Badminton is a sport that is becoming more popular at Illinois high schools, and Oak Park and River Forest High School coach Paul Wright believes that is due to the greater commitment shown by participants.
“In the last five to 10 years, we’re seeing more girls majoring in year-round badminton,” she said. “The main thing is for the kids to feel that they are a part of something and go compete. We have six to eight girls that compete or train during the offseason and that has helped us grow as a program.”
The Huskies are off to a 1-1 start this year with a win over Downers Grove South and a loss to Hinsdale Central. OPRF also placed second at the Thornton Fractional South Invitational on March 19.
After the last two seasons were either canceled or shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wright is excited for OPRF to have a full, normal year.
“The last two years have been hard,” he said. “The girls are super excited to get out to see girls from other schools that they haven’t seen in a year or two.”
Senior Amelia Hoog, a four-year varsity player, and sophomore Lilianna Jasinska qualified for last year’s state tournament in doubles. Wright will count on those two, along with seniors Violet Buckner and Cecilia White, to lead the Huskies.
“Amelia, Cecilia and Violet are our captains,” he said. “The nice thing is that they remember what we did as a program when they were freshmen and they try to connect with others in our program. They’ve tried to create a collegial and shared feeling with their teammates, and they want to create an atmosphere that encourages kids to come out.”
Wright, in his 10th season at the helm of OPRF, believes the West Suburban Silver is one of the toughest conferences in the state, with some of the top programs in Hinsdale Central and York leading the way. He hopes the Huskies will compete with Downers Grove North, Glenbard West and Lyons Township to finish in the top half of the league.
Wright would also like to see OPRF field some players from the state in May.
“We’d like to have one or two doubles players and at least one singles player there,” he said. “Just qualifying will show kids that if you play sports in high school, you can be successful if you work hard. We have two juniors, Kitty DeHaan and Caroline Raduchda, who as freshmen have never played badminton before, and now they are a viable force with the potential to go down to state.”
After taking a week off for spring break, the Huskies return to action on April 4 at Riverside-Brookfield High School and travel to Lyons Township on April 5.
“They’re games against teams we play well against,” Wright said.