Badminton Club rallies with tournament


Paul Hansen

Andrew Park `23 (left) and Kevin Qiu `24 (right) playing badminton during the April 15 tournament.

Ellianna Cierpiot, News Editor

Badminton at Grinnell has a complicated history. Established in 2007, revived in 2013, another time in 2017 and, finally, revived once again in 2022, the club has lived in sporadic iterations as Grinnell College students have come together to volley, compete and enjoy the sport of badminton. 

Tae Hyeong Moon `23, one of the club’s badminton experts, has been playing the sport for 16 years –– since he was only 7 years old. 

“I got introduced to it [badminton] by one of my childhood friends who just gave me a racket and a shuttle,” Moon said. “I had no idea what it was. I didn’t know the rules. I kind of just played it. It was fun to hit the shuttle back and forth with my friend and just [be] like, ‘hey, I’m doing a sport.’” 

Having grown up with the sport, continuing to play badminton at college helped Moon feel at home, especially since he had even considered playing badminton professionally. When Moon joined the badminton club in the 2017-18 academic year, he said it created a welcoming community for those who loved the sport. 

I think that’s the best part about Badminton Club, is that it’s literally all levels there.

— Isabelle Kolleth `24

“I think that’s the feeling I’ve gotten anywhere with badminton is, once you get on a court, people sort of just play and enjoy each other, and there’s a lot of sportsmanship behind it. I’ve never had a bad experience playing badminton as of yet,” Moon said. “And I feel like it’s always a welcoming sport to go anywhere.”

Moon said he found that badminton offered a community regardless of experience or location, and was something he also sought out when he was away from home in the Korean military. 

“I was in Korea, but I never lived in Korea before, so I didn’t have any friends. And so I decided to join a badminton club somewhere, like just pay and participate in it, and the people there were just really welcoming … I just love badminton, wherever I’ve played it,” Moon said. 

The 2022 Badminton Club is different from the one Moon was active in before. Since the club’s leaders, Zoey Nahmmacher-Baum `24 and Isabelle Kolleth `24, registered Badminton Club as a student organization with a budget last year, the club now has access to funding that allows them to host events like their recent tournament on Saturday, April 15. 

The April 15 tournament consisted of five categories — male singles and female singles (one-on-one matches), male doubles, female doubles and mixed doubles. Although the gendered division in categories was a concern for organizers, it was organized this way by the club’s tournament committee to make it so as many students as possible could participate. That way, it was as close to an official regulation tournament as possible, according to Nahmmacher-Baum. 

“They [the club’s tournament committee] did want to make the tournament as professional as possible,” Nahmmacher-Baum said. “And so they made sure that our nets were the right height and things like that, and so we did have to use those five categories. But we did really encourage all of our participants to go in whatever category they felt most comfortable.” 

The tournament was open to all skill levels of players, something that Kolleth said made it difficult to seed the bracket but led to surprising matches. 

I think that’s the feeling I’ve gotten anywhere with badminton is, once you get on a court, people sort of just play and enjoy each other and there’s a lot of sportsmanship behind it.

— Tae Hyeong Moon `23

“I think we were a little bit surprised at how many more casual people came — in a good way — that it wasn’t everybody who was super competitive and super experienced,” Kolleth said. “I’d like to think that everybody had a good time.” 

The club leaders reserved the Charles Benson Bear `39 Recreation and Athletic Center’s auxiliary practice gym for the tournament, and were able to use their budget to purchase supplies, snacks and trophies — something that they had been unable to do in the past. Kolleth and Nahmmacher-Baum both recalled entering a supply closet upon reviving Badminton Club to find a dusty, snapped in half badminton racket. 

“Last year in the spring semester, I think we officially became an organization, and that got our budget approved through SGA,” Nahmmacher-Baum said. “So with that, we could completely revamp our supplies. We got all new rackets, we got feather birdies, plastic birdies, we got a super cool cart to hold all the rackets. And since then, everything has been a lot easier.” 

Both club leaders anticipate the coming years of Badminton Club as a re-established campus institution. According to Kolleth, the club’s skill diversity and welcoming atmosphere is a high priority for the club. 

“I think that’s the best part about Badminton Club, is that it’s literally all levels there, especially because we have such a diverse amount of people coming because, especially in international countries, [in] a lot of places, badminton is more popular than it is here,” Kolleth said. “So there are some people coming in who are so good at badminton, played professionally, super competitive. And then we also just have a ton of people who literally played it for one week in gym six years ago.”