“I don’t believe we’ve ever been competitive,” says Gary Burdess, president of the Yukon Badminton Association.

Yet, in 106 weeks, he hopes to send eight members against world-class competition in the 2007 Jeux du Canada Games in Whitehorse.

“For the most part, it’s drop in. But there have been tournaments and a Yukon Championship for youth that is open to the communities.

“But it’s not competitive in that we don’t keep ratings. And, at the tournaments, they seed themselves.”

So, once it was decided by the board to reach for this next level, more coaching and more clinics were laid on.

And each youth member has two extra tournaments to attend each year.

The silver and gold medal winners of each will be invited to compete at the next level up to offer them even more challenge and chances to learn.

Burdess doubts there will be a culture shock amongst the long-time players. Near the end of each evening, the more competitive players gravitate toward the far courts to allow the rest to just have fun. And, “the kids like to be competitive anyway.”

The badminton club will remain a place that welcomes recreational players and those who are just looking for an interesting way to get their cardio workouts.

But Burdess wants to find even more players who are looking for a chance to compete at the national level in a sport that demands much: “Strategy, it’s a very mental game; athletic, it is very demanding; and stamina, there is no set limit and games can go a long time.

“It’s a very fast game, the birdie goes over 100 km/h.”

A large pool of youth needs to be found to isolate only those who can compete at such an advanced level. “A lot of kids like to play badminton until they realize it’s a very physical game.” And it will need a lot of commitment.

“There is lots of time to prepare,” says Burdess. “This is the perfect time to start.”

Those who want to take part are encouraged to phone 668-5073.

There are already 40 adults in the club and another 20 under 17 years of age.

Clinics will take each badminton player to the very basics – footwork, holding the racquet, different strokes, different shots — and build from there. Participants’ ages are from 12 to 17.

Many of the recreational players are willing to help the coaches, Ken Frankish and Bill Madiation. Recently, Mike Mullin moved to Whitehorse from Inuvik, N.W.T. to add even more depth to the coaching pool.

Besides having players ready to take part in the Canada Games, the badminton club is required to host a nationally sanctioned tournament. There is a bid in now and they are just waiting for word on it.

But, at the end of the day, Burdess says his number one goal is to get more people from more communities playing badminton.

“I just want to get the kids out there playing.”