While many Texas kids grow up with a football in their hand, Joseph Pitman practically was raised on a badminton court. The Jesuit senior’s mother is from Indonesia, where the sport is popular. After she moved to the US, she met Pitman’s father at a local badminton club.
“When I was 5 or 6, I just started picking up a racket and started hitting,” Pitman said. “I grew up in a gym.” Pitman developed a passion for the sport, and has developed into one of the top junior players in the country.
He’s already a veteran of international competition at the Pan American Games, in which he’ll compete again this summer in Peru. However, Pitman’s biggest honor comes in November, when Pitman will represent Team USA in both singles and doubles at the world junior championships in Spain.
“The competition will be a lot harder, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “I feel confident.”
Pitman has become a fixture in the small but dedicated badminton community in the Dallas area, where the sport is growing among younger players. He trains a few times each week in a club that uses the gym at Reverchon Park and at Plano Badminton Center, which opened in late 2014 as the only facility in the Dallas area dedicated to the sport.
“The competition level in Texas isn’t too intense,” Pitman said. “I got to the level where if I kept going through with it and staying focused, then I could be one of the best.”
There aren’t many elite junior players in Texas. Rather, badminton is far more popular in California, which has a higher population of families with Asian roots.
“I’d like to see it become more popular,” Pitman said. “Not many people in Texas see badminton as a sport they’d like to pursue.”
Pitman plans to continue playing badminton as a hobby while he’s in college, and he would love to compete in the Olympics someday, although such an effort would be expensive and time-consuming, and require sponsorships.
Either way, he intends to keep competing at some level, and hopes to keep promoting a sport that isn’t on the radar for many Texans, except perhaps as a novelty at backyard parties.
“It requires more athleticism than people think,” Pitman said. “I’m diving for shots and sweating tremendously at the end of the game.”