Passing the birdie

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Passing the birdie

Roshan Fernandez

Badminton coach Brian Sullivan wrapped up the 2015 school year with an undefeated season. But at the end of the year, he had to walk away from the sport when he accepted a job at the FUHSD district office. As the head coach of the program, the varsity team finished with an impressive 24-0 record, and the JV team matched that record.

Three years later, he has returned as the badminton coach once again after leaving the district office. Now a PE teacher, he is planning to reshape the team, aiming once again for success.

“There’s a lot of talent on this team and it’s just a matter of getting it to mesh and mold,” Sullivan said.

The team will have to adapt once again after experiencing three changes in coaching in the past three years. According to junior captain Kevin Zhou, having different coaches means that the team will have to adjust to different expectations for the season.

“[The team] was mostly run by the team captains and they hosted tryouts and came up with schedules for practices,” Zhou said. “So we got a lot of freedom last year, but it was too lenient [and] a lot of people ditched.”

Sullivan noted this issue and decided to tweak the way the team was managed.

“It is getting [the captains] to realize that [the coaches]  want to be more in charge of what’s happening, with feedback from them,” Sullivan said. “Because I don’t want to completely step on their toes and be a complete change from what it was, [but]  it’s [also] a little bit of a transition of allowing us to take over that responsibilities that we used to have.”

I don’t want to completely step on [the captains] toes and be a complete change from what it was, [but]  it’s [also] a little bit of a transition of allowing us to take over that responsibilities that we used to have.

– Coach Brian Sullivan

In response to the change of coaches in this season, junior Karina Wang expressed her appreciation as a new team captain.

“It’s great that they are willing to step up and be our coaches this season because our old coach [left] two weeks before the season started, so it was really short notice,” Wang said.

According to Wang, the coaches come up with drills, aiming to strengthen the JV team. She explains that many of the MVHS sports programs tend to focus more on the varsity team, but for badminton in particular, it’s especially important to help the less experienced players develop their skills. This is significant because many players have never played badminton before freshman year PE and still have a lot to learn in terms of technique.

The captains and their coaches are aiming to put a lot more emphasis on team spirit. Despite the fact that badminton is traditionally thought of as an individual sport, Sullivan explains that the team aspect is just as important.

“You’re the one on the court at that time, but there is a reason you’re competing for your team. So it’s a fine line between getting what you need out of [the team] as a whole,” Sullivan said. “I really preach about the part about being a team and looking out for each other.”

Similarly, Zhou believes that bonding is important within the badminton team. Regardless of the changes, Wang explains  that the captains will continue to take initiative  and  help everyone on the team improve their skills.

“I don’t think the goal is to win,” Zhou said. “Obviously winning is great, but I think it’s more of having fun because colleges don’t really give badminton scholarships, so it’s really about the social experience.”

As for the beginning of this season, Zhou expresses optimism. The captains, and the rest of the team for that matter, understand that things have changed from last year, but they are doing their best to adapt and continue playing their best.

“I just hope that everyone understands that [we’ve got] new coaches and it’s new policy,” Zhou said. “And I hope that everyone stays interested in the sport.”