Know your ABC

With winter approaching, many warm weather enthusiasts realize that their favorite season is over. For some, it means that it is time to find alternative ways to get some physical activity in without having to bundle up during the cold winter months. Badminton provides a great way of working out indoors.

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Photo credit: Anchorage Badminton Club

The ABC offers weekly open gym times at the Municipality of Anchorage’s recreational centers and other sports facilities in Anchorage. The club meets between three and four times a week at very little cost. Generally, ABC meets at Fairview Recreation Center between 6 and 8:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and at Spenard Recreation Center from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The participation fee is $5 per person. Additional sessions are held at The Center on Arctic Boulevard for $10 each.

The club was introduced by Bonnie Carroll and Bhaskar Neogi, who already started a badminton club in Fairbanks back in 1993. The club up north is still going, but the relocation of Carroll and Neogi to Anchorage resulted in the introduction of ABC in 2012.

Todd Meixner, who joined the club with his wife, attends the practices on a regular basis and finds great joy in the exercise and competitiveness of the game.

“I played badminton back in high school gym. I had good hand-eye-coordination and it was fun. But pretty much, I didn’t play badminton again until I moved up here,” Meixner said. “So, my wife and I just started hitting it at the park and then found the club. I started on the beginners’ court and evolved into more advanced play.”

The welcoming environment of ABC encourages everybody to join, try the game and possibly move on to become more a competitive player or participate in tournaments that take place in and out-of-state.

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Members of the Anchorage Badminton Club pose after a tournament in Anchorage. ABC meets at Fairview Recreation Center on Mondays and Thursdays between 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., and at Spenard Recreation Center on Saturdays from 12 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Photo credit: Anchorage Badminton Club

“We[‘ve] got room for more players,” Meixner said. “If they just come with shoes, somebody got a racket and somebody got a bird, so we will get them going. We have done it before. The most important part is to have some fun. Then you can worry about improving your skills or playing competitively in tournaments.”

The club reflects the diversity of the Anchorage community and unites young and old. The youngest regular member of ABC is 13, while the oldest is 82 years old.

“We have seven nations represented in our club including people from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, America, Korea and Vietnam,” Meixner said.

The level of play varies from beginner to advanced, but attendees will always find somebody to play a game with.

“We have had 30 people on a Saturday and sometimes we have 13, so it comes and goes,” Meixner said.

Paul Jacks, a regular attendee at ABC, has played badminton in Anchorage since 1997. The closure of a former badminton club in Anchorage ended the fun until ABC formed and reintroduced badminton to the Anchorage community.

“I started showing up and realized that the players were really good,” Jacks said. “I asked one of the players for some help and he took me under his wing and trained me.”

Jung Lee is that player, and one of great expertise who enjoys coaching others to become better players.

“I have taught a lot of people,” Lee said. “They just ask for help and I take my time to teach them to become better and then they move on and some even win tournaments.”

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Jung Lee plays in a doubles match with one of Anchorage Badminton Club’s members. Lee enjoys teaching and coaching new players on technique. Photo credit: Anchorage Badminton Club

Lee is planning on offering practice sessions on a regular basis for people who want to improve their technique.

“I just want people to be able to play the correct way and actually play up to their abilities,” Lee said.

Once a year, the Municipality of Anchorage organizes a badminton tournament at the Spenard Recreational Center. Members of the club also attend additional tournaments throughout the year.

During the 68th Tacoma Daffodil Badminton Invitational in Washington state, ABC had 12 participants and medaled in every division they participated in. At that meet, Meixner and Ajit Dayanandan, his double partner in the 50+ category, took the title in their division.

“We all go to tournaments,” Meixner said. “Back in April, we had a pretty good representation down in Washington state for the Daffodil tournament. We medaled in all divisions. That was pretty impressive and a good turnout. It is competitive down there, with lots of big clubs and very good players.”

Playing badminton indoors year around, without having to deal with weather conditions or setting up nets and field markers, is a great way to stay in shape. Meixner noted that he runs about five miles in the 20 by 22 foot court during practice sessions.

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Members of the Anchorage Badminton Club practicing at the Fairview Recreation Center. The club meets every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

“Badminton doesn’t really get the kind of exposure that it gets around the rest of the world,” Jacks said. “It’s a huge sport. Everybody here is super into it. It is great cardio exercise. We want the club to grow and we welcome beginners.”

Anchorage Badminton Club’s Facebook page supplies the schedule of each month featuring the practice times and places. Further information can be found on ABC’s homepage, anchorage-badminton.wixsite.com/anchoragebadminton.