, Chiang believes that it’s relatively the same as usual during competitions.
“I feel badminton in general is played with plenty of distance between you and your partner, or opponent. During doubles, players are supposed to be 2 arm length and a racquet away from their partners to avoid collision on the court so keeping 6 feet from each other is not a recommendation, it’s a must,” he says. “Social distancing is not hard to enforce while we’re on the court playing, so it was not much of an adjustment.”
Senior captain Devlin Guthrie agrees with Chiang that badminton is a naturally socially distanced sport.
“This is lucky because the pandemic hasn’t messed too much with the way the sport runs in and of itself,” Guthrie says.
However, there are difficulties due to the safety protocols. Chiang said the biggest challenge for athletes is wearing a mask while exercising.
“Your oxygen intake drops dramatically with a mask on,” he says, “Which they had to make that adjustment to be better conditioned playing in a match with masks.”
For athletes, keeping team spirit up and building close relationships has been difficult during the pandemic. Many of the bonding activities the team does each season have been cancelled or modified this year because it wasn’t possible to do safely.
“One of my favorites from years prior was the initiation sleepover, where sophomores, juniors, and seniors would get together to do a fun activity, get dinner, and chalk the driveways or sidewalks in front of the freshmen’s homes. This normally happened on a Friday night, and then Saturday we would decorate the gyms and have a fun practice with everybody in the program,” Guthrie says, “This year we were able to still decorate the gyms and do an all-program practice, but it definitely had a different vibe to it.”
Junior Mia Madanguit feels the difference as well.
“I can definitely say I feel less connected to or less friendly with the opposing teams players as well as the sisters that the upperclassmen, like myself, have been assigned to,” she said
The team is happy to have a season and is trying to make the most of it with all the differences.
“Of course I miss the carb loads and sister program opportunities, but thankfully the badminton community never fails to make all girls feel welcome,” said Madanguit.