Schools in Northern Marianas cast their eyes on AirBadminton

Public School System (PSS) Student Support Services Athletic Program director, Nick Gross, is considering adding AirBadminton to their roster of sports events for students.

Launched last year by the Badminton World Federation and HSBC, AirBadminton is played outdoors with modified rules and has been gaining popularity across the globe because of its accessibility. AirBadminton can be played on hard, grass, and sand surfaces in parks, gardens, streets, playgrounds, and beaches.

“Due to the CNMI’s overall lack of suitable venues for traditional badminton, AirBadminton may be the perfect fit for the CNMI,” Gross said.

“We’ve recently begun discussions with Northern Marianas Badminton Association (NMBA) and Badminton Oceania as a possible addition to our School Year 2020-2021 sports offerings,” the director added.

Though Gross is positive on the inclusion of AirBadminton to their calendar, he said they will take it slow as far as introducing the sport to the students concerned because of the challenges in bringing the needed equipment to the CNMI and the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m unsure of the rollout timeline as we will need to procure AirShuttle (modified shuttlecock that stands the wind in an outdoor court setting), rackets, and court hardware along with identifying individuals both in the community and in the PSS/private school family to coach,” Gross said.

Once they get the things they need, Gross said AirBadminton will be offered to middle and high school students and games will be played in intramurals setting.

“Ideally, we’ll be able to offer this opportunity to middle and high schools throughout the CNMI. Until the threat of COVID-19 has been reduced via vaccine, we will plan to play singles only and quite possibly as intramural programs as opposed to our traditional school vs school format. This will reduce the likelihood of infection as we will not need to transport students and coaches to and from other venues,” Gross said.

Meanwhile, NMBA President, Merlie Tolentino, said they will help schools train coaches and students and will also find ways to assist PSS in securing equipment for AirBadminton.

NMBA has been trying to grow the sport in the CNMI in hopes of encouraging the community to engage in a healthy and active lifestyle, and tapping talents that could represent the CNMI in regional and international competitions.

Last year, NMBA had a historic feat, as it sent a team to the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa for the first time. Also in 2019, NMBA reached out to students through BWF Shuttle Time, a program designed to bring badminton closer to schools by providing teachers and students free access to lesson plans, video clips, and technical information about the sport. CNMI National Team captain Nate Guerrero led NMBA players in visiting Agape Christian School and they conducted a clinic on the fundamentals of the sport and also played a few games with the students.

Words by Roselyn Monroyo (Northern Marianas Badminton Association)