“Consistency” was the word that kept coming up when talking to DeKalb senior Tristan Draper and badminton coach Duane Cowley.
It’s the main reason why Draper, who qualified for the state tournament as a junior in 2013, worked on her game over the summer and attended all of DeKalb’s open gyms in the winter.
Cowley said Draper already possesses a vast array of shots that make her a formidable opponent for anybody in the state. But executing them on a regular basis is the next step in her progression.
“Just making sure I’m consistently making good shots, consistently getting them in, consistently thinking about what I’m doing on the court,” Draper said. “Just consistency.”
Draper got a taste of what it takes to play at an elite level last year, playing in DeKalb’s No. 1 singles spot for the majority of the season. She qualified for the state tournament by taking fourth at sectional and was the only player to win a set off the eventual sectional champion.
Facing a tough draw, Draper lost both of her two matches at state, the first coming in a tough three-setter. Nonetheless, the experience in Charleston was a good one.
“She came out of it very positive and so did the whole team. A couple girls traveled down with her,” Cowley said. “My other senior captain Emily Roelfema, it really motivated her. Now she sees that as a realistic goal for her as well. It was a really positive experience for her as well.”
It’s not obvious to think that an indoor sport like badminton would be affected by wintry conditions late in March. However, with typical outdoor sports like baseball, softball and soccer all forced into practicing in the DeKalb fieldhouse because of the weather, badminton has often been shifted to the gym, limiting the number of courts Cowley has to work with.
But this year’s DeKalb team is equipped to handle the change for now as the Barbs feature seven seniors with varsity experience.
Draper will be DeKalb’s slotted player at No. 1 singles all season, meaning she’ll likely have a better resume if she qualifies for the state tournament and is contention to be seeded.
In preparation, Cowley and his assistant coach often play points against Draper in practice, giving her more reps playing against a quicker pace of play.
“I definitely know I have to work a lot harder because all the people who play No. 1 singles are very good,” Draper said. “It helps because i know what I’m going up against.
“I definitely would like to go back to state, definitely working towards that this season. I just want to keep building and keep doing better and see where it takes me.”