In what is one of the most competitive regions for badminton in the United States*, senior Maggie Li has proven herself to be an exceptional talent, with a Norcal championship to her name and multiple banners hanging in the gym.
Li has won two banners in her time at CHS: once as a freshman when she won NorCals, and once as a junior when she won league finals. Despite these achievements, Li stays humble. “To be honest, I didn’t think much of [the banners] when I won them or when I see them in the gym. I think more of them when people come up to me and ask, ‘Is that your banner up in the gym?’” Li said. Banners are awarded to athletes for achievements such placing at league and state tournaments, and are hung up around the gym to commemorate these achievements. “It’s cool that I’ve left something behind that will be here after I’m gone,” she said.
Li has also won various tournaments, which are additional events attended by some members of the badminton team on Saturdays during the season. She has placed in both the mixed and doubles events at the 2019 James Logan Varsity Tournament as well as the 2019 Newark Varsity Tournament. “You stay at the tournament the entire day, and you’re playing nonstop. It’s extremely tiring but very rewarding,” explained Li.
Li’s badminton journey started at a very young age. “To be honest, I wasn’t the one who became interested [in badminton], my parents put me into badminton when I was very young. They put a racket in my hand when I was five, but I started training when I was eight,” said Li .
Despite her talent, Li does not play competitively and quit club training during her sophomore year. “The biggest factor [in my decision to quit training] was time; schoolwork was mounting, and I had a lot of work to do,” said Li.
In addition, the lack of opportunities to play beyond the high school level factored into Li’s decision. “To be honest, I knew I wasn’t going to play in college; I can play recreationally, but there’s no possibility of recruitment [because badminton is not an NCAA sport],” explained Li.
However, she regrets not taking club training as seriously as she feels she could have when she was still participating in it. “I took outside training for granted. I hated going to practices,” she said. “Looking back, I see that [club training] definitely made me stronger, physically but also mentally. I regret not seeing its value in the moment, but I do now.”
Li joined the CHS varsity badminton team her freshman year, and has been with the team ever since.
“I meet people that I would never normally interact with. [Now], as a senior, I’m able to meet freshmen, and I meet people in different clubs with different interests,” said Li, “On the team, I’ve met some of the best people I know. It’s like a community outside the classroom.”
Li was named captain of the varsity badminton team in her junior and senior years. She also helps out her peers during practice, assisting the coach in demonstrating difficult shots to improve players’ gameplay. Of this responsibility, she says, “It made me realize how much work is going on behind the scenes. […] I learned that delegation is very important, and it’s necessary to know when to hand over the responsibility to other people.”
Recently, Li captained her team to a defeat over rivals Monta Vista High School, in what was their first and last game of their season, before it was cut short by the school closure. Remembering the win, Li says, “Bittersweet is the best way to describe it. It felt amazing to beat them. The last time we beat them was my freshman year, so it felt like it had come full circle. But, we got to know in the middle of the game that it was the last game of the season. It felt good to put everything out there, but then it was sad that it was the last game we’d ever play.” Despite being unable to complete her final season, Li has left a lasting legacy on her teammates and looks forward to playing recreationally in college.
*information taken from the official USAB junior rankings