Badminton and tennis are played on courts with nets stretched across. Both sports also include singles and doubles matches in which players use racquets for a variety of different strokes. But contrary to popular belief, that’s where the similarities end.
UC Santa Cruz badminton team member Gwen Conde, who has over five years of experience on badminton teams, said the sport more akin to badminton is not tennis, but volleyball.
“Tennis includes more lateral movement,” Conde said. “There are also more lob shots, where you have to wait for the ball to bounce, but in badminton there are a lot of overhead shots, where you are moving your arm around to hit the ball almost like a spike.”
In badminton, the court is smaller and there is more forward and backward movement, since the birdie — the aerodynamic “ball” — does not touch the ground after every hit. When the birdie hits the ground inbounds, a point is scored, as opposed to tennis, where unless players are at the net, the ball bounces after each hit before the next player takes a swing.
Conde, along with most of the competing members of the badminton team, either have badminton experience from high school or earlier. She has played since eighth grade, while team president Gina Alfandary has played since she was five years old.
“We do have some members who haven’t really played much before, but they are athletic and ended up making the team and they have been improving as well,” Alfandary said.
Players new and old gathered on March 1 as the Slugs faced Stanford in 15 official games, followed by exhibition games. There were three games of each men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles. Games are played to 21 with rally scoring and best two out of three wins.
With various players competing in spots and seeds they normally wouldn’t, both Conde and Alfandary were proud of the team’s overall performance, despite a 6-9 loss.
“We did really well, especially compared to some of our past games,” Alfandary said. “This is the highest quality we’ve played so far and everyone tried their best. [Stanford] has some great players, but overall we are improving. We might try to get a game scheduled with them next quarter, and maybe improve on the results and beat them next time.”
Highlights of the day included Aoi Shoda’s 21-12, 21-15 win in the No. 1 women’s singles games, and all three women’s double pairs sweeping the Cardinals for wins. Shoda and Alfandary were the No. 1 women’s double team winners, marking the second win of the day for both women in different events.
Chris Yim, who played the No. 1 men’s singles game, said the team is fighting obstacles like playing against tough opponents in unfavorable positions and surviving off insubstantial funding — a circumstance all club teams struggle with. While the team can barely afford equipment, Yim and his teammates work hard to constantly condition and improve their game.
Yim, who has played badminton for six years, sought out the club upon arriving at UCSC. He enjoys seeing old teammates’ skills develop while watching freshmen learn more about the sport.
Alfandary, who looks to possibly pass the club president torch off to Conde next year, said the team is working its way back up after some past national championships with former players.
“My first year on the team, we had a lot of really good seniors,” Alfandary said. “They graduated, so we are working to build up again and improve individually. We’re getting closer to that goal.”
For Alfandary and the competing team members, badminton is not just a backyard sport. It has been their go-to sport for many years and is far from the common misconception that it can be thrown into thr subcategory of tennis.