by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
It was a sport he dabbled in, not the sport he dribbled in, that allowed Connor Long to spend the early part of January in Hawaii as a member of Olds College Bronco's badminton team.
"I never thought that I would be playing (post-secondary) badminton," admits Long, 24, enrolled in Land Agent studies at the Olds, Alberta school. "I had dreamed and hoped that I would one day play basketball perhaps.
"But I like badminton now and it was something I played a bit (in junior high). it is almost a second love now when it comes to sports."
In Grade 12, Long, a native of Calgary, Alberta, was a member of the Ernest Manning High School Griffins city champion boys' basketball team.
"I think I played well in Grade 12. I played full minutes (point guard/shooting guard) and we won the city championships."
It was following high school graduation, that Long's dreams of pursuing basketball at the next level took a turn with a left knee ACL tear.
Instead, he took "time off as I wasn't ready for school" and worked at various jobs including that of a "dish boy."
"I knew that there was no way that I could have done that for the rest of my life."
After upgrading and studies at SAIT and Mount Royal, Long found a home at Olds College, "which set me on my path."
Studies, not sport, were the focus.
|Connor Long, Olds College Broncos Badminton|
"My friends said we should try out for the Olds badminton team because we could get a scholarship and the news was of potentially going to Hawaii for a tournament.
"I wanted to try it out and to see if I was good enough. The coach (Mary Smith) was satisfied how I played and I was offered a scholarship right there."
In his first year of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) competition, he would team up with Caleb Bretchel in men's doubles and Kacie Peever in mixed doubles at the 2017-2018 provincials held in Edmonton and hosted by The Kings University Eagles.
"That was pretty much the highlight in my first year of (ACAC) badminton...going to provincials," said the 5-foot-11 Long, who also competed in men's singles. "Watching the high-level of competition is my favourite part as I am by no means the best player out there."
He had to wait a year for the Hawaii trip though, from which he returned last week by competing in the 2019 Honolulu Badminton Club Open.
"We were in Honolulu for seven days," says Long. "It was really a high level competition of badminton. There with teams from all over the world...even Japan. Concordia (University of Edmonton Thunder) and the NAIT (Ooks) were also there.
"Pretty much, my biggest thing to take away from Hawaii is that it takes time and you have to put in the man-hours to get where you want to go in badminton.
"Slowly I am getting better and the coach is reassuring that. I am taking the steps as it is not all about just winning. It's about just enjoying yourself too."
A fan of the Boston Celtics and NBA stars Kyrie Irving (Celtics) and Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors), Long said the sports of basketball and badminton are similar.
"It is all about patience and you have to read your opponent. It is all about reaction. In badminton, it's like chess...playing a few moves ahead of your opponent. That is my biggest struggle so far and I am learning how to get better."
At the ACAC Badminton Tournament #2 last Sunday in Edmonton, Long captured one match beating Eagles' Liam Nutma 21-15, 15-21, 21-19 in men's singles.