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Reno, Nevada, USA • 775-788-6200  
 November 24, 2005
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The more unusual games we play
Northern Nevadans are working upa sweat by playing squash, badminton and table tennis
Carla Roccapriore

 Click below for pictures:

Yusuke Shiina, below, returns a shot as members of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Lombardi Recreational CenterYusuke Shiina, below, returns a shot as members of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Lombardi Recreational CenterMembers of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at UNR's Lombardi Recreational Center last monthMembers of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at UNR's Lombardi Recreational Center last monthBrenda Lee prepares to serve as teammate Jim Peng looks on as members of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Lombardi Recreational Center on  Oct. 16.Brenda Lee prepares to serve as teammate Jim Peng looks on as members of the Gallop Badminton Club play a match at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Lombardi Recreational Center on Oct. 16.

Squash began in England at the Harrow School around 1830, when students there discovered that a punctured ball used for the game of Rackets "squashed" with the wall on impact and produced a game with a greater variety of shots and required much more effort on the part of the players. The variant proved popular and in 1864 the first four squash courts were constructed at the school and squash was officially founded as a sport.
Rackets, from which squash was derived, began in a London prison. One way inmates exercised was to hit a ball against walls with a racket.
Source: International Squash Federation. More:,

Badminton's origins date back at least 2,000 years to the game of battledore and shuttlecock played in ancient Greece, India and China. Badminton took its name from Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, the home of the Duke of Beaufort, where the sport was played in the last century. Gloucestershire is now the base for the International Badminton Federation.
Founded in 1934 with nine nations as members, IBF membership has since risen to 153 nations. There was a notable increase in new members after badminton's 1992 Olympic debut at Barcelona. A badminton player can cover more than a mile per match.
A shuttlecock, also known as a birdie, can leave a racquet at a speed of almost 200 mph.
Source: International Badminton Federation

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Nothing satisfies the need to bang objects into walls or across nets like badminton, table tennis or squash.

As winter comes, sporting types who want to stay fit may head indoors to knock a few balls or shuttlecocks around.
Need motivation? Join a badminton or table tennis club in the Truckee Meadows and meet people to play with.
Although no local organized squash club exists, several health clubs have squash courts, and a few dedicated members are eager to increase the popularity of these exciting sports.


Laura Desimone likes the physical and mental challenges of squash -- she can work out while trying to outsmart her opponent.

"It's a fast game," said Desimone, 43, a Sparks schoolteacher who started playing squash 14 years ago. "It's like playing chess on a court, and you have to think ahead a few shots."

Say "squash" in Northern Nevada, and people start asking questions.

"Either they've never heard of it, or think I went to Harvard," said Gary Silverman, 59, a Reno lawyer and University of Nevada, Reno graduate.

Silverman took up the game 15 years ago after watching matches at the Caughlin Club in Reno.

"It really caught my interest," he said. "I saw them playing and said, 'I really have to learn this game.'"‰"

Forbes magazine recently referred to squash as the preferred game of Wall Street because squash provides an above-average endurance workout in a short amount of time.

"For me, I have no time," said Brent Webster, 38, a Reno financial adviser who began playing squash 24 years ago.

He has volunteered to teach people how to play.

"In an hour of squash, you can burn an amazing amount of calories," he said. "Rather than being on a stair-stepper watching TV, you're constantly strategizing. You're trying to hit the ball where your opponent isn't."

A person can burn between 708 and 1,035 calories an hour playing squash, depending on body size, according to

Northern Nevada has a small group of squash players, said Jim Gerow, general manager of Reno's Caughlin Club, which has two squash courts. The highest concentration of squash courts per capita in the United States is in New England, where Gerow said the sport is most popular. That means Nevada players don't wait as long for courts.

Several local health clubs, including Caughlin Club, Double Diamond Athletic Club and Lakeridge Tennis Club, have squash courts or convertible racquetball courts that can be used for squash.


Beike Jia took up badminton four years ago because he found it more motivating than solo sports.

"If you're jogging and swimming alone, you'll probably stop when tired," said Jia, 30, a physical chemist and native of China who recently moved to Reno from Houston. "When it's a game, you keep going and you increase your limit."

Jia's most unusual experience playing badminton came when he moved to Reno. After learning to play four years ago in Houston, the Reno region's thin air caused the shuttlecock, also known as a birdie, to fly quicker once hit.

He had to get accustomed to a quicker game.

Many Americans know badminton only from playing in their back yards with a volleyball net. But it's the national sport of Indonesia and Malaysia.

"There is competitive badminton, and there is family-picnic badminton," said Vietnam native and telecommunications worker Yong Phan, 33, of Sparks.

He is a seven-year member of the Gallop Badminton Club, which meets twice weekly at the University of Nevada, Reno's Lombardi Recreation Center. Phan said he plays three to five hours a week.

"Any time you talk to someone about badminton, they think 'back yard.'"

Playing badminton competitively burns between 413 and 604 calories an hour. Playing socially burns between 266 and 388 calories an hour, according to

Competitive badminton players play indoors on a regulation-sized court with a 61-inch high net (compared to a 42-inch high net for tennis and 88 inches for women's volleyball).

Birdies are hit with all your might -- giving players a decent upper-body workout -- and sometimes come close to hitting the gymnasium ceiling. A badminton player can cover more than a mile in one match, according to the International Badminton Federation.

"You need to hit it (birdie) very fast, so it maintains a good high speed and gets to the other side," said Hong Kong native Brenda Lee, 44.

Lee is a Reno civil engineer who began playing badminton five years ago after she tried to take up tennis but learned she was allergic to the sun. She plays three to six hours weekly.

The local club's membership varies by semester but ranges between 20 and 40 people, Lee said. The club is recognized by UNR's Graduate Student Association, but anybody age 16 or older can join. Dues are $5 a semester or $2 a person per session.

Visit or e-mail Lee at for more information.

Table tennis

Ray Miskimins learned how physical table tennis could get after entering a tournament in Denver almost 40 years ago.

"I was annihilated," said Miskimins, 65, who now coaches the Reno Sparks Table Tennis Club. "Like a lot of people, I just played in the basement. A lot of the U.S. has viewed it as a parlor game, similar to darts."

Miskimins has since improved. He still doesn't get bored with the sport, because it's played at a wide variety of levels.

The ball can travel across the 9-foot court at 100 mph, which gives an opponent little time to react. But there are other challenges.

"We slice it and topspin it like in tennis," Miskimins said. "For newcomers, the spin bothers them more than the speed."

Spanish Springs resident Howard Lambert described the Reno Sparks Table Tennis Club as a small but enthusiastic group, and he finds the sport good exercise.

"You can play it as a recreational sport and stand in one place and hit the ball back," said Lambert, 68, the club's secretary. "But it's played much, much faster by those who are serious. People at the highest levels are real athletes."

Not all members of the table tennis club, however, are as competitive, Lambert said.

"There are some people who love the game and are just interested in playing it," Lambert said. "They're not competitive-minded, but there are still some very good players in that class."

About 8,000 people are members of clubs affiliated nationally with USA Table Tennis -- far fewer than the estimated 11 million who play recreationally in their homes, said Doru Gheorghe, executive director of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based group. The few table tennis matches seen in the United States are generally on cable television in the middle of the night.

"We need to get table tennis on TV more," Gheorghe said.

Locals can watch the sport live in early March, when the U.S. Open Teams Championships will be held in Reno.

The Reno Sparks Table Tennis Club, a USA Table Tennis affiliate, meets Monday and Wednesday nights in the parish hall at St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Church. First-time visitors are admitted free. People who chose to join can pay $25 a month or $5 an evening. Non-members pay $7 an evening and costs go toward paying the club's rent.

"It's fun to compete," said club member Les Madden, 78, of Reno. "You're trying to play the best you can against your opponent. But win or lose, everybody enjoys playing."

Visit or call Madden at 829-9281.

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