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Birdie watching

Badminton finding a niche in Folsom
By: Matt Long
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Football, basketball, baseball and soccer are popular sports in Folsom, but there’s another sport gaining in popularity, particularly at Sutter Middle School. Badminton. That’s right, badminton. What’s traditionally a quick bleep on the physical education class radar has become popular enough that P.E. teacher Kyle Wilkin is holding a two-week badminton clinic with two dozen students participating. Interest in the sport actually began growing about three years ago when Wilkin started a badminton club at the school. “I introduced the sport in my P.E. classes and the kids, for whatever reason, just loved it,” Wilkin said. “Badminton’s not an after school sport, so I started the Sutter Badminton Club that met during lunch. Every year the club has grown to the point where we had to turn people away and now we do it as a lottery. We had 100 people interested and we can only take 30.” During the school year the club met on Friday’s during lunch for two months. After eating the kids got to play badminton for about 40 minutes. Wilkin even had T-shirts printed with the winning player earning a T-shirt that boldly stated ‘badminton champ’ that the winner proudly wore around campus. The clinic, which ends this week, met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the last two weeks, running from 10 to 10:45 a.m. at the gym at Sutter Middle School. It’s for students in sixth through eighth grade. Of the 24 players signed up, the clinic is evenly split between the sexes. Wilkin is surprised at how high the interest is for badminton. “It sort of just took off on its own,” Wilkin said. “I think kids are interested because it’s something new and it’s an easy sport to learn. Plus, there’s no running and a lot of the kids like that part.” At the clinic, which Wilkin taught much like he does his P.E. class, students learned the rules of the game and all the shots, including the serve, the smash hit, the dink hit, the backhand and the overhead clear. The kids played games every day of the clinic, finishing with a King/Queen of the Court Tournament, both singles and doubles, on the final day. Akshaya Jagannadharao, who just finished seventh grade at Sutter, came to the clinic with her own racquet. “I like playing badminton because you get to meet other players,” Jagannadharao said. “I also like the different hits and ways to get points.” Another eighth-grader-to-be at Sutter, Owen Collins, also enjoyed the clinic and is a member of the badminton club. “It’s just really fun to play,” Collins said. “I play tennis too and I think that’s why I like badminton. It gives me something to do to stay active.” While Folsom or Vista del Lago do not offer a varsity badminton program, about 25 schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section has varsity programs and the section has crowned section champions in the sport since 1980. Badminton Origin: 17th century in British India Equipment: Racquet, shuttlecock (birdie), net Governing body: Badminton World Federation Fun fact: Olympic sport since 1992 Popularity: About 25 schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section offer badminton as a varsity sport