Reaching the county badminton final last season wasn’t enough for Great Neck South’s Ray Ngan.
So he went back to work. Now a junior, Ngan is reaping the benefits of a strict training regimen that involves running at least a mile every day and playing at least three times weekly at a badminton club near Great Neck.
“The training I can bring to the school, so I feel more confident this year,” Ngan said. “My club coach told me to enjoy the game and take it slow.”
Ngan, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, has taken that advice in stride. Ngan is 13-0 at first singles for his 14-0 team. Although he was nearly as dominant last season — undefeated until his title match — “He’s really grown as a player,” Rebels coach Janine Sadaka said.
Potential opponents now have to deal with a more polished player and leader, according to Sadaka. Running more has limited his fatigue in matches, and also increased his speed and mobility.
Conditioning has helped him improve on the basics, which he considers his strongest assets. Ngan cited his footwork and ability to maintain control as reasons why his smash, drop and clear have been useful weapons.
“When I get into the zone, I feel good,” Ngan said.
It doesn’t take long for him to get into a zone given his repertoire. And when he’s commanding each of his shots, Ngan is tough to beat — let alone compete against.
Ngan is currently the No. 11 under-19 boys singles player in the country, according to SimplyCompete.com, an affiliate of USA Badminton. Naturally, his Rebels teammates flock to him for pointers or for a tough person to play in practice.
“Even though he’s a junior, he’s one of the leaders on the team,” Sadaka said. “He guides the warmups; he teaches the other students strategies while they’re on the court. He gives a lot of very good advice on techniques and strategies.”
And he loves to do it.
“If they have questions to ask me, I will answer them,” Ngan said. “I’ve played badminton for about 10 years.”
A wealth of experience, knowledge and determination has Ngan poised to avenge last year’s loss in the county final. The format for this year’s tournament has changed, which Sadaka said should help his chances.
Last season, players who qualified had to play their own positions — so first singles had to play first singles, second had to play second, etc. Now there will just be a singles draw, so Ngan could play against opponents in the early rounds who spent a majority of their seasons at third or fourth singles.
Regardless of the opponent, expect Ngan to come at his opponents with a flurry of the basics. After all, he’s more polished than most.