Badminton finding solid footing in Howard County

If I were to ask you the most popular sport in the world is, the obvious answer would be soccer. If were then to ask you what the second-most popular sport in the world is, you'd most likely have to pause, and then guess. Is it basketball? Tennis? Golf? The answer would still be no. Would it surprise you to know that, in fact, badminton falls into this category? I was certainly stunned.

Badminton has a large following in Europe, and is especially huge throughout Asia. It's even Malaysia's most popular athletic activity. The sport is inexpensive to play, reason enough for its attractiveness around the globe. All you need is a racquet, some shuttlecocks, a net and little space to play, and you are off and running.

I must admit that badminton would not have even entered this conversation had I not attended this weekend's First Annual Howard County Badminton Open, held at the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex off Route 100 in Ellicott City.

I spoke about this weekend's tournament with Kevin Baker, a junior at Towson University, who interns with the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department, as well as tournament director Rick Wiker, of the Catonsville Badminton Club.

Most of the approximately 100 entrants to the two-day tournament came from Maryland, and the vast majority were men. Men's singles, as expected, was the most entered event, and awards were presented to the top-five in each of the nine events.

With some publicity weeks in advance before next year's Open, the current number of eight courts used next time could be expanded to 16.

Read over your handbook

Every parent who has a child playing interscholastic sports in Howard County should have a copy of the 2014-15 Parent and Student Handbook. Parents and athletes should not only own the literature, but they should actually read it as well.

All the important bases are covered, from eligibility guidelines, to care and prevention of injuries-including some important information on the concussion testing program and the symptoms that may indicate a serious head injury. There is also a page on the rules of conduct for student athletes and parent-coach communications.

I particularly liked the small reminder that we should be a fan, and not a fanatic.

We all want a safer environment for all of our sports, and we can only obtain that by adhering to simple rules. We should respect the opponent and make sure that parents from opposing schools are treated the way everyone else wants to be treated.

Gay Petrlik honored

The Starfish Classic, held at Hammond High School last weekend, is an event where post-high school lacrosse players get together to honor the late Gay Petrlik, the school's first varsity girls lacrosse coach, and a person admired by many in and out of the sport. I would have loved to attend the event. Unfortunately, I ran into some double-booking issues, as Howard County weekends are becoming busier and busier by the minute. Instead, I relied on the information from those who were able to make it.

The format was a girls game played first, followed by a boys game. The players pay a modest fee to participate, as the funds go to a scholarship fund in Gay's name. Approximately 30 guys and 22 gals took part in the event, which was co-sponsored by Hammond assistant girls coach, Lindsay Kolesar, and Chris Reagle of the Golden Bears boys program.

The event itself was successful, with a moment of levity when a Canadian goose decided to take a break and stand in front of the goalie. Gay's family, including her husband and three children and grandchildren, were also in attendance to help celebrate her life.

Kolesar summed up the day as "highly successful and very emotional."

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