When Peter Teuben moved to Greenbelt in 2021 he saw no signs here of the sport he’d been playing all his life – badminton. Then during the Labor Day Festival he noticed a badminton event, so took the opportunity to meet other players and talk up the need for a local badminton club.
Next he found space (in the Youth Center’s gym), announced the time and place in the Greenbelt News Review and the Greenbelters Facebook group, and now badminton is a regular Sunday event for about a dozen people.
All that’s required of players is to join the Youth Center, which is free for kids and just $20 a year for adults (18 and up). Nonresidents pay $75/year for membership.
If you’re interested in joining the group, you’re welcome to stop by and watch. Unfortunately, visitors aren’t allowed to play – you’ll have to first join the Youth Center in order to do that. It’s all very informal, with people finding their own partners and opponents. The players’ ages range from 8 to 80, and they’re happy to help newcomers improve their game. There are three nets set up and plenty of rackets available; a decent one of your own can be had for about no more than about $50.
Peter’s History with Badminton
I met with Peter and asked about his journey to bringing badminton to Greenbelt and learned that it started back in Holland where he grew up and went to college. Apparently it’s HUGE in parts of Europe and even more so in East Asia (China, South Korea and Japan especially).
After college Peter moved to the U.S., where he joined Princeton’s local club and next, the club in Urbana/Champagne, IL. He recalls that after driving such short distances in Holland to attend tournaments, he was amazed by drives as long as 8 hours for the chance to compete here in the U.S.
Peter next moved to Maryland, settling in College Park as a researcher in the Astronomy Department. For over 30 years now he’s been faculty advisor for College Park’s robust badminton team – with 100-150 members, mostly from East Asian countries where the sport is so popular. Peter describes that club as quite organized, with rules and a democratic leadership structure (nothing like the informal Greenbelt group) and the space it uses holds 10 courts!
Competing as a single adult (meaning ages 23 to 35), Peter was ranked nationally, just squeaking by, he readily acknowledges, ranking 97th out of the 100 that get ranked. (Curiously, badminton organizes competitors over 35 as “seniors,” grouped into 5-year age groups.)
Peter has also started a mahjong group in Greenbelt – it meets at the New Deal Cafe most Saturdays at 10 a.m. – and is interested in starting a Linux group here, too. It’s okay if you have to ask what that is – I did! It’s a free, open source operating system.
Greenbelter Lei Zong (shown above) has served as president of the College Park club, and as has also been Peter’s mixed doubles partner for years.
In Prince George’s County the only badminton club is College Park’s, but Columbia and Gaithersburg both have clubs that Peter describes as professional – meaning that they offer professional training on professional courts, et cetera, and participants pay for all that. A club that meets Monday nights in a church in Silver Spring is considered advanced – Peter says he loses to them most of the time! And a club in Northern Virginia is so serious and well organized that it puts on tournaments. Tournaments are regularly held in Baltimore. College Park used to host the annual “DC Open,” attracting up to 400 players nationwide.
On Badminton’s Popularity
Peter tells me that badminton is so popular and competitive in East Asian and European countries that yearly earnings of top players are in the millions! And Google tells me that it’s even referred to as the second most popular sport in the world.
While it doesn’t seem like it could be, badminton is considered the second most popular sport worldwide. This is because it is the second most played sport following soccer, with approximately 220 million people that play it each year. Since it is such an easy sport to play, there are more people that partake in it, and thus the sport grows in popularity.
At first a demonstration sport at the Olympics, It became a full-medal sport in 1992.
Unlike sports like tennis, badminton is intergenerational. That means that families can play together, with 10-year-olds playing and keeping up with their parents. (Badminton was indeed my family sport back in central Virginia where I grew up, and the source of many good memories for me.)
And would you believe – the badminton shuttlecock is the fastest moving object in sport? Yes, with the record-breaking speed of 493km – 306 miles per hour. No wonder Peter considers other sports to be rather slow (he’s looking at you, pickleball!)
Photos by Peter Teuben, Hugo Lam and the author.
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