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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Badminton campers cool off, learn about their sport

 There is more to the game of badminton than simply just swinging a racquet, and if fortunate, having the plastic bird land on the other side of the net.

There is much more to it – strategy, longer shots vs. shorter shots, when to use a power swing vs. one with a lighter touch, and foot placement, among other learning points.

A Xavier badminton camper charges toward the net to make a return shot (Photos by Laura Forbes).

That is the kind of instruction and experience that about 12 young players are getting in this week’s annual summer badminton camp at Xavier Prep’s Activity Center. The sessions were to run for two hours from Monday (June 14) through Thursday (June 17).

Players ranged from elementary school level to those older girls who are nearing the time of entry into high school.

Putting them through the paces are Brian McNerney, who will be coaching the sport for the first time as XCP’s head coach, and former varsity coach Laura Forbes, who has retired from coaching.

A memorable summer for everyone.

“The girls have been good, very receptive,’’ said McNerney. “That first day, we warmed up, taught them about the game court and what the areas mean, the differences of playing singles and doubles, working on serves and how to get it (shot) in, and the shots you have to try to master.

“They also need to keep their racquets high most of the time, work on drops and plays at the net in an effort to keep their opponents off-balance.’’

Players added to the fun with a chance to play in a few 15-point games.

The workouts began with a few laps around the court to help loosen the muscles and implement the proper breathing.

Demonstrating some of the techniques were a handful of players from last year’s team who recently graduated and some who are expected to return this fall.

One camp attendee drops the plastic bird and is ready to follow through on a serve.

Those from the graduating class of 2021 were Lina Vanderwey and Sophie Riviere, who served as the Gators’ top doubles team and finished fourth at state. Riviere’s sister, Gigi, who will be a junior this fall, and another junior-to-be, Riley Dowdall, also provided assistance.

As far as the 2021 fall varsity is concerned, McNerney is expected to have more of a balanced roster and not rely so much on seniors. That will allow some of the underclassmen to get more playing time.

Whether future varsity players from this current camp group will be in the mix in the coming years remains to be seen, but one could see a healthy improvement from the start of one two-hour session to its completion.

That’s what it’s all about, and this is a good place to start, learning about the game while staying out of the heat in the air-conditioned gym at the same time.

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