Loyal few fighting battle of the birdies

Though badminton in Terrace B.C. is not as popular as it once was, it's played regularly and organizers say it's convenient and popular.

Jim Anderson bats a birdie over the net in a doubles game with team mate Stewart Hiscoke.

Though badminton in Terrace is not as popular as it once was, a local group volleys birdies back and forth twice a week here and a local organizer says it’s a convenient and popular sport world-wide.

Norm Parry organizes the Terrace drop-in with Herb Resch and says he has played badminton in many different places when he has travelled for work. When he tried to play in Vancouver, clubs were booked solid, largely due to the increasing Asian population there, and he said badminton was the first event to sell out at the Olympics in Beijing.

Parry says it’s a great sport, easy to organize, easy to learn and there are lots of options to play competitively or recreationally.

He adds that strategy can conquer physical fitness, which makes it great for all ages.

“It’s one of those sports you can play for life,” Parry said. “You just get a little smarter about how you play… you learn some tricks so you don’t have to work as hard.”

Battling with birdies is also becoming known as an effective way to hone reflexes, and Parry says that in some communities, badminton is used as dry land training for other sports like hockey.

“You do badminton to get your reflexes and do cardio and conditioning – it’s one of the top sports for that,” he said.

Local badminton player Jim Anderson said the reflexive play and quick reactions are exactly what he likes most about the sport.

“I like the quickness. You have to react instantaneously to the play… you don’t know where (your opponent) is going to put the shot, so you have to be ready and react,” he said.

Anderson has been playing in Terrace for as long as he can remember, more than 30 years, and he likes the good cardio workout and friendships it has fostered.

“It was a family thing, my dad and my mom played and I just kept it up,” he said.

Stewart Hiscoke said he played badminton a lot growing up in New Zealand, and picked it up again here six years ago for fitness.

Mel Denomme has been playing for five years since some friends invited her to try it out. Her favourite part is the social aspect.

“We’re all friends here,” she said, adding that it would be great if more women came out.

Currently eight to 20 people come out for the drop-in on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Denomme said roughly there are two to four women.

When Suya Sibbald moved to Terrace, she searched out the club right away, saying she likes the consistent, indoor exercise and the independence of the game.

“I like that I can stay in my own court,” she said “It’s just me and one other person.”

The Terrace badminton program started in the mid-60s more than 50 years ago, and Parry said it was packed with players back when he started 28 years ago.

“It was quite a happening sport,” he said.

Doubles teams were immersed in every one of the six courts at the old Thornhill Junior Secondary School, now trades building, where they continue to play, and there was a line of people waiting for their turn to play, Parry said.

“When they had tournaments here, there were 120 people signed up, and they would travel here from all over, even the Lower Mainland and Okanagan.”

He says the zeal for badminton burned hot during the first 12 years he played, but in 2005 the interest started to dwindle.

They had a thriving juniors program as well, bringing in top-level players to teach strategies and tricks of the game, but that started to shrink also several years later (close to 2013).

“I don’t know what happened,” Parry said. “It’s a mystery to me why people stopped coming, because badminton is a game that you can play from your backyard, right up to the Olympics.”

Now 10 to 12 players come out at the Terrace drop-ins every Tuesday and Thursday, and though the junior program no longer runs, Parry said he and others would gladly start it up again if the interest was there.

They host a doubles tournament every April and hope to run another one in November if enough people sign up.