A welcomed addition to local club badminton scene
by Randy Pascal
The competitive badminton family, in Sudbury, is growing.
With the Sudbury Junior Badminton Club, based out of St Benedict Catholic Secondary School, enjoying success and establishing a solid young
base in recent years, the idea of creating even more training opportunities for prospective players attracted the attention of some very keen badminton
Last September, coach Donald Legendre and company began working with a primarily female crew, twice a week, at Marymount Academy, generating
some very impressive results on the NOBA (Northern Ontario Badminton Association) junior circuit.
While the bulk of the current members attend Marymount, the club is not exclusive to their student, as Legendre and others simply look to find ways to
grow a sport that they are clearly passionate about.
"We noticed in all of Northern Ontario, there is not as much going on at the club level, with kids entering tournaments," he said. "There are only a
handful of them, not the mass quantities that we used to have."
"There are a handful from each city that are strong, instead of a dozen from each city that are strong," he added, harking back to the era when the
Timmins native first started to establish himself on a path that would eventually crown Legendre as an OCAA champion.
"It's always the same people in the finals. Before, whoever was "on" for that tournament ended up winning." Matching a need that existed at Marymount
with an interest in offering practice sessions on days that differed from the Sudbury Jr Club schedule, Legendre is hopeful that the true benefits are
evident a few years down the road.
"I told them to take this year as a learning curve," he said. "I never won my first match, won a tournament in my entire first year. My hope is to have
a better development program for these kids so that they can raise their level and compete down south."
The fit, in the eyes of long-time Marymount physical educator Dan Bartolucci, made for an easy decision. "We have an amazing staff here that is
pretty dedicated to extra curricular activities, but we always welcome great community help when we can find it, and we certainly found it with Donald,"
"He has a passion for badminton and a skill level that allows him to pass along skills that I could not. He has coached at a high level before, so to
have him coach at a high school level is incredibly valuable to us."
And while it is a given that the Regals' program will take a step forward, Bartolucci acknowledged that the payoff could be felt across the entire
community. "Donald wants to see as many people playing badminton as possible," he said.
"Our girls spend one practice with him and we notice a difference." That difference was particularly noteworthy within the group of six athletes who
opted to test themselves against the best in the north, including the top ranked doubles team of Mackenzie Watkins and Angelina Lam.
A well-established competitive soccer player with the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club, Watkins noticed some transferrable skill sets, almost
immediately, when first introduced to badminton back in grade seven.
"It really helped with the footwork, moving side to side, and your cardio too," said Watkins. "The technique is tough, learning the different shots and
the proper footwork. Someone can teach you it, but it takes time for it to really come naturally."
The 15 year old grade 10 student at Marymount favours the doubles game, building a strong chemistry with Lam since the tandem first partnered some three
years ago. "There is not as much pressure on me and I can rely on someone to help me through it," acknowledged Watkins.
As for the strategy, the Marymount duo know exactly how they wish to proceed. "Whoever is serving stays at the front, and you only go to sides when one of
your players lifts it," she explained. "Now you're on defense, and you look to rotate back so that you can move back on offense."
Working hard to close the gap, this year, has been 15 year old Hope Tyson, the eldest of four kids in the family. Much like the others, Tyson
noticed a very rapid change in her game, thanks to the club training.
"In grade seven and eight, I kind of formed a lot of bad habits, because nobody taught me," she said. "When I came to the club, I had to learn not to have
my finger up on the racquet. Don kept on me on my bad habits, and we worked on forming new good habits."
Having played alongside a variety of doubles partners this year, Tyson differs from Watkins, enjoying the freedom of flying solo on the court. "I don't
have to rely on anyone else, and no one has to rely on me," she said.
"I'm doing my own thing, and if I miss it, I can just scold at me." That sentiment likely rings well with Olivia Legendre, a singles player,
through and through. "I've been playing singles since I was young, so I've kind of trained and prepared for that," noted the 15 year old grade 10 student at
St Charles College.
"I find the player's weakness and use it against them when I play them." Though she has welcomed the input from her father, over the years, the addition
of the NOBA circuit to her training schedule was an element that definitely met with the approval of the young athlete.
"There's more competition, you play against players who have trained a lot more," said Legendre. "There is always going to be someone who is better than
you, so you learn what you need to work on."
"I have to work on my footwork a lot, moving around faster, reacting more quickly." Joining this group in their travels across the north have been 12
year old Ella Legendre, who finished second in singles at the NOBA playdowns and recently teamed with Gillian Obradovich (Sudbury Jr
Badminton Club) to claim the U14 girls doubles event in North Bay.
Madison Regan and Megan Ierino round out the collection of talent that is currently working with Legendre, though there are several more
who are hoping to make their presence felt at the upcoming SDSSAA championships, and beyond.
Assisting Legendre with the club coaching duties is Collège Boréal sophomore and former city and NOSSA champion, Michelle Koslowskyj.