There is no confusing what takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the gym of the West Cook YMCA with the game played in a backyard on a summer afternoon with a beer in the free hand.
Pleasantries among friends are exchanged before the first shuttle flies, but the brand of badminton on the gym's three courts quickly becomes a series of fast and ferocious swats.
"It's a cardiac waiting to happen," said John Burnett of Oak Park, who clarifies any misunderstanding between sport and leisure with measures of speed and endurance.
An overhead smash by a professional badminton player is clocked at more than 200 miles per hour, which is harder than the tennis equivalent, Burnett said. A single player can cover more than a mile of territory per game. Consider that a player can compete in up to 18 games in a single tournament.
There are few places to play badminton in the Chicago area so the rotating doubles games at the Oak Park Y attracts more than 30 people who rotate in and out of games. Burnett said it is one of the oldest co-ed groups at the Y, forming in the mid 1980s.
Badminton's appeal worldwide is also apparent on these courts, with accents that are British, Pakistani, Jamaican and Estonian to name a few.
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