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  1. #1
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    Question Places to Play in Austin, TX

    Hi everyone! I'm new here! Will be moving to Austin, Texas starting August and I would like to know places there where I can play badminton. Thanks in advance!

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    Serious badminton
    At the Austin Chinese Church gym, players make the birdies fly
    Monday, March 12, 2007
    The thwack of a racket. The blur of a soaring shuttlecock. The yelp of a gleeful player. Here at the Austin Chinese Church on Dessau Road, a dozen or so sneaker-bedecked athletes, many of them wearing neoprene braces over their knees, sprint up and down an indoor court, using a lightweight racket to lob a feathery projectile over a chin-high net.

    Badminton, it seems, has changed since we last played as a preteen.

    This is not a game for the oh-so-civilized, Bermuda shorts-wearing set. Competitive badminton is a racket-slinging shootout. Players dart so far and so fast that their T-shirts drip with sweat within minutes.

    "People in the U.S. don't think of it as a serious sport," says Tom Yu, 49, who plays with the group that gathers here three times a week.

    They are wrong.

    Badminton is the fastest racquet sport in the world. Chinese superstar Fu Haifeng once smashed a 206-mph stroke. Tennis player Andy Roddick slams a comparatively wimpy 150-mph serve.

    The game is similar to tennis, except the shuttlecock can't hit the ground between volleys. And unlike tennis, it doesn't require great upper body strength. Games are played to 21 points.

    Depending on skill level, badminton can be strenuous or easygoing. Even newbies can strike up long rallies. But judging by the squeaking of shoes and the huffing and puffing of players, most players in this gym are well beyond the beginner stage.

    "Good one!" an observer yells as a doubles team smacks and sprints around the church gym's court, which is marked off in green tape.

    The game is played with a shuttlecock, or birdie, made of cork and goose feathers, which decelerates rapidly as it zips through the air. Birdies are delicate, and a single aggressive game can chew up two or three of them. (Feather birdies cost $16 to $25 a dozen; plastic ones are cheaper and more durable, but don't have the same feel.) A lightweight badminton racket costs from $30 to $100.

    "It's good exercise," says Sheila Shung, a medical internist in Austin who plays several times a week at the court open only to church members. "I'm always preaching to my patients about good health and exercise. I tell them it doesn't matter what you do; find something fun you like."

    Another reason to embrace the sport? It's the perfect indoor activity for the Texas heat.

    Being big or tall isn't an advantage in badminton, Shung says. But you do need excellent aerobic endurance, good eye-hand coordination and quick reflexes.

    A Beijing native, Shung learned the sport from her father when she was 9. Today she plays with both her parents. Her own two children play the game, too. "It's a family tradition," she says.

    Sauti Shung, Sheila's 73-year-old father, is the current Texas Senior Games badminton champion for the 70-to-74 age group. He'll travel to Louisville, Ky., in June to compete in nationals.

    He was born in Indonesia, where he learned to play competitively as a teenager. When his family moved to China, he played on his school's team, which won a championship in Beijing in the 1960s.

    Sheila Shung says she still can't beat him at the game.

    When her father finishes warming up with some easy volleys with wife Erma, he heads toward Sheila.

    "I know I'm in trouble!" Sheila moans as he lines up and serves. For the next half hour, she runs up and down the court, while he more or less stays put, strategically aiming the shuttlecock.

    Thomas Hian, 55, an engineer, smiles while he watches the birdie zing back and forth. He plays mainly for stress relief and exercise. "There's a lot of strategy involved, just like a football game," Hian says. "You've got to play the bird where nobody covers."

    The game originated some 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece, India and China. The modern form emerged in England in medieval days, when children used paddles to keep a feathery projectile in the air. British soldiers in India added a net, and, tally ho, badminton was born. The name came from the Duke of Beaufort's estate, called Badminton House, where the soldiers played the game.

    In the United States, the game became popular in the 1930s among Hollywood stars including Bette Davis, Boris Karloff, Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks. By the 1960s it was showing up at backyard barbecues and public school PE classes. In 1992, it became an Olympic sport.

    At the Austin Chinese Church, three games are now going at once. Players streak backward and forward, and a few stray birdies lodge in the rafters. When Sheila Shung invites me to try, I can't resist. The players promise that even as a beginner, I can have fun.

    "It's not like tennis, where you hit a few strokes and that's it. You can volley for a long time, so it's very strenuous," says C.K. Man, 50.

    And so I hold my racket high, and brace for the birdie. It sails gracefully across the court, and for the next 30 minutes I scramble to return the lob. It's so unlike my experience scampering after stray tennis balls that I figure I'm doing pretty well. But I soon realize Shung is taking it easy on me.

    "Hit it hard!" she hollers.

    I whack it a little more briskly.

    "Yeah!" she yells. I let fly again. And again. Faster and harder, until I can't believe the birdie isn't blasting right through her racket.

    Soon, I'm panting. But it's so addictive I can't stop. I want to see how long we can keep up each rally.

    Finally, I droop. The Shungs shoo me to the lobby, where they fortify me with a slice of marble cake.

    Now I have a new mission: to scout the garage sales until I find someone's discarded badminton set. They don't know what they're missing.


    pleblanc@statesman.com; 445-3994
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    Last edited by cooler; 03-12-2007 at 01:42 AM.

  3. #3
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    SIMPLY SMASHING


    • The Brushy Creek Community Center, 16318 Great Oaks Drive in Round Rock, offers drop-in badminton from 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, and 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Fee is $5 for nonmembers; free for members. Lessons available 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday; $30 for an eight-week session. An adult badminton tournament is scheduled for March 24. Call 255-7871 for more information.

    •The Jewish Community Association of Austin, 7300 Hart Lane, offers drop-in badminton from 7 to 10 p.m. Mondays. Cost is $10 for nonmembers; free for members. For more information, call Matt Cofrancesco at 735-8208.

    •The University of Texas Badminton Club practices from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Belmont Hall, beneath Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Cost is $25 per semester for students, $35 for nonstudents, or $5 for a one-day pass. For more information go to http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/badminton/.

    •The Wells Branch Recreation Center, 3000 Shoreline Drive, offers drop-in badminton from 2 to 6 p.m. Sundays. Membership is $40 annually or $25 quarterly for Wells Branch district residents; $80 annually or $50 quarterly for nonresidents. For more information, call 251-9814.

  4. #4
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    Default I wish there were better places to play in Austin, TX

    In response to places to play in Austin, unfortunatley badminton is not really recognized as a serious sport by Americans. It is a great way to have fun while getting in or staying in shape. So this is certainly something that could become a good sport here in the US as the demand exists.

    It is very popular in Asia as well as a few countries in Europe, such as Denmark, and since Austin is a multi national city, Americans who are looking to play badminton may have a hard time breaking through the ex pat cliques who currently control the courts in numbers.

    Since there are so few places to play in Austin, where the demand is actually quite high, it becomes frustrating to try and play badminton as it is always overcrowded with people in line to get on courts. Quite honestly if you are a beginner/intermediate player it will be difficult to secure court time because the players already on the court do not want to allow someone less skilled to play with or against them.

    Unfortunately there is not anywhere I know of in Austin where you can reserve a court and pay to play/learn without having to stand or sit around and wait for the badminton pros to allow you on their courts. Like any sport, it is understandable players who excel do not want to waste their time with beginners/intermediate players. This is especially true when there is a lack of courts available; here survival of the fittest comes in to the picture where cliques control the court with apparent biases.

    What makes this even worse is this short sighted selfish attitude stunts the growth of badminton. Encouraging new players would help grow badminton to become more popular through expanding its fan/player base. Today a novice trying to play badminton in Austin is left with a bitter taste when failure to break the barriers to gain court access allowing them to play on a regular and consistent basis. The newbies give up on the sport with the feeling that this is not a sport that is looking to grow by welcoming new faces.

    The shame of this is the courts that exist in Austin are not ones who even pro/semi pro players want to play on. They are poorly marked and lit. Amazingly even courts in such poor conditions are battled over for court time competing with other sports such as basketball. My feeling is if someone ever had the sense and money to start up a pure badminton hall here in Austin, they potentially could have a gold mine. Especially if the owners would enter into this venture with the understanding of Austin's untapped potential. If they focused on the need to quickly encourage all‚Äč players to come out and play in safety, the sport would blossom making the owners serious return on investment. In fact, any gyms currently in Austin looking to turn a profit would be well advised to create good badminton courts to attract players and ultimately their membership growth.

    I hope safe badminton courts one day will become a reality in Austin, TX allowing the fan base here to grow. If this ever comes in to existence, please reply to this post.

  5. #5
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    In response to places to play in Austin, unfortunatley badminton is not really recognized as a serious sport by Americans. It is a great way to have fun while getting in or staying in shape.

    So this is certainly something that could become a good sport here in the US as the demand exists. It is very popular in Asia as well as a few countries in Europe, such as Denmark, and since Austin is a multi national city, Americans who are looking to play badminton may have a hard time breaking through the ex pat cliques who currently control the courts in numbers.

    Since there are so few places to play in Austin, where the demand is actually quite high, it becomes frustrating to try and play badminton as it is always overcrowded with people in line to get on courts. Quite honestly if you are a beginner/intermediate player it will be difficult to secure court time because the players already on the court do not want to allow someone less skilled to play with or against them.

    Unfortunately there is not anywhere I know of in Austin where you can reserve a court and pay to play/learn without having to stand or sit around and wait for the badminton pros to allow you on their courts. Like any sport, it is understandable players who excel do not want to waste their time with beginners/intermediate players. This is especially true when there is a lack of courts available; here survival of the fittest comes in to the picture where cliques control the court with apparent biases.

    What makes this even worse is this short sighted selfish attitude stunts the growth of badminton.   Encouraging new players would help grow badminton to become more popular through expanding its fan/player base. Today a novice trying to play badminton in Austin is left with a bitter taste when failure to break the barriers to gain court access;allowing them to play on a regular and consistent basis. The newbies give up on the sport with the feeling that this is not a sport that is looking to grow by welcoming new faces.

    The shame of this is the courts that exist in Austin are not ones who even pro/semi pro players want to play on. They are poorly marked and lit. Amazingly even courts in such poor conditions are battled over for court time competing with other sports such as basketball. My feeling is if someone ever had the sense and money to start up a pure badminton hall here in Austin, they potentially could have a gold mine. Especially if the owners would enter into this venture with the understanding of Austin's untapped potential. If they focused on the need to quickly encourage ALL players to come out and play in safety, the sport would blossom making the owners serious return on investment.

    In fact, any gyms currently in Austin looking to turn a profit would be well advised to create good badminton courts to attract players and ultimately their membership growth.

    I hope safe badminton courts one day will become a reality in Austin, TX allowing the fan base here to grow. If this ever comes in to existence, please reply to this post.

  6. #6
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    DWAAustin,

    I totally agree with you. I think that attitude of players (forming cliques and not being so welcoming to a newbie) definitely hampers the growth of the sport overall. Being a newbie, it is so frustrating when someone says they don't want to play with you.

    Anyways, to add to the list of places, I usually play at the Austin Recreation Center (12th and Lamar) every Wednesday 7.30pm - 10pm.

  7. #7
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    I have been playing badminton for more than 20 years. I just arrived Austin for a few days and just have my first time play in the Austin Recreation Center last night.
    I think that attitude exists in every sport and everywhere. My suggestion for a newbie is to play with someones a little better than you, then play with someones more better after you become better.
    Please leave a message if you know more places to play in Austin.

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