Badminton and table tennis join the after school offerings

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This spring marks the inauguration of two new PSAL sports: table tennis and badminton for both boys and girls. THHS will be among twelve schools to have these teams, along with Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, and Stuyvesant.

The girls table tennis team at practice in the teachers’ cafeteria.
The girls table tennis team at practice in the teachers’ cafeteria.

These teams started when the PSAL contacted Athletic Director Keith Hanson a week prior to mid-winter recess about starting the teams. Mr. Hanson then went to Principal Anthony Barbetta, who approved it.

From there, Mr. Hanson hired four new coaches and purchased the necessary equipment for badminton and table tennis. Although coaches were quickly found, the original boys table tennis coach quit and the position has since been filled. For badminton, THHS owns several racquets, birdies, and nets, which are frequently used during freshman gym. However, table tennis required more spending. To supplement the one table that PSAL donated to every school, Mr. Hanson bought another two, amounting to about $1,000.

According to Mr. Hanson,  the biggest challenge is scheduling. With the addition of four new teams, the limited space that THHS has for athletics will be further stretched. Most days, the gymnasium is populated by the boys volleyball team and the auxiliary gym by the girls fencing team, but concessions will be made. Table tennis will be practicing in the teachers’ cafeteria, while badminton has started practicing after volleyball. A location for matches is yet to be decided.

Both badminton and table tennis have had their place in THHS. While badminton is played in gym, last year THHS began a table tennis club. The fifteen-member club has thirteen boys and two girls. At the first girls table tennis meeting, about 30 girls showed up. This number, however, was cut in half by the next meeting, according to Social Studies teacher and coach Adam Stonehill, who will not resume his position as assistant girls track coach to start the new team.

President of the table tennis club, sophomore Michael Berchansky, said, “I originally wanted to create a table tennis team when I started the club, but there was no PSAL sport.”

Michael looks forward to the added competition, stating that  “playing teams from other schools will be pretty fun.”

Badminton is an Olympic sport and can be found in most high schools in Long Island. On November 12, 2013, a Facebook page called “Badminton for NYC PSAL” was created. The page did not start off with many likes, but it promoted a petition to get badminton to become a PSAL sport. According to the group, they were able to get petitions signed directly at Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and THHS while also communicating with PSAL, who claimed to be “working on it.”

There is less precedent for table tennis as a high school sport. Despite also being an Olympic sport, only schools in Minnesota offer it as a team sport and have inter-school competitions.

Back in 2010, PSAL Executive Director Donald Douglas told The New York Post that the PSAL wanted to add table tennis as a sport.

Now four years later, the PSAL is scrambling to organize the new programs. Table tennis and badminton have only recently put up pages on the PSAL website and decided upon the divisons for regular season competition. They contain no information so far regarding coaches, players, or schedules.

The twelve schools with teams are spread out across many boroughs, which means that the teams will have to travel great distances to play games.

Mr. Stonehill is prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead but noted that, “Creating a sport in a school will need the entire school community to help.” The teams will have to undoubtedly fundraise through bake sales to pay for new equipment.

It is yet to be determined if Physical Education teachers will reorganize the curriculum to add emphasis on badminton.

The new teams are a welcome addition to the THHS community evident by the outpouring of support that the petition has received. However, their inaugural seasons will not be without incident that will arise from the limited time that the PSAL has allowed for the formation of these teams.