Badminton team teams up with unique athletes before conference meet

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East’s badminton team and faculty pose for a photo before the April 18th tournament began. “I learned that anyone can play [badminton], but the players need to have an “I can do this” mentality to actually be able to,” senior Manali Patel said. Photo by Keara Shannon.

The gymnasium was filled with buzz. Members of the East badminton team filed into the gymnasium in search of their partners they’d play with. Shouts filled the air as everyone scrambled to practice before the tournament starts. Some were great players, rallying back and forth in a seemingly endless loop before finally a point was scored. Others were not as skilled, but their drive and determination remained the same. However, this event was different from any other that the badminton team had encountered because next to them on the court was not a fellow team member, but someone who will usually be seen during the school day in the front of a classroom. On April 18th, for the first time ever, East teachers and students partnered together for two hours to see which teacher-student duo was the badminton champion.

Members of the badminton team were asked to pick a teacher to be their partner for this tournament, the winning team received a trophy and the runners-up received a certificate. To not leave anyone behind, every team after that received candy for their participation.

The tournament was split up into junior varsity and varsity sections. The teams were randomly put into one of the two sections and one team would win for each one. The winners for varsity were sophomore Crystal Whang and Kinetic Wellness teacher Jeremy Hillman. The winners for junior varsity were sophomore Courtney McHugh and an athletic trainer.

McHugh said that she was able to feel a better connection with the teachers and not see them as just that.

“Playing alongside a teacher was something no student ever gets to do and I think you realize teachers are actually humans, too. This also helped me feel more comfortable around the teacher in the classroom because we had a fun memory together,” McHugh said.

Even before the tournament began, energy was high. Senior Arely Irra could feel it even before she stepped foot into the gym.

“[The atmosphere] feels great. It’s very exciting. I’ve been excited about it all day. My teacher has been talking smack all day so I’m kind of nervous but I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Irra said.

Not only this, but she was happy to have such a great bond with her partner and encouraged others to connect with their teachers as well.

“It’s important to have good relationships with each other because students are supposed to learn from the teacher but you can’t have that if the student doesn’t respect the teacher,” Irra said.

Hillman ruptured his plantar fascia, a muscle in the bottom of the foot. He was put into a boot to immobilize the foot and let it heal, but still participated in the tournament. He said he was very excited to be take time out of his day to do something like this.

“The teachers here at OE have a great relationship and it was awesome to see so much excitement not just for the athletes, but the teachers as well. Coach Albright did a great job putting this together and I truly appreciated being able to be a part of it,” Hillman said.

Sophomore Rachel Tackette was happy to be able to see the teachers in action outside of the classroom.

“I think by playing with your teachers it kind of lets them know what you’re into and it kind of just goes from there … Since you’re with them everyday, I think it just makes you more interested in your classes,” Tackette said.

She said she was also grateful that this event allowed for the team to relax and have a break. She thanked it for being unique in that sense.

“I think it’s different because it’s not like a normal practice. You’re working with your teachers the whole time and you’re not really practicing anything,” Tackette said.

Badminton coach Jill Albright’s determination to hold this event came from past success at the high school she was formerly employed at.

“Prior to being at Oswego East, I actually was a badminton coach at Lockport High School and this was something that we had started with the freshman level over there which seemed to be very successful, so once I got to be the head coach here I decided to start it this year,” Albright stated.

“I think by playing with your teachers it kind of lets them know what you’re into and it kind of just goes from there … Since you’re with them everyday, I think it just makes you more interested in your classes.”

— sophomore Rachel Tackette

The turnout was successful at East as well. Students that aren’t even on the team joined in to watch the event unfold. One of the spectators, senior Aditi Vij was interested in the tournament as soon as she found out it was happening.

“I wanted to come and see my teachers play against my friends. I thought it would be amazing seeing my teachers be out of the ‘school life’,” Vij said.

The energy from everyone could be felt throughout all corners of the gym, everyone was cheering for their favorite teacher or friend, that was what really left an impression on Vij.

“I loved how enthusiastic the whole event was in general. Everyone looked like they were having a good time,” Vij added.

This energy and carefree atmosphere was something that junior Anya Zarembski said that the team needed as their conference quickly approaches.

“We’ve been practicing and Coach Albright is very intense and hardcore. So, especially for the month of April, we’ve been very ‘practice, practice, practice’ because we’re getting close to conference so it’s nice to have this exactly a week before conference just as something to get our minds off ‘win conference, win conference’,” Zarembski said.

Albright felt that the team’s schedule was perfect to fit this break in between practice and their long-awaited final game.

“We have been working very hard, if you were to ask any of my athletes they would tell you. So, I looked at the schedule and saw that we had a two-day practice window before my next tournament and we don’t typically get that, so I knew that this would be a good break for the girls,” Albright said.

As the conference arrives, Albright credited the teachers for helping the tournament be such a success and hopes that this tradition will continue on in the future.

“I think that these athletes have good relationships these teachers and these teachers want to support the students so what better way than to come out and play with them, especially when they know that they’re going to be playing other teacher-friends,” Albright said. “It gives a little bit of a competitive-type feel and I think that’s why it works so well.”

Keara Shannon is a sports writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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