Chris Gadsden has played badminton for nearly his entire life.
He was six years old when his mother, Kate, first put a racquet in his hands, and he’s 76 years old now.
His love of the sport is undiminished by the passing years, and his desire to grow the sport has never been stronger.
He spends two nights a week (Mondays and Wednesdays), three hours each time (7 to 10 p.m.) at Rosedale Traditional Community School, helping out with the Chilliwack Badminton Club.
Gadsden was part of a group that took over the club about a year ago. Before it changed hands it was known as the Evergreen Badminton Club and was run by Catherine and Tom Poh.
“When I first came to Chilliwack in 1965, I played at Evergreen Hall with a lot of people who were in that club, and that’s one reason I wanted to see it continue,” Gadsden said. “Catherine and Tom did a great job, and I’m pleased with how things have gone since we’ve taken over.
“It’s gone even better than I thought it would.”
The Chilliwack Badminton Club is a competitive group.
“It’s not your typical backyard badminton,” said Amber Kurtz, one of the people who has joined Gadsden in a director role (along with Sebastian Huebel).
Indeed, once action starts on a Monday night, feathered birdies fly back and forth in a blur.
In 2013, Tan Boon Hoeng from Malaysia set a new world record for birdie speed with a smash that was clocked at an absurd 493 kilometres per hour.
The Chilliwack Badminton Club people can’t match that, but if you blink you will miss most of their returns.
“It’s one of those sports, too, where it’s not just about what you can do physically, but what you can do mentally as well,” Kurtz said. “Which is why you can still be a competitive badminton player at 76.
“Chris comes out here and gives the younger guys a lesson or two.”
Agility and quickness are assets on the court. Strength is nice to have, but Kurtz said big and burly is not essential for success.
“You get some really strong and powerful male players, and you’d think those are the dominant ones, but not necessarily,” she explained. “It’s whoever understands the game.
“Often it’s the smartest person who is going to win the match.”
On busy nights, the Chilliwack Badminton Club can have as many as 35 people on the floor.
There are doctors and dentists, farmers and homemakers, and the gym comes alive with laughter and chatter as they dive into doubles matches.
“Maybe it’s the British tradition, but badminton is one of the most gentlemanly of sports,” Gadsden added. “At the end of every game you’re shaking hands or giving a high five.
“There’s very good sportsmanship in this sport.”
The Chilliwack Badminton Club offers a membership for $180, which gets you 30 sessions.
The drop-in fee is $10 and the club plays year round.
For less experienced/beginner players, there is a different badminton group that plays Thursday nights (7 to 10 p.m.) in the same gym.
“And there is an oldtimers group that plays Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. at Evergreen Hall,” Gadsden added. “So there are several ways for people to get into the sport.”
“Even in a place like Chilliwack that’s a little bit smaller, you can find a place to play badminton nearly every day of the week,” Kurtz added.
For athletes who want a challenge, there are countless opportunities for tournament play.
The Vancouver Racquets Club holds one every October.
“You go on the Badminton B.C. website and you’ll see the Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club has one coming up,” Gadsden noted. “There’s one in Port Alberni. There’s one in Campbell River and Nanaimo. They’re everywhere.
“You meet great people playing the sport and the social aspect really is a huge part of it.”
Find the Chilliwack Badminton Club on Facebook at facebook.com/chilliwackbadminton/