Birdies Look to Take Off

The Stuyvesant boys’ badminton team, the Birdies, are days away from their first game of the season against Martin Luther King Jr. High School. After...

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The Stuyvesant boys’ badminton team, the Birdies, are days away from their first game of the season against Martin Luther King Jr. High School. After finishing 6-4 last year in the Manhattan Central Division and taking a tough 5-0 loss to Bronx High School of Science in the first round of the playoffs, it is up to Coach Marvin Autry and senior co-captains William Jiang and Ken Lee to get the Birdies back on track to the championship.

During the first few days of school, while most students reacclimated to Stuyvesant academic life, wrestled with program changes, and hauled textbooks home from school, the Birdies finalized their team roster through a period of intense tryouts. They have since begun their daily weekday practices, which will continue until league play starts. Many of the team members have also taken advantage of the Stuyvesant gym being open on weekends to get additional practice time in.

The Birdies lost a total of five players to last year’s graduating class—nearly half of the starting lineup. The Birdies will sorely miss Benjamin Ang, the Birdies’ second singles, along with James Lee and Kevin Wang, the Birdies’ first doubles. “Returning team members will have to work hard in order to fill these starting positions and keep our team competitive within our division,” Jiang said.

According to Jiang, juniors Nicklaus Yao and Asifuzzaman Sami, along with sophomore Meshane Peiris, have shown a lot of potential and are expected to step up in the absence of the graduated seniors. Coach Autry is also enthusiastic about the fresh crop of young players who will be joining the team this year. “We have a freshman here who is a [nationally] ranked badminton player, which will help give us a big boost,” said Coach Autry, referring to Lukas Chang.

This year, the captains have changed their practice routine quite a bit. “Instead of practicing through playing games against each other during practices, we plan on focusing more on improving individual skills, forms, and footwork before applying these skills during practice games,” Jiang said. “With badminton being such a fast-paced sport, it’s important that our members work on gaining more endurance.” Coach Autry added that the players will be running more, which is something that was not stressed in the previous season.

The Birdies will also focus on nurturing their young talent with the help of their returning veterans. “Some of our returning players have developed more skills and honed these skills compared to our newer players,” Jiang said. “These more skilled players can teach our newer players in order to establish an overall even balance of skill throughout our team.” Jiang is optimistic about the effect the veterans will have on the new players.

Jiang then implied that the Birdies are looking to improve the team culture. “This year, we’ll be emphasizing motivation and dedication to the team rather than solely looking at initial skill levels during our tryouts,” he said. The mental aspects of sports are often overlooked and players can lose skills when their head isn’t in the game, which is why the new focus on attitude will be a major factor in improving the team.

The strongest competitors that the Birdies faced last year are Seward Park High School and Brooklyn Technical High School. Seward Park’s doubles players and Brooklyn Tech’s singles players are exceptionally strong, making it a challenge for the Birdies whenever they play them; the Birdies have lost four times in the previous two seasons at the hands of these teams. Despite the losses, the Birdies still managed to make the playoffs, but they fell to Bronx Science and Franklin Roosevelt D. Roosevelt High School in the early rounds. This year, the team is looking to minimize their losses and go farther into the playoffs. One of their main goals is to reach the championship game for the first time since 2016, when they impressively finished with a score of 9-1.

While Seward Park and Brooklyn Tech are two longstanding obstacles to the Birdies, the Central Division has recently lost the Dr. Susan S. Mckinney School of Art, with Morrisania Educational Campus taking its place. 28 percent of Stuyvesant’s wins in the last two seasons have been against the School of Art. The new and unknown competitor Morrisania Campus may throw a monkey wrench into the Birdies’ plans if they prove to be stronger than the School of Art.

The expectations for the year are similar to last year. The Birdies feel that they can replicate their form from the previous season, but are excited to see if their changes to practice and the team culture will lead to changes in their results. Key losses to the roster certainly won’t help, but their returning players have grown in skill and they have high hopes for their rookies. If these changes aren’t enough, the Birdies also have to deal with a new team in the division. With all these new aspects combined, it’s hard to predict how the Birdies will do. The new season can’t start soon enough.