In spite of several hurdles, the Irvington Badminton team finished another successful season, winning all but two of their tournaments.
Throughout the season, players motivated themselves to continuously improve. “We always expect to be better and improve and try our best,” Coach Strout said. “Unless you’re perfect there’s always things to work on.” At the varsity level, players worked on the precision of shot placements and quality of each hit, attending practice three times a week and tournaments twice a week. The team also faced challenges returning after a year of online learning, which made badminton tournaments impossible. Some players had to adjust after long periods of time not playing badminton, while others had not yet played a full season with the team. “But once we hit all the consistent practices and went to every single open gym, people got back on their feet,” Rithika Oumapathy (11) explained. Although COVID guidelines impacted the size of the team, players were able to adjust quickly and perform well at tournaments, with teammates cheering them on from the sidelines.
“In school badminton, it’s not something that we were made to do but something we want to do, and from that perspective, if we wanted to get better it had to be on our own accord,” explained Chenyi Zhao (12). “There is no one pushing us but ourselves.”
The players on the team bonded over the course of the year, helping to boost morale at tournaments. Near the end of the season, the team held a senior night with underclassmen planning celebrations for graduating upperclassmen. Players brought snacks, posters, and keychains for the thirteen seniors, in addition to planning a graduation walk and informal speeches on their experiences with badminton and in general. “When all the seniors gave little speeches […], I started crying while talking. Right after, Coach Strout was standing next to me and crying while talking as well,” Zhao said. The team also had bonding events, like going out to eat dinner together, creating a supportive environment that made practices more enjoyable. “You’re training with your classmates and having fun at the same time,” Thompson Ma (11) explained.
Despite the challenges and obstacles presented, Irvington’s badminton team was successful at NCS, wrapping up their season with a victory. Now that seniors are graduating after an eventful year, this year’s juniors are preparing themselves to fill those vacant spots left behind by their upperclassmen. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it alone next year,” Oumapathy said. “But I’m glad to have junior friends or people my grade that I’m also very close with. In a way, it’s nice that we can be the kind of seniors that I looked up to once. So I’m definitely looking forward to that.” Meanwhile, seniors also have plans to continue playing badminton in college or as a recreational hobby. “I’m hoping to visit the IHS badminton team next year when I come back from time to time and drop by,” Zhao said. “College badminton also sounds really fun, so I’ll probably make time for it in my schedule and keep playing whenever I can.”