Not only has the 19-year-old native of Makkovik travelled thousands of kilometres in pursuit of the sport she loves, but she will also soon represent the province at the upcoming Canada Winter Games in Halifax after just five years of competition.
“In grade nine, they had regional try-outs for the badminton tournament and I tried out for it and made it and have been playing badminton ever since,” she said.
Badminton has traditionally been one of the main sports played at John Christian Erhardt Memorial School in Makkovik.
Andrea credits watching older schoolmates like Trent Pottle, Chesley Evans, Jason Edmunds and Holly Anderson play badminton, as well as encouragement from Cyril Brennan, a former physical education teacher at the school, for getting her involved in the sport.
Mr. Brennan remembered Andrea as “a bit of a superstar” when he taught at the school from 2005-07.
“I think she had just starting learning how to play, and she was going around one day picking up these old, ripped up shuttles off the gym floor,” he explained. “She’d bring them home and she had paced off the exact court dimensions and was in her basement with taped lines learning how to serve to play doubles.
“I kind of watched her pace off the lines in the gym because I was trying to figure out what she was doing… A little unusual, but she’s a perfectionist, no question there.”
In grade nine, her school’s badminton team went to provincials and lost to Trout River. They missed out going to provincials in grades ten and eleven due to lack of funding, Andrea said.
Despite this setback, her will to compete was undaunted.
In the spring of her grade 12 year, Andrea was so determined to compete for a provincial title that she personally made a phone call to Mike Alexander, the provincial badminton coach and current Winter Games coach, and moved to Stephenville for two months to play with the high school team there.
She had first met Mr. Alexander when he visited Makkovik for a badminton camp in 2008.
After winning the regional playoffs, her new team advanced to the provincials in Mount Pearl. As luck would have it, they wound up facing Andrea’s former schoolmates from Makkovik in the tournament.
“I played against my home community for the [provincial] banner and we ended up winning,” she recalled. “They weren’t too impressed with me because I think if I stayed home then there would have been a better chance of winning the banner.”
After graduation, Andrea moved to St. John’s and began training with Mr. Alexander and Samantha Ralph, a former national badminton champion from the province.
She was interested in trying out for the Canada Games team, and decided to attend training sessions and identification camps to work towards making Team Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Every couple of weeks we’d have a tournament, either on the west coast in Stephenville or in St. John’s, and he [Mike Alexander] would do a ranking system to see who was improving or what not,” Andrea explained. “Then, at the end of the fall of this year just before Christmas, he had a tournament to see what ranking each girl was in and chose the top five girls.”
From a developmental perspective, she said training with Ms. Ralph for the majority of 2010 has had the greatest impact on her progression in the sport.
“Mike is more [involved in] the technical aspect of the game,” Andrea said. “He teaches more like the precision and accuracy of your shots and consistency.
“The actual game itself, where to put your shots and what to do when you’re in a game situation would be more Samantha.”
Having access to specialized trainers and modern facilities in the capital city has been a blessing not lost on the young Labradorian, and is something she wishes others like her could take advantage of.
“Coming from the coast, I’ve written letters to people and presidents of places because for sports coming out of the coast you don’t get a lot of opportunity,” she said. “The only sports that you do get to play are in school, and that’s only if you get to qualify for them.
“Now here [in St. John’s] I got all the access to the stuff and I can go and do all that, but when you’re on the coast you really can’t. I know the talent is there, but no one can really save because of the location. The only reason why I got to play badminton [for the province] is because I paid my way to Stephenville and I asked the coach if I could come. I had to pay for the plane ticket and all the costs of accommodation.”
Since being named to the Canada Games squad, Andrea has been weight and fitness training at the Dr. Noel Browne High Performance Centre in St. John’s on Crosbie Road with Jerome Brennan, strength and conditioning specialist at Memorial’s Health and Fitness Centre.
And though she feels relaxed and confident heading into the national competition, Andrea figures she’ll be in tough against certain competition in Halifax.
For instance, two of the five girls on Ontario’s team are in the running for spots at the next summer Olympics in London. British Columbia is also expected to be strong and in the midst of medal contention, she said.
Andrea will be playing in the mixed doubles and women’s doubles events, which run during the second week of action from Feb. 21-27 at the brand new, state-of-the-art Canada Games Centre.
As a team, Newfoundland and Labrador’s aim is to finish in the top six overall, she said.