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It’s for funsies

Badminton and pickleball clubs meet on Sundays for exercise and conversation

Ben Bouchard’s love of badminton drove him to start the badminton club last semester. This past Sunday nearly 20 members of his club showed up to smack birdies from one side of the net to the other.

Bouchard said he hopes to compete with other schools one day, but acknowledged HSU’s rural location. He mentioned reaching out to other schools, but for now wants to focus on the fundamentals.

“I like how casual it is and relaxed, it is not super competitive… Everyone, no matter their skill level, can drop in and play.”

Olivia Chang

“I just want to hone our skills and get better,” Bouchard said. “I know the Bay Area has a lot of tournaments so we’ll see.”

Bouchard said he originally started the club to meet other players and to allow people to better their skills. He said that what draws him to badminton are the strategic and mental aspects of the game. It is something that he found more passion in than other traditional sports.

“I was training to be on the track team, but I always ended up coming back to badminton,” Bouchard said. “It is more fun and it’s a nice break from school.”

Zoology senior Olivia Chang went to the gym to get a break from her studies and to play a few games with friends.

“I really need the exercise,” Chang said. “I usually sit around and study, so it is great to get a good workout.”

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Ben Bouchard hits the birdie back to Olivia Chang during a game of badminton on Sunday Feb. 24 in the West Gymnasium. | Photo by Freddy Brewster

Chang is a member of the club and has been going to the meetups every Sunday since October. Chang also takes dance lessons at Redwood Raks in Arcata, but particularly looks forward to badminton every week.

“I like how casual it is and relaxed, it is not super competitive,” Chang said. “Everyone, no matter their skill level, can drop in and play.”

Psychology senior Giselle Velasquez also played this past Sunday. Velasquez said she likes to compete and enjoys playing people who are better than her.

“There are so many people that are good and they teach you all sorts of skills,” Velasquez said.

“It allows me to disengage… When I’m playing badminton, that’s all I’m doing.”

Ben Bouchard

The pickleball club was also at the gym. Karen Soiker is an avid pickleball player, as well as an HSU alumnus who grew up in Sunny Brae. Soiker is retired and in her free time travels the world with her paddle, always ready for a game. Next month she is headed to Amsterdam with six local pickleballers for a clinic hosted by a professional.

“It keeps me active,” Soiker said. “I like to compete, but for some folks who don’t it is a very social sport. You meet, you play, you go out to lunch. It is pretty fun.”

Soiker said that the pickleball meetups have been happening for about six years at HSU. Soiker also said the sport is growing.

“There is also a meet-up at the Adorni Center in Eureka,” Soiker said “We are bursting at the seams.”

Soiker and Bouchard’s passion for their pastimes show. For Bouchard, his love of the sport stems from summer times with his family and the state of mind he enters when playing.

“It allows me to disengage, when I play it just fully takes over,” Bouchard said. “When I’m playing badminton, that’s all I’m doing.”

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