Darren Yang (17) is the only player originally not from California on the 8-person Junior Team USA, which is competing to defend the Pan American Junior Team Championship in Tijuana, Mexico from Aug 2. He grew up and trained in Massachusetts until his family recently moved to Northern California. He took two golds at the 2015 Junior Nationals in Florida prior to the Pan Am. He won Men’s Doubles with Alexander La of Bellevue Badminton Club, Mixed Doubles with Victoria Chen of Seattle Badminton Club and took silver for Men’s Singles.
Congratulations on taking 2 titles and a silver. What do you think was the reason for the achievement?
Darren Yang: Having the correct attitude during training. I always tried my best during training and focused on the drill or exercise I was doing. During the tournament, I ate well and slept well, so I was well rested and prepared. During matches, I remained calm and confident.
Now, you have a Pan American Junior Championships and World Junior Championships ahead. How do you prepare for the tournaments, and what is your goal?
Darren Yang: I will continue to train hard and play smart. My goal is to do the best I can.
Last year, you and Victoria Chen from Seattle Badminton Club won the U19 Pan American Junior Mixed event, then won the Junior National title this month. How confident are you to defend the title in Mexico?
Darren Yang: Winning the title will be a difficult task, just as tough if not tougher than last year. It will not be easy to do, but we certainly have the potential to do so.
In the past years, you have started to pair with different players not from the area you used to live. How hard is it not being able to practice together before the tournament, and why have you and Victoria Chen has been so successful?
Darren Yang: In my opinion, it is not a significant problem to not practice with partners before a tournament. There may be a few minor issues to start with, mainly rotation and strategy, but those can be resolved quickly, usually within one match. I always attempt to adapt to my partner’s style, playing to their strengths and shielding their weaknesses. Secondly, trust your partner, support them and keep them happy and comfortable.
How do you feel about the fact that you are the only member of Junior Team USA for the team event originally from outside of California?
Darren Yang: I feel indifferent about the fact. It does add variety to the team and makes things more interesting, but most importantly, I feel just as included and part of the team as any other member.
What is your approach to badminton training?
Darren Yang: Training is important because it allows players to improve their skills and enhances performance. When I attend training, I always give it my best, paying attention to the specific stroke or strokes I am working on and always look for ways to improve them.
Is there anything you have learned from badminton besides skills/techniques?
Darren Yang: I have learned how to work with other people, whether my partners, opponents, umpires, referees, or other tournament staff, especially upon meeting them for the first time. I have learned how to keep people happy and avoid yellow cards. But most importantly, I have learned to have good sportsmanship, which I believe is just as important as skills.
If you were to point out one thing that you are the best at, what would that be?
Darren Yang: I am best at not letting my focus wander during a match. I will continue to play my hardest no matter what the score may be.
Would you keep going as a badminton player after graduating high school next year?
Darren Yang: Yes. Badminton is an important part of my life as exercise as well as something I would like to pursue secondary to a career.
What are the essentials for your badminton bag?
Darren Yang: Racquets, shoes, clothes, water.