The Badminton Army

When Old Virgilians get together to reminisce about sporting glories and the sporting traditions of the College several sports readily spring to mind – football (AFL), cricket, rowing, athletics, water polo, football (soccer) and swimming.  Whilst Badminton isn’t a ‘front of mind’ sport with past students, it is one that is gathering great momentum and popularity amongst current students. Current Director of Sport Michael Moschogianis started the shuttle flying when he was able to secure former Olympian Lasse Bundgaard to take weekly sessions with interested students. What started with a few devotees quickly expanded to standing room only in the gym during lunchtime sessions. Over the past eighteen months this embryonic programme has blossomed into a passionately supported Development Programme with over 40 participants gathering in the gym each Friday afternoon to hone their skills and challenge their peers. This has evolved into a strong representative programme with at least one team per year participating in inter-school competitions held at the South Hobart Badminton Centre and other school gyms around Hobart.

When Head Coach and Development Programme Coordinator Mr Aaron Tan, invited me to drop in and see our players in action, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of boys that were warming up in the Edmund Rice Hall. The ‘Eddie Rice’ Hall is usually the home of giants engaged in intense 3 on 3 basketball games or silky skilled proponents of the world game firing at the futsal goals at either end of the gym.  Today it was a sea of badminton nets and flying shuttles with 30 boys warming up in preparation for a big afternoon of skills, games and drills. Alongside Aaron, is Mrs Xiaohui Ma, a math’s teacher at the College and a talented player and coach in her own right.
Aaron was born in Malaysia, and has a distinct perspective on how he believes the game should be played. In Australia, the sport is still developing and there are very few influential figures in the sport. This has allowed Aaron to shape the College’s badminton programme to integrate development opportunities that will optimally prepare boys for competition in Term 3. Aaron explained to me that most badminton players would not be very well known in Australia. People who play the sport would more than likely not be aware of the identity of our Olympians and National title holders. This highlights the latent potential of the sport and the opportunity for existing and emerging coaches to develop the next generation of players using techniques that will hold up at national and international level. This is an opportunity that Aaron and our other coaches have enthusiastically embraced and the results will be evident in the coming years.

“Badminton for me is more expressive. Let’s just say for example, Footy or Rugby, requires a lot more strength, whilst badminton has a lot more strategizing and planning to construct a point. It requires a lot of focus from you. When you are playing badminton, you need that type of personality. You need to be able to stay calm, to find out the best strategic approach.”  Aaron Tan, Teacher and Coordinator of Badminton

Mr Aaron Tan and Mrs Xiaohui Ma with their Badminton Army

Whilst badminton might not require brute strength like some other sports, there is an element of explosiveness. Being swift and moving around the court is crucial in being able to construct a point to outwit an opponent. Strategising is integral to a strong badminton player, and this is something that Aaron works with every Friday afternoon with the Badminton Development Programme in preparation for the Term 3 competition against other Hobart schools.

Considering there are many boys who represent the College on the badminton court, there is plenty of scope for further development of the sport at St Virgil’s. Currently there is a distinct pathway from school, to club, and through to State and National teams. There are currently no  Tasmanian representatives from St Virgil’s in the Under 17 or Under 19 squads, but there are plenty of opportunities for current boys to put their name forward for selection if they continue to work hard, develop physical and mental skills and avail themselves of all opportunities afforded by the programme. Many of the College’s players have already progressed to club badminton at the South Hobart Badminton Centre, playing during the week and on the weekends to fast track their development in the sport.
Year 10 student, Sam Halys has been playing badminton for almost four years now, and is turning into a player with great potential to be a very strong competitor in this year's competition. He originally only took up the sport because his parents made him play one sport per term, but really took a liking to it and found he was quite a good player at school level.

“The coaching at St Virgil’s is really good. With Mr (Aaron) Tan, he puts us into groups and the kids that are a lot stronger, get to do more advanced drills with movement around the court and the technical side of hitting the shuttle… It feels good to represent the College as well, to be the only ones or the better ones out of a few to play in games, and you get to show your skills to other people and schools. I think that's pretty cool.” Sam Halys, Year 10

Lasse Bundgaard might not be a household name to most people, but to people that play Badminton, he is almost royalty. As a former Olympic Badminton Coach for Australia, he has helped train some of the best Badminton players in the country and is impressed with the development of the sport at the College. He has provided some basic and specialist coaching for the College in the past and is well educated in the sport in Australia.

“I think the (SVC) Badminton Programme has grown a lot in the last two years. From having not that many players playing, now I think they are up to nearly 50 kids playing the school roster. Considering it has developed even further into an after-school program too. They (the College) have managed to develop it. I believe that to be very positive. I don’t think any other school programme has that many kids participating in a programme. Hutchins has a few, but not quite as many as St Virgil’s.”  Lasse Bundgaard, Former Australian Olympic Badminton Coach and Head Coach of Badminton Australia.

Lasse Bundgaard, Former Australian Olympic Badminton Coach and Head Coach of Badminton Australia
Mr Lasse Bundgaard teaching the theory of the game.

In providing a holistic and successful sport prorgamme for all students it is critical that less profiled sports such as badminton are given the chance to thrive. Central to this is the presence of experienced, committed and qualified coaches such Lasse and Aaron. This will help to build a critical base of players whilst maintaining the profile of the sport within the College.

We look forward to following the team in season 2021 and hopefully celebrating strong participation and performance results in pennant games later in the year. There is no doubt that with the combination of excellent coaching and development opportunities and the renowned SVC determination, pride and sportsmanship success will not be far away both on and off the court.  

SVC Badminton Army