ACCOUNTS – Big Sky State Games Badminton Commissioner DJ Nacario has been on a mission to bring the game of badminton to more people in Montana.
Nacario, who said he is originally from the Philippines but has lived in Billings for six years, smiled as he described the process of bringing badminton back to the Big Sky State Games after a 10-year absence.
On Sunday morning at the YMCA, approximately 20 participants competed in badminton as three courts were lined up in a small gym at the facility.
“Badminton is my favorite sport,” Nacario said. I was looking for badminton three years ago.
“Two years ago I kept looking and found the Great Falls Badminton Club and then after Great Falls I found Bozeman and they talked to me and they knew badminton existed in 2012. Since I live in Billings and close to headquarters, they wanted me to bring it back to the State Games.”
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BSSG Executive Director Liana Susot said badminton was re-introduced as a State Games sport because enough players expressed interest in participating in the sport.
“We’re excited to bring back badminton,” he said. “We had some interest. People play badminton in Billings and all over the state and they wanted some competition and they wanted to do it.”
There were plenty of smiles during the games on Sunday. On a small set of bleachers, the other players waited patiently for their turn and watched the other competitors play closely.
Naccario said most of the players were either from Great Falls, Bozeman or Billings.
In the near future, Nacario hopes to have a badminton club in the Magic City, saying: “Hopefully we’ll be able to start our own club in Billings soon.”
Overall, Nacario was pleased with how badminton went at this year’s State Games.
“I’m very happy that they supported me in this,” Nacario said as he looked out into the bleachers and the players entered the tournament.
Naccario said those who participate in badminton get a good cardiovascular workout and have fun at the same time.
“We are just having fun. serious fun,” he said with a laugh and a nod to the motto of the state games over the years. “It’s about bragging rights in every city.”
Wim Herrera is the co-manager of the Great Falls Badminton Club. He said there were seven players from Great Falls who ventured into Billings for BSSG. He was happy to be in the Magic City and participate in the State Games.
Herrera said the return of badminton to the BSSG should be good for the growth of the sport in Montana.
“It gives you competition and shines a light on badminton,” he said.
Herrera said he hopes Billings can start a badminton club and feels BSSG will offer a good starting point. There are approximately 12 to 15 people who participate in Great Falls club activities.
“Have a club, and since they’re here, get their names and go,” he said. “Plus, it’s closed. When everyone was talking about softball, we’re indoors and not in 103 degree weather.”
Herrera said badminton isn’t just a sport to play at a backyard barbecue or party.
“It’s good exercise and a good mind game,” he said. “To earn the point, you need to develop a strategy. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Shawn Peden, 27, graduated from Billings West and ran track and cross country for the Golden Bears before competing at Rocky Mountain College and later Montana State and is a former Montana Mile runner.
Over the years, he has participated in golf, basketball and badminton at BSSG. Peden, who now lives in Bozeman, was pleased with Sunday’s turnout and competition.
“It’s a much bigger turnout than I expected, which is great,” he said. “There are many good players. The more people the better. You can play more games and see more advanced players.”
Divisions on offer included men’s and women’s singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles. Game categories included Open, Senior and Beginner.
Peden said that if a new player wants to play badminton at BSSG, he will definitely find a place for them.
“I would say not to be afraid. There are players of all levels, male and female, young and old,” he said. “It’s a small community and they’re willing to teach beginners. It’s competitive and it’s fun.”
Now, the players who played this year are already looking to return to Billings in 2023 to compete in badminton at BSSG.
“Now we have something to look forward to and train for next year,” Herrera said.
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