Press Release: May 12, 2016
Established in 2014, Ignite Badminton League’s first season initially unfolded exclusively in the Greater Toronto Area. The league’s original nine teams played out of
Mississauga’s 4U Badminton Club, as well as Markham’s Mandarin Badminton Club and the Atos Pan Am Centre. Ignite Badminton League founder and CEO, Charles Pyne, felt
that was an acceptable start. But his hope for the 2015-16 season, was to see the league increase in size and popularity.
“In the Markham area last year, we expanded to more venues, like E Badminton, KCBC and Epic Sports. In terms of cities, we expanded into the Waterloo region. And in total, we grew to 30 teams across Ontario.”
This past season has not only brought a whole new region into the fold, it has also been about overall growth and change for IBL. Andrew Ma has been part of the league’s evolution this year. A former badminton coach for the University of Waterloo varsity team, Andrew now concentrates his coaching efforts on athletes within KW Badminton Club.
“Ten or 11 years ago, I started playing here (as a recreational athlete), and then they asked me to coach because the head coach at the time was retiring. They knew I was coaching the (University of Waterloo) varsity team, but they asked me to come in a help build up the junior program.”
Last year, during IBL’s start-up season, Ma and a few fellow badminton players tried to form teams – but in the end, there just weren’t enough people to do so. This year, in time for the 2015-16 season, they tried to form a series of competitive teams once again, and they found success.
“It’s been really fun. I’m motivated, personally, to play at a more competitive level now (thanks to IBL). The scheduling – playing games once or twice a month – that was perfect. I would prefer to have more second and third division players out in this area, so I’m hoping it’ll grow even more next year. I’m glad that the league has done as well as it has. I hope it just keeps growing, and goes national. The vision for the league is great!”
There’s no shortage of talent on the courts in Kitchener Waterloo. Evan McDonald is a former two-time OFSAA gold medalist. McDonald, who was named badminton OUA Rookie of the Year and crowned OUA All Star while attending the University of Waterloo, is a Brantford native. While competing for the UW varsity team, Evan says he really learned how to keep pace with other national and international players.
“In Brantford right now, there’s really no proper program for competitive badminton athletes (my age). But IBL offers that, and it’s not really a big deal to travel the 45 minutes from Brantford to KW to play. And the competition is really great! I’m playing with the people I used to play with – and against – in juniors and up through the rankings, so it’s nice to see them all again. It’s really great.”
For players like Evan, the team dynamic that exists within IBL has pulled on his heartstrings, at least a little.
“It was a team format in university when I was playing, so we were all really close and rooting each other on. This, I find, is very similar, which is the opposite of the competitive badminton I played when I was Under 13, Under 15, Under 17, Under 19. Back then, there was no real ‘team involvement’, it was much more individual based. I find IBL is much more like university was – which I like a lot.”
Among the many benefits of being an IBL athlete is the league’s flexibility – and its reach. Victoria Duong, another IBL athlete, is a grade 12 student, currently living in Kitchener. With her sights set on pursuing an accounting designation, Duong has applied to a handful of universities in southern and south-western Ontario. She is now waiting to hear back from each of them before deciding where she will begin her university career. But because IBL has teams in a number of different regions and cities within Ontario, Duong knows that she has the ability to move around, while remaining part of the league.
“Next year I was thinking about going to York region. I want to go there so that I can play other, different teams. There are a lot more people there, and the competition is (also) experienced!”
Victoria sums up her first year playing with IBL, and team Tublrs, as being an incredibly fun learning experience. Sushi dinners, ski trips, and karaoke nights together are just a couple of examples of the team building experiences that the Tumblrs took on as a collective during their first season in partnership .
“It was really nice playing against different people who weren’t my age. I got to experience a whole new kind of badminton, because they each play so differently. And to play against people who are stronger than me, and taller than me, was the best challenge!”
As Ignite Badminton League continues to grow and evolve, so too will the stories that are part of Canada’s newest league. With a multitude of other cities part of the long-term bigger picture, development is definitely on the horizon. Targeted regions for IBL expansion for the upcoming 2016-17 season include Durham region and Ottawa in Ontario, Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, and Vancouver and Richmond, British Columbia.
While their style and the way they play the game is unique, IBL athletes stand united and the same in their enthusiasm to be part of the league’s progress and expansion. During a recent interview with IBL’s Sarah Miller, Evan McDonald weighed in on how an increasing number of athletes can only mean bigger and better things, straight ahead, for the league.
"Expanding IBL to additional regions throughout the province increases the exposure of the sport and improves the quality of competition for new and returning players. And adding more players to the total pool of athletes really helps to showcase the sport, while also improving the overall community and team atmosphere. This is a format that has proven to be very successful in many regions throughout the province."
Change involves risk, and no one knows that quite as well as Ignite Badminton League’s CEO and founder, Charles Pyne. But as IBL proceeds in its growth across the country as Canada’s newest badminton league, one thing is for certain: the athletic community that surrounds it will continue to flourish.
Photo courtesy of A Million Words Photography
For more information, please contact: Sarah Miller, Sport Development Canada, cell (905) 749-0361 or e-mail email@example.com