Pan develops badminton culture on campus, leads team into first season

Pan develops badminton culture on  campus, leads team into first season

The late afternoon sun beat down on the recently formed badminton team as they followed captain of the team Bryan Pan (12) down to the courts at Clairemont High School, March 7. They all seemed a little tense, some fidgeting with their hair and others tapping their feet; after all, it was their very first match as a program, their chance to set the precedent for the future of the badminton program, one they wanted to make the most of.

Unlike many of the other players, Pan said he wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. Confident in his team and their abilities, he strode over to the courts with a smile on his face and, nothing but excitement coursing through his veins.

As the match started, all of the hard work the players had put in during practices came into play as quickly as their nerves subsided. Cheers erupted from all corners of the court as players encouraged their teammates while they pushed through the match.

“Everyone was pretty energized and pumped after winning [15-2],” Carston Truong (12), a member of the team, said. According to Truong, that attitude has carried over to the teams current practices. It was moments like that, Pan said, moments of pride and contentment, that made the stress of creating a team worth it.

As co-president of Badminton Club, Pan initially wanted to start a badminton team at Westview to channel his passion for the sport while exposing more students to it.

“I really wanted to [see more competition]  because badminton isn’t really recognized in [PUSD],” Pan said. “I wanted to start something that’ll open the eyes of people who don’t really know what badminton is on [a competitive] scale.”

It took him about a year and a half to create the CIF badminton team for Westview, making Westview the first and only school in the Poway Unified School District to do so. In fact, prior to Westview’s team, the San Diego Unified School District was the only school district in San Diego County that offered badminton as a CIF sport.

The very first step Pan took in creating the sport was speaking with athletic director, Steve McLaughlin, about the prospect of adding another sport. Once he received McLaughlin’s approval, Pan and McLaughlin put together a contract confirming that due to PUSD’s lack of funding, badminton would be a non-funded sport at Westview, meaning that it would be completely funded by the team and donations.

Next they contacted the San Diego Unified School District’s Badminton Section Director to ask if they would let the proposed Westview team compete with their teams in the city conference. According to Pan, once the District gave him the green light, it was just a matter of finding a place to hold practices, the school gym being insufficient, before the badminton team was made official.

After settling on the “Smash! Badminton” facility, they were ready to move forward.

“I think one of our biggest struggles was because we were the first [in PUSD] to do something,” Pan said. “We were walking blindly through what we were doing.”

Once the team was created, the next challenge was compiling the team. Having been part of the San Diego badminton community due to his constant training, Pan approached long  time players Lauren Liu and Oscar Liu to be the teams head coach and technical coach. With coaches in place, they were ready to begin tryouts.

Surprised by the number of people who showed up to tryouts, the coaching staff welcomed all 52 of them to represent Westview. After a few long weeks of practices, the team had their first match against Clairemont High School, which they won by a whopping 13 points boosting the team’s morale.

“[The team] was cheering and encouraging each other,” Truong said. “Representing [Westview] for the first time, we were very prideful knowing that we [are] the first-ever badminton team.”

“I love badminton because the sport is multidimensional in the sense that it’s not solely based on who is the strongest, fastest, or even smartest.” Pan said. “The size of the court, weight of the racket and speed of the shuttle makes badminton revolve around fast-paced, high-intensity, long-rally games.”

Having learned valuable lessons from them both inside and outside of badminton, Pan said he hopes to allow fellow students at Westview to experience that by introducing a larger audience to competitive badminton.

“My hope in creating this team is simply to set precedence so that more people are exposed to badminton.” Pan said. “The biggest thing I wish for is that me and other junior national level players can inspire and elevate the level of play for the years to come.”