By: Erica Lee
Among the general population, badminton is seen as a recreational sport. However, for the athletes who seriously train for the sport, there is much more that goes into mastering the sport, both mentally and physically. Freshman Christine Yang, who is a nationally ranked badminton player, understands this and has received recognition for her skills in competitions such as the Pan Am Junior Badminton Championships in 2011, where she won first place for girls’ singles.
To improve her techniques, Yang trains at the California Badminton Academy in Fremont for six days a week. Yang’s coach Bob Malaythong believes that Yang is a good role model for other players. “She is a student of the game, which I think other badminton players should try to achieve [in order] to understand the game and how it is supposed to be played,” Malaythong said.
To attain awards of such high prestige, Yang undergoes a lot of training. “It takes a lot of energy away,” Yang said. “It is not only physically tiring, but also mentally tiring. A lot of people would not agree with that because they have not experienced it, and they think it’s a backyard sport.” Strategies are also crucial because all of Yang’s opponents are talented. During tournaments, Yang uses intimidation and maintains a poker face to look confident in her abilities.
According to Yang, being in the limelight of the badminton world is not always as incredible as it seems. Once a player reaches the top, there is pressure to stay there. “Even if they are your best friends, everyone wants to take you down,” Yang said.” Due to her busy schedule, Yang finds it hard to spend time with her friends outside of school. “I really don’t have a social life,” Yang said. “I mean I have a lot of friends here, but a lot of the times I feel out of the circle since I can’t go hang out because I have practice.”
Even with all the stress, Yang still enjoys the sport. “The best moment is when you play someone a lot better than you, and at first they don’t think highly of you and then they realize that you’re good,” Yang said. “The best feeling is when you win a game no one expects you to win and you cry out of happiness.” On the sidelines, her parents and coaches act as moral support. “My two coaches are probably my best friends,” Yang said. “[My coaches] know, because they have experienced the same things when they were younger and know the pressure when they were in Nationals.”
The sacrifices that Yang has made for badminton have earned her respect. “Christine is an extremely hard worker.” Yang’s other coach Raju Rai said. “Not only does she put in the time and effort, the knowledge she has of the game is extraordinary especially at her age. She aims to be the best and to perfect her craft. Hopefully one day she will be one of the top players in the world.”
While badminton has taught Yang discipline and perseverance, most importantly, Yang has been able to learn about herself. “I really like [badminton] a lot because it has developed my personality a lot because I understand how I play and how I deal with myself,” she said.