Conestoga’s badminton team has adopted a new philosophy for this current season, shape up or ship out. Footwork training and conditioning have been an important part of the team’s weekly practices and members of the team said they have seen dramatic improvements to their game.
“I feel faster now,” second-year team member Steve Rudzinski said. “I may not be in better shape because of the beer, but I definitely feel faster.”
Last year the team would warm up by running a couple of laps around the gym before going right into playing games. This year they are doing footwork drills and intense cardio training in practice before they even think of picking up a racquet.
“Last year it was only playing games at practice,” Rudzinski said. “This year I would say we do 40 per cent footwork and cardio drills and 60 per cent playing games.”
Head coach Michael Kam has also introduced an incentive to train harder at practices. Team members must show up to every practice in order to be invited to tournaments to represent Conestoga. In addition, before each tournament, team members will play against each other and only the strongest players will represent the school. Kam says keeping an open roster rather than having a strict roster has helped to encourage competition and hard work amongst the players.
“Basically we hold tryouts just before the tournaments to see who would be the best players to take to each tournament,” Kam said. “So that way it gave players who maybe weren’t as strong, but were really dedicated, room to grow and improve.”
The addition of assistant coach Justin Imbeau has been part of the training reform. When Imbeau came in, he introduced training and conditioning drills that are starting to pay dividends. Imbeau says that being able to hit the bird is important but if you don’t have good conditioning you will fall behind the competition.
“I believe that footwork in badminton is probably one of the most important aspects of the sport,” Imbeau said. “It’s great if you can hit the shots, but if you can’t get to the bird and can’t keep up in the rally then you’re going to lose the game.”
The team has yet to really make a mark at OCAA tournaments; however, at the last tournament at Fanshawe, the team had two players, rookies Jacob Lickers and Taylor Lightfoot, reach the semi-finals in the consolation draw of men’s doubles.
The consolation draw is for players who lost in the first round but may have faced a very tough opponent, and are given another chance to win games. The team hopes to keep improving their results, as they look forward to their next tournament at George Brown.