By Jack Calhoun
City on a Hill Press Reporter
Birdies flew through the air as sweaty bodies darted across the polished floor, swinging racquets in every direction, trying to get a hit.
This was the scene at a rigorous Thursday-night practice with 24 members of UC Santa Cruz’s badminton club.
“It’s very vigorous, very fast, and the sportsmanship is very uplifting,” said junior and club president Renald Tamse. “It’s a singles [competition], but there’s still a team balance you don’t find in any other sport.”
Founded in 2003 as a Tier II team, the badminton club has witnessed a dramatic increase in popularity, seeing more participants coming out to join over the past few years.
“In the past, we’ve had 10 people on the team,” Tamse said. “This most recent year, in comparison, witnessed so many new faces eager to play that cuts were made and players were turned down. That definitely keeps my hopes up.”
Tamse was one of several team officers present that night, in addition to George Zhong and Ronald Sham, all of whom were busy circling the courts while coaching and offering advice to other players.
“We go over a lot of stamina and technique during practice,” Zhong said. “We teach those techniques to members, people on the team, and even those not on the team who just wish to drop in for a practice.”
Jim Bosco, the team’s adviser, was one of the only people on the court that evening who was not receiving any coaching from the team officers. Among the younger and less experienced badminton players, the 80-year old two-time badminton world champion and former OPERS chairman was practicing the sport that he fell in love with over 45 years ago.
Bosco, dressed in his warm-ups and baseball cap, appears to be your typical 80-year-old. But by the time he steps on the court, wearing his shorts and polo shirt, he transforms into one of the most deadly players his age the sport has ever seen.
“Coaches tell their team what to do,” Bosco said. “As the adviser, I listen to what the team needs, and then I react.”
As a sport that hasn’t been very popular in the United States, many people view badminton as an easy “backyard” type of sport, one that doesn’t require much skill or discipline. But badminton players like Bosco know better.
“Tell them to come see me,” Bosco with a chuckle. “I can make you move your butt as fast as you can across the court with every stroke.”
Freshman Jeffrey Chuc had a similar stance.
“People don’t really see the intensity in it,” he said. “There’s a lot of sprinting involved although it may not seem like it. Although it’s a small court, you really move around.”
With one of the biggest rosters they’ve ever had, the Slugs are ready to go into action this Saturday, when they will host their first match of the season against Stanford and San Jose State in the East Field House gym.
“It’s [going to be] full of energy [and] fast-paced,” Tamse said. “It makes you feel alive.”
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