Celebrating the legacy of the Dougherty Valley badminton team


Anaisha Das

The DVHS badminton team emphasizes a strong sense of community alongside their competitive winning streak.

Fifty-three trophies. Fifteen East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) certificates. Seven North Coast Section (NCS) and California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) medals, and this only includes what DVHS Badminton won during the 2021-2022 season.

With their undefeated EBAL championship record and numerous tournament wins, the DVHS badminton team has been incredibly successful in the East Bay and has maintained its winning streak for almost six years. However, while some may be aware of the team’s current competitiveness, the origins and dynamic history of the team are less known. 

The team was founded a few years after DVHS opened in 2007.

In the beginning, the team had average rankings in the Mission Valley Athletic League (MVAL), especially as they competed with older, award-winning teams, such as Mission San Jose High School and James Logan High School. While DVHS itself had just been founded a few years prior, Mission San Jose had been winning the MVAL championships since 1975. 

Regardless of earlier hiccups, the Wildcats eventually found their groove and began to win numerous tournaments. The team won 3rd place in NCS Division in 2012 and 2013, and a girls doubles team won first place in the MVAL tournament, beating many older teams with more resources and experience. 

But despite these achievements, when former DVHS badminton team coach and current AP Environmental Science teacher Annie Nguyen first led the team in 2015, she noticed that competition and tension pervaded the team’s sportsmanship. This created an environment that, she believed, hindered players from thriving. 

“I really wanted to help the players focus on actually being a team because there’s so much with the team supporting each other through coaching, practices and training,” Nguyen said. “It was really important for the overall vibe to be one where everyone felt comfortable, safe and supported.” 

It was through numerous team building activities, rather than just drills and practicing rounds, that the DVHS Badminton team forged a sense of camaraderie that has continued to shape the team throughout the seasons. 

Due to fierce competition from high schools in Fremont within the MVAL, the DVHS team was in the middle of the pack in the 2015-2016 season, winning some games but losing matches against the more decorated teams. DVHS didn’t stay with the MVAL for long though. A year later, the school was moved to the EBAL, a change that proved to become a double-edged sword, as the team lacked competitors with the same resources and funding.

“We didn’t have matches to play on a schedule,” Nguyen said. “So the only thing we could really do is ask around other schools if they have a badminton club or kids who would like to scrimmage against us.”

After observing the lack of coach-led badminton in East Bay high schools, Nguyen began to help with setting up badminton programs in local high schools.

“I think that’s a little unusual because you usually think about the competition against other schools,” Nguyen said. “But I just love the sport. I see how popular the sport is with our student body, and I see how it has a lot of potential for a positive impact on students throughout the East Bay.” 

Ben Lee, the DVHS attendance officer and current badminton coach for San Ramon Valley High School, explains how Nguyen played an integral role in creating the San Ramon Valley badminton team. 

“She allowed me to come observe one of her tryouts and how to run a tryout,” Lee said. “She also helped me stay organized with everything I needed to get a team going.”

Lee explained how a barrier for many high schools is the administrative tasks off the court that come with starting a new program, especially when they receive little guidance. 

“There’s a lot of time involved off the court, and many people don’t see all the preparation that goes into [it],” Lee said. “So she allowed me to model off of Dougherty Valley’s program and reference all of the forms that came with starting a team.”

With support from people like Nguyen, more high schools in the East Bay have formed their own badminton teams and clubs, allowing DVHS to have more teams to scrimmage and compete against in games. 

“We hosted tournaments at Dougherty, and we hosted EBAL,” Nguyen added. “We started encouraging them to bring their players even if they don’t have an established team so that they can represent our league.”

Last year, there were eight teams in the East Bay League, and this year marks the first year where all four high schools at SRVUSD have their own team. 

“It makes me so excited for the sport and for all the students in this district,” Lee said. “For those who [are passionate about badminton], it provides an opportunity for them to look forward to that season and that time of the day when they can practice.” 

Throughout their period at the East Bay League, DVHS has remained undefeated champions. While partially due to their advantage as an established team, they’ve also accumulated some achievements outside of the league, such as placing second in the 2017 Division 1 NCS championship and also recently scoring second place for CIF in mixed doubles for the 2022 season. 

Junior badminton player Annie Li attributes their current success to the same principles that guided Nguyen almost eight years ago: a strong sense of community. 

“We always make sure to communicate and build up confidence in one another,” Li said. “I’ve made so many friendships just due to being on the team.”

Looking ahead at the current 2022-2023 season, she explains that during tryouts, the team especially looked for people who would have a good team spirit and would succeed in a collaborative environment. 

“This year, we’re keeping an eye out for people who have both a passion for badminton and a good attitude, whether they win or lose,” Li said.