Palo Alto High School’s badminton team enters their upcoming season with a fresh beginning, and a new coach, Justin Halas.
Halas has coached high school sports for roughly ten years. He has coached teams in football, baseball, soccer, track and field and badminton. In the past he has coached badminton in South Korea and in San Jose. Halas was selected to be this year’s badminton coach after last year’s coach, Wesley Hsieh, was released. Halas hopes to bring new practices and strategies to the team.
“I think to improve, a player has to work on conditioning and footwork,” said Halas. “Being in the right position and anticipating the shot or the hit. Another technique is to focus on attacking. 90 percent of teams that attack in badminton end up winning, so getting into that attacking mindset is something we’ve got to focus on.”
Halas recognizes that when it comes to beating the tough opponents, physical training also makes a big difference, as players need to have a growth mindset and mental toughness to continue winning.
“Going forth, I believe in order to do well during practice, these players have to challenge themselves,” said Halas, “So our older juniors and seniors are going to have to challenge each other during practice time in order to simulate the game speed. Thats the only way they are going to get better.”
The Vikings will play in Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s upper league, the De Anza League, for a second year. Last year, the team had to deal with a large loss of senior players. Similarly, this year, the team will have to compensate for the graduation of nineteen senior players.
“Paly’s team suffered the loss of many talented seniors, which comprised of most of the varsity members, so this year we may have difficulty maintaining our position in upper league,” freshman Emily Yu said.
Junior Eric Chiang believes that as a result, the team’s future performance is unclear.
“Our varsity line up is basically brand new, but a lot of other schools lost plenty of seniors as well, so we’ll see how it goes,” Chiang said.
Senior player, Joseph Chang, also expressed concern over the loss of several key players, especially against traditionally strong schools. However, he believes that the team will still be strong due to talented new players.
“Our goal this year is to finish first the the De Anza division,” said Chang. “Our first game will be on March 24 against Monta Vista, one of if not the best team in the league.I have no doubt they we will succeed as we have some very talented young players such as Jacqueline Cai and Emily Yu as well as good support and leadership from established veterans such as Eric Chiang and Promise Lee.”
Halas expressed that players cannot rest after winning, and must continue to work hard.
“Just because you win one game doesn’t mean you’ve got everything made,” said Halas. “You’ve got to keep working on it.” Multiple players mentioned a lack of real team chemistry. Yu noted that badminton can be played either in singles or in doubles, and, consequently, can often feel like an individual sport.
“The team chemistry is a little bit shaky, with an imbalance towards the power in the the guys’ rather than girls’ team,” Yu said.
The Vikings have completed their tryout process and have created a preliminary line up. The team’s first match will be against Lynbrook High School on March 19 at Los Altos High School.