DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Badminton experience, success drive XCP assistant

Karina Magana was a successful high school badminton player in her native Lima, Peru. She played from age 13-17 and later went to college and started a family in the United States.

She did not play the sport for about 33 years, until about two years ago, when some of her friends back home encouraged her to get back on the court.

“At the beginning, I wondered if I could still even hit,’’ said Magana, a Valley resident who attended the University of California-Berkeley and St. Mary’s College in nearby Moraga, Calif. “It began to come back to me.’’

But she quickly realized “that I needed to train seriously’’ if she would be capable of earning medals while playing against tougher competition.

She began playing again at the AZBC (Arizona Badminton Center) in Mesa. About that same time, she joined the Xavier Prep coaching staff as a volunteer assistant coach and is entering her third season this fall.

Meanwhile, she continues to play competitively and has earned several medals in national and international competition, including Gold in the recent European Masters Games in Turin, Italy. She plays both singles and doubles.

Magana has her eye on a possible spot in the Pan American Masters Games in September 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the sport must be approved first.

“Playing in those tournaments is a lot of fun, a great experience. You get to meet people from all over the world,’’ she said.

She has three children who are athletically oriented. Nicholas was a swimmer at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High, swam at the University of Virginia and became a dual citizen with Peru and swam for the Peruvian Olympic team in Rio during the 2016 Games before being sidelined by illness.

Daughter Francesca also was a swimmer at Desert Mountain and went on to swim at the University of Idaho. And a second son, Diego, was a four-year starter in basketball at Desert Mountain before going on to play at Amherst in Massachusetts.

In 2014, Magana and her children lost husband and father Daryl to cancer.

“It was emotional and still is,’’ she said. “There are always going to be obstacles in life. That’s what I try to tell the girls here.’’

Xavier badminton coach Laura Forbes is glad to receive help from an experienced player such as Magana, and the Xavier players have formed a close bond with her.

“They just love her,’’ Forbes said.

And Magana feels the same about them.

“The girls are great,’’ she said. “They are very interested in the game. They want to be here and they want to improve. You can see the improvement in some of them from last year to this year.’’

She helps them with the skills they need to be successful such as swinging the racquet in the correct way and footwork, and offers them some advice on the mental aspect.

“There’s some nervousness and that is to be expected,’’ she said. “We all get nervous, even our opponents. I get it, too, even after all this time. You have to be able to not get stressed out, to be able to control it. When you’re out on the court, don’t look at your opponent – focus on the bird.’’

And although some people might not think so, badminton requires being in condition.

“You are going to need it,’’ she said, “with all the sprinting back and forth across the court.’’

The type of experience that Magana can pass along is proving to be invaluable for the Gators.

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