By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Birdies are not just for golf, ever since Minnesota high schools introduced badminton. Inner city schools in particular have gravitated to the sport.

This week is the state tournament for the sport, where there’s one person who keeps it all going in the right direction. In total, 24 teams are taking part in the event.

“I found the game interesting,” Khaeijeh Masue of Minneapolis North High School said. “I wanted to try something new, so when I saw how it was played, it felt interesting and I wanted to try it myself.”

They’re gathering to compete in a sport that they have learned to love by participating, and found an appetite for new athletes.

“It’s not a rigorous, physically adaptive sport right now, so it certainly gives a lot of our girls something to really excel at and get really passionate about,” Minneapolis North High School athletic director Leo Lewis said. “This has been a sport that’s been marginalized quite a bit because we haven’t had a lot of girls out and it hasn’t been given a lot of notice, but now we’ve got probably the most committed team at North right now.”

Behind every tournament or event is one person who has ownership. For Badminton in Minnesota, that’s Kevin Anderson. For more than a decade he’s been keeping score and keeping it organized.

“For this event, I seed everybody 1 through 92 in a bracket for the singles, and 1 through 69 in the doubles, and then I have to point them in the right direction if they win or lose,” he said.

He’s even taking a survey to turn into a class project on the sport, and he’s found something interesting.

“One of these responses was, ‘I’m into beast mode. I need to unleash my beast,’ on why they want to play badminton,” Anderson said. “You don’t hear that too often for badminton.”

That’s what makes this fun — a sport that is developing with unanswered questions, so the exploration is part of the journey.

“The survey is going to look at the amount of practice time and the correlation with success,” Anderson said. “So the longer the kid practices in the offseason, the better they, probably — that’s the hypothesis.”

In an age where head injuries and health have become paramount to parents of participants in all sports, badminton offers a relatively safe alternative.

“We get sore shoulders sometimes, sore shins, things like that, from playing on the hard floors,” badminton trainer Doug Nelson said.


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