With nearly 300 years of history, badminton is played around the world. And thanks to the initiative of Daniel Kempling, Crestonites can now hone their skills and advance in the sport with the Creston Valley Badminton Club.
Kempling holds practices for two hours each week at the Yaqan Nukiy gymnasium, where he runs players through drills devoted to serving, drop shots, footwork, racket handling, strategy and more, before applying those skills in actual games.
“Competitive training is really a way to enrich your life,” he said. “Pouring yourself into drills keeps you fit, but you develop and sense improvement.”
And he would know. A home renovation contractor, Kempling has also been a pilates instructor and personal trainer, and currently teaches aikido in addition to badminton.
But badminton has always had a special place in his heart — coached by a former European champ, he played elite level junior badminton in the early 1980s, until he discovered aikido at the University of Victoria and pursued that instead.
He moved to Creston in 2008 with his wife and three children, and when he discovered there was no competitive badminton group at the south end of the valley — there has been one in Crawford Bay for 20 years — he decided to start his own. He enrolled in the National Coach Certification Program, in which he was instructed by Olympic badminton coach Ram Nayyar.
“That led from ‘I want to bat the bird around’ to ‘I want to compete again,’ ” Kempling said.
And compete he has. At the Cranbrook open tournament in the fall, he and club member Charles Reynolds earned a consolation final in doubles, and Kempling bidded in men’s singles.
Kempling said he was “light, skinny and small” as a youth and, therefore, not drawn to team sports, but was attracted to badminton because “it’s a thinking man’s racket sport. It’s all about disguising your shot. You gain a tactical advantage by making your opponent move the way you want them to move.”
His martial arts training also affects the way he sees the game.
“As a martial artist, I find a lot of similarities to sparring,” he said. “It’s really fast, really interesting and lots of fun.”
At the same time, that competitive spirit is tempered by the sport’s British origins — courteousness, decorum and graciousness are big parts of the game’s play.
But there is still a drive for players to get stronger and faster. After all, Olympic badminton tickets are the second-fastest selling, right behind soccer.
“It’s become incredibly athletic,” said Kempling. “Top players are hitting the shuttle at 300 kilometres an hour.”
Part of that is due to technological advances — rackets are lighter and stiffer than they were when Kempling started, and can be strung to 30 pounds of tension, up from 17 two decades ago.
One aspect that Kempling appreciates is that anyone can play against anyone and prove their skill. Once, at the Kootenay open tournament, there weren’t enough men playing, so a woman — all of five feet, five inches and 130 pounds — entered and won the men’s category.
And if, after knowing that, you still think you’re not good enough or simply can’t do it?
“Bring all that along for the ride and we’ll sort it out,” said Kempling.
The Creston Valley Badminton Club plays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday at the Yaqan Nukiy gymnasiun. The drop-in fee is $5.