2021 ANTHC Report

Alaska Native Tribal Health consortium

BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project 


The BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project has shown that when given  minimal instruction and motivation, a majority of students want more badminton… more  time to play during school, more time to play outside school hours and the  opportunity to compete. 

Funded by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and piloted with the Lower  Kuskokwim School District, this project identified (through student survey) the lifelong  sport of badminton as a popular way to improve wellness and health through a physical  activity that a majority of youth both CAN and WANT to play. 

A key component in expanding this project and enhancing its effectiveness is  involvement of village Tribal Councils. This project is an excellent way for the village and educational communities to work together to provide opportunity for youth and  adults to be physically engaged in an activity that builds wellness, personal/professional  relationships and a sense of community. 

The following report describes the project itself, village and school receptivity, lessons  learned, identified challenges, suggestions for program improvement and proposals for  further development.

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Although not widely known in Indigenous AK communities, Badminton is HUGE among  Indigenous populations in many circumpolar countries such as Greenland, Nunavut,  and Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories. Through this project, mainly supported  by Alaskan Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Badminton Goes Viral (BGV) “Introduction to Badminton” program has shown that youth in the participating Alaskan  villages really enjoy badminton and want to play more… suggesting that this sport would be very popular in the Indigenous regions of Alaska, just as in other areas with  Indigenous peoples. 

Chinese Proverb: “Teachers open the door, 

but you must walk through it yourself.” 

The above adage was posted on the wall in one of the schools visited by BGV. In staff  meetings, this saying was applied to the introduction of badminton given to the students  and teachers during the week. In this case, BGV opened the door and the teachers  must walk through. BGV supplied teachers with the tools needed and the survey  showed high student interest… now it is up to the teachers to use those tools to make  sure the program continues and succeeds. 

What Did BGV Do? 

With the objective of increasing physical activity and wellness in youth and adults,  Badminton Goes Viral.org spent one week in each of four Alaskan villages during the  month of September in 2021. BGV introduced the sport of badminton and sparked an  immense interest in playing to students, staff and the community, along with providing  the tools to sustain a school/community program. Each week consisted of four days of  student instruction during Physical Education classes, administration of a student  participation survey and ended with sharing of badminton teaching resources at a  teachers’ meeting of all school professional staff. 

Coronavirus Issues. A fifth village visit was planned, but an upsurge in village Covid-19  Coronavirus cases forced the rescheduling of that village for January 2022. Community  events originally planned as part of this project were also dropped due to village/school  virus mitigation plans and will be included in future as permitted by Tribal Councils and  Health departments. 

What Were Village Reactions? 

Lots of Enthusiasm! 

Overall: Students were so excited after just one class that they looked for  opportunities to play outside of Physical Education class. Several students and 

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adults in all villages voiced a desire to have badminton teams in the Lower  Kuskokwim School District, along with competing in tournaments in Anchorage  and elsewhere in the future. 

Toksook Bay: Students hit shuttles back and forth in the library/commons area when the gym was being used after school. When school athletic teams finished  their practices, athletes pulled out the badminton rackets and shuttles and hit for  as long as coaches allowed. High school seniors expressed interest in teaching  younger students at their school and, if possible, going to the nearby villages of  Nightmute and Tununak to teach their students. 

Napaskiak: After the first day of instruction, students came in before school to  play. 

Kwethluk: Students asked to be able to play badminton, along with basketball  and volleyball, in the gym during lunch time beginning the very first morning of  class instruction. 

Bethel: Students repeatedly asked to have an afterschool club both verbally and  in written form on the survey given at the end of the week.  

Inclusion and Participation. 

Of particular importance was the participation of students who are not usually interested  in physical activity and/or do not normally participate in sports activities. While an  average of 25 to 30 students hit badminton on one side of the gym during lunch in Kwethluk, a conversation with then Assistant Principal, Greg Hampton, revealed that  there were many students involved that normally sat in the bleachers during this time.  One student with multiple physical disabilities, Mary, found badminton to be a sport in  which she could participate well and other students quickly realized that Mary was a  great hitting partner. Mr. Hampton is currently a principal at a different school and has  asked BGV to come to his new school. 

In Toksook Bay, the Dean of Students, reported that several of the students hitting in  the library after school were ones that struggled to find ways to fit in with other students and with school activities.  

Community Ties. 

Not only were the kids enthused, several villagers in each community expressed that  badminton was a part of their own past… playing when they were in school. Locals were excited to see BGV in their community and happy that children were learning “their  favorite sport”. From store keepers to school custodians, there was interest and  excitement in the revival of a sport they remembered well. 

Survey Results. 

• Badminton is Fun! At the last school surveyed, 97% of students responded “Yes”  badminton is fun. BGV feels this response is indicative of students at all schools. In earlier surveys, multiple answers were possible on this question and most of  the time, students only chose one answer choice. Many of those same students  wrote that “Badminton is fun” in some form in the comment section.

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• Class Participation. Students were eagerly active in class activities. Rarely was  there a student who did not participate 100% of class time. 

• Afterschool badminton. Students expressed a high interest in badminton being  an afterschool activity and in participating if offered. Percentage numbers  wanting to participate represent a large number of kids out of a school’s total  population. An average of 75% of students across four villages responded “Yes”  they would like to see badminton offered afterschool and if offered, they would  participate. When including the response of “Maybe”, the percentage increased  to 94% and 93%. Again, this indicates a large number of students interested in  being involved with badminton outside school classroom time. 

• Badminton in Other Communities. Over 90% of students at all village schools  expressed they thought that other students/communities would enjoy badminton. • Comments from Students. 

o BGV Favorites 

▪ “I love badminton. I was born for this.” – Toksook Bay 

▪ “I love badminton. My new favorite sport.” – Toksook Bay 

▪ “Badminton and I thick. I’m going to join.” – Bethel 

▪ “I wish I could play every single day.” – Bethel 

▪ “You made us happy.” – Kwethluk 

▪ “You rockstar.” – Kwethluk 

▪ “It was the best sport I ever played.” – Napaskiak 

▪ “Every time I play, I would get excited!” – Napaskiak 

▪ “Though as a person that isn’t accustomed to sports activities,  

badminton seems like a fun sport to have in the community.” – 


▪ “Come back!” – every school 

o Answer Themes from all schools 

▪ “I love playing badminton!” 

▪ “I am good at badminton.” 

▪ “I want to play more badminton!” 

• Desire for a badminton team 

• Desire for afterschool play 

▪ “Thank you for teaching us badminton!” 

• “Will you come back?” 

Survey Discrepancies. 

• Survey format changes. 

o The way some questions on the survey were written, led to different  interpretations by students and resulted in some inaccurate responses – in  fact, even though student answers were highly positive, the percentage of  positive answers is actually lower than it should be on some questions.

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o As BGV staff realized there was a disconnect with some written responses  and with verbal responses received, the formatting of some questions was  changed to better assess student reaction to the program. 

o Due to survey question format changes, comparison between schools is  more difficult. However, whatever the format of the questions, the overall  student response to the sport of badminton was very high. 

• Multiple possible answers. In administering the survey used in this initial project,  it quickly became apparent that having multiple appropriate answer choices for  one question is not helpful in getting a broad picture of student reaction… many,  many students only responded with one choice even though they wrote in  responses that were actually an answer choice earlier in the survey. For  example, many students did not choose “Badminton is fun” on question 1 where  multiple answers could be given, but wrote that “badminton is fun” in the  comment section. 

• Participation interpretation. This question may have been misunderstood by  students. In almost every class, 100% of students were actively participating  100% of the class session. Because students were taking turns, they may have  interpreted this as not participating at all times. 

Sustainability in Villages. 

At each school, there was a person willing to be responsible for the equipment and for  future playing opportunities. 

• Toksook Bay: Senior students and Principal Michael Robbins 

• Napaskiak: Physical Education instructor and local Native Alaskan Rita Joekay &  8th grade teacher and coach Nathan Walker 

• Kwethluk: Middle/High School teacher and volleyball coach Nicolas Mills • Bethel – Gladys Jung Elementary: Physical Education teacher Raf Johnson 

*Other Bethel schools expressed an interest in the BGV program coming to  their school on a return trip. 

What Did BGV Learn? 

Difference Makers. 

Several aspects of the BGV program had a positive impact on the reception of the  program to personnel in the schools. 

Equipment. Once both teachers and students realized that the badminton  equipment would be staying at the school, interest in the sport increased  immediately. 

Teaching Resources. The provision of digital and online lesson plans, activities,  videos and suggestions of how to incorporate academic subject areas (such as  math and science) allowed teachers to feel confident about teaching badminton

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and their ability to combine curricular objectives from other academic subjects while students were being physically active. 

Individual School Survey Results. Once teachers saw the appeal of badminton  to the majority of students in their own school (indicated by survey results and  student verbal comments), they were more enthusiastic about incorporating  badminton into their teaching schedule, lesson plans and offering play  opportunities. 

Comfort Level with An Outside Program. Any school staff nervousness was  quickly diminished upon learning that one of the BGV staff was a retired teacher  who was familiar with students, classroom instruction and the constraints of a  school system. 


While everyone encountered was enthusiastic and supportive, three key areas with challenges were identified. 

Restrictions and Limits 

o COVID-19 restrictions only allowed interaction with the students at school  during the school day… no after school programs or invitations to invite  village parents and adults into the school for a badminton event were  possible. 

o Gym space and time – gyms are already used for other sports and  community programs (under normal circumstances pre-covid). 

o A higher quality, longer lasting badminton net system is needed for  sustainability. A low-cost design system is available, but needs a local  ‘owner’ to request the system and assume responsibility for setting up a  durable net system. 


o Some coaches may see badminton as trying to replace an existing sport  like basketball, wrestling, or volleyball. The addition of badminton to a  school sports program is a way to engage more students in a physically  active lifelong sport. A leader of the Knik Tribe in the Matanuska-Susitna  Valley aptly describes adding to sports programs as a way to ‘complete, rather than compete’. 

o The idea that badminton has limited appeal for students. Once leaders  see students enjoying badminton and asking to play more, they are much  more interested in providing opportunities for play during and before/after  school. Also, once leaders see that all students can participate  

successfully – independent of size, weight, gender and that children with a  variety of mental and/or physical disabilities can find success, they are  very supportive of the sport. 

o Some local recreation activity leaders might not be receptive to change  until you mention that ESPN recently mentioned badminton as the second  most played sport in the world based on a report by RealBuzz.com (link at  end of report). 

Local Ownership

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o Because AK village schools (not unlike Indigenous village schools in other  locales) are often staffed with imported lower 48 accredited teachers and  the associated high turnover rate, the community has to be the center of  our collective efforts. In Nunavut, the badminton community reports that  “when a teacher/coach leaves the village, then there is no one with a key  to open the gym after school hours”. 

o Schools/Tribal Council interaction may be imperfect, but in the end the  Tribal Council relationship is and should be primary. 

o The need for local ownership is known. The next step is determining how  to find and empower/support the ‘owners’. 

What Could be Improved? 

In order to better reach the objective of increasing physical activity and wellness in  youth and adults, a longer and more involved relationship with the community and local  Tribal Council is needed. Family or adult/child badminton should be the primary goal. 

Networking. In future, it may be effective to include time to network and build  relationships in the community that were not possible this time due to Covid concerns.  Some suggestions are to create occasions to meet with various local leaders to  introduce Badminton Goes Viral and discuss opportunities for badminton program  maintenance and growth. Such as: 

• Lunch with village elders 

• Meet with the wellness director in each village 

• Meet with tribal office and leaders 

• Have a community event to include youth and adults 

Communication. Keep in touch with schools prior to, during and after travel to the  community to make sure things are in place to implement and maintain the program.  Some key information to share would be as follows: 

• A school or community leader identified as being responsible for sustaining the  program after Badminton Goes Viral leaves the community. Having a person  identified prior to arrival of BGV allows for an effective working relationship prior  to and while in the village, but there is also merit in finding an enthused and  motivated person during implementation of the program. 

• A list of materials, resources and equipment needed for the program to be  initiated and sustained. 

• Program sustainability. 

o Assess challenges or barriers teachers/leaders see to continuing a  badminton program. 

o Assist in development of suggestions to overcome identified challenges or  barriers. 

• Follow up reports from each school/village after BGV leaves.

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Survey design. Better question formatting and wording is needed to address questions and interests in a more effective manner for all involved parties (BGV, community  leaders, school personnel and funding sources). Survey questions need to be more  efficiently constructed and formatted for clear meaning of questions and correct  interpretation in order for answers to yield useful and accurate information.  

Program Feedback. Badminton Goes Viral needs to more successfully ask participants and/or teachers for suggestions as to what went well with the program,  what could be improved, and what could be done to make the student and/or  teacher/leader experience better. 

What are Next Steps? 

• William Miller Memorial School in Napakiak, LKSD and BGV have rescheduled  for the week of January 24, 2022. 

• Build on momentum by returning to same villages. 

• Expand to other villages in Lower Kuskokwim School District – district  administrators are interested in working with village clusters. 

• Gauge interest from other school systems and/or villages in Alaska. • Inclusion of adults in the communities. 

• Make sure Tribal Councils know this program is available through ANTHC upon  request. 

• Make sure Tribal Councils know funding for this program is available through  ANTHC upon request. 

Badminton Goes Viral Links 

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/badmintongoesviral/

Website: https://badmintongoesviral.org/

Badminton – 2nd most played sport in the world:  

https://www.realbuzz.com/articles-interests/sports-activities/article/top-10- most-popular-participation-sports-in-the-world/ 


o Paul Knechtel – paul@badmintongoesviral.org – 919.656.8326

o Lisa J. Ward – lisa@badmintongoesviral.org – 919.698.7412

BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project 


Once introduced to the sport, badminton continues to be identified as a physical activity a majority of students of all ages enjoy and wish to participate in during and outside of  school hours. 

This is an addendum to the report on the Badminton Goes Viral (BGV) Alaskan Villages  Project submitted to ANTHC in December 2021. Due to coronavirus conditions in  September 2021, one village was not able to allow BGV to come into the community.  This addition focuses only on the program in that village, Napakiak, and is the  conclusion of the BGV/ANTHC Villages Project planned in 2020 and postponed due to  the Covid-19 coronavirus and related complications. 

What Did BGV Do? 

One week was spent introducing badminton to all students and staff at William Miller  Memorial School in Napakiak. A special classroom schedule allowed grades  kindergarten through 12 to have five sessions of instruction. Training included basic  skills, game knowledge, court etiquette, safety and equipment care. After the fourth  session, students completed a participant survey. 

A staff presentation sharing multiple teaching resources and an active play session  were held one evening, but due to continuing Covid-19 constraints a program including  community members was not possible. 

What Were Student & School Reactions? 

Enthusiasm. As in the other participating villages, students and staff were highly  enthusiastic! Students requested and were allowed to play during breakfast and lunch  times after eating. Several students questioned whether they would be able to play  after BGV left the village and expressed a desire to play at their school and to compete  with other schools. They were very excited to learn that the equipment would stay at  their school and that three local communities, Napaskiak, Kwethluk and Bethel, were all  interested in competition outside their schools. 

Most staff members, several support staff employees and the principal took an active  part in classroom sessions. William Miller Memorial School principal, Sally Benedict,  and several staff members stated interest in a school competition or fun day with other  local villages, possibly in the next few months before the ice road is closed. Lower  Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Kimberly Hankins and Director of  Elementary Education Christina Powell Robbins both voiced support for this endeavor. 

Inclusion and Participation. All students from kindergarten age and older actively  participated in every badminton activity, although some of the younger children were 

BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project 


shy at first. Of particular interest was a first grader in a wheelchair who was able to join in all of the racket control and hitting skills right along with her classmates with the aid of  her teacher. 

Community Connection. Although a meeting with the Tribal Council was not possible  due to Covid-19 restrictions, two local Alaskan Native school staff members were  directly connected to the Napakiak Tribal Council. One of the members served as an  aide with the kindergarten/1st grade class and was present at all class sessions for this  group. At the end of the week, BGV was able to connect with her to increase understanding and awareness of the overall badminton program and to explain the  possibility of a Tribal Council request for badminton through ANTHC in the future. She  stated that she would relay this information to the Tribal Council in Napakiak and to  other Councils with which she was familiar. 

Survey Results. Again, as expected based on results from other villages, students  expressed that badminton is fun and a desire to play more badminton.  • Badminton is Fun! 100% of students felt badminton is fun and 96% indicated  they met with success and would like to play more badminton. 

• Class Participation. Students were eagerly active in class activities. Rarely was  there a student who did not participate 100% of class time, although very young  students were sometimes hesitant at first. 

• Afterschool Badminton. A high percentage of students, 72%, disclosed they  would like to see badminton offered afterschool, with 79% of students indicating they would participate if offered. If the answer choice of ‘maybe’ is combined, the  percentages go up to 96% and 98% respectively… that’s a lot of students in the  school/community being active! 

• Badminton in other Communities. All students thought that badminton would be  or might be enjoyed by students in other communities. 

• Comments from Students: 

o BGV Favorites 

▪ 1st & 2nd graders: “We would like to play badminton as we grow.” ▪ 6 – 9 yrs. old: “I want to play all day every day.” 

▪ 10 – 14 yrs. old: “I want to play more.” 

▪ 15 – 18 yrs. old: 

• “Should do this more.” 

• “Best badminton teachers ever! Have fun!”  

• “I hope you both come back!” 

Sustainability in Napakiak. As with previous village schools, there were several staff  members who showed interest in continuing badminton in Napakiak. Grades 7 – 12  teacher John Leahy was identified as the lead to establish a badminton program at the  school. Backed by Principal Sally Benedict, teacher Alanna Spencer and  Superintendent Kimberly Hankins, the sustainability of badminton in Napakiak looks  strong.

BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project 


LKSD Coverage and Commitment. 

Director of Elementary Education for the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD),  Christina Powell Robbins, and a member of the District Communications team traveled  to Napakiak on the last day of classes to observe, take pictures and interview students  and staff about the Badminton Goes Viral program. Superintendent Kimberly Hankins  has expressed tremendous support for this program, pledging to help interested schools get the BGV program onsite and to support competition in the school district. An  article is posted on the LKSD website – 



As with the other village schools, gym time/space and staff availability are the  challenges to work through in Napakiak. The best indicator that these challenges will  be worked through is the realization by administration and staff that badminton is a way  to encourage student engagement during the Spring months when attendance,  especially by older students, tends to decrease at their school. 

What we learned. 

School leaders are open to activities that involve large portions of the student population  and new ways to keep students interested and attending school. With continued  support from LKSD administration, badminton is a viable tool to keep youth engaged in  school and physically active. 

Based on the conversation with the Tribal Council member, the Badminton Goes Viral  program and badminton as a communal sport would be of interest to the community at  large. 

LKSD administrators continued to express interest in badminton program expansion  within the village schools participating in this project and to additional ‘cluster villages’  where local community members can be active together and compete with other nearby  villages. Superintendent Kimberly Hankins and Director of Elementary Education  Christina Powell Robbins are both committed to broadening the badminton program  within their district and to using this program as a way to work with village Tribal  Councils and school administrators to strengthen their ties and cooperative efforts. 

Looking Forward

BadmintonGoesViral.org Alaskan Villages Project 


Once Covid-19 coronavirus conditions lessen and adults in the communities can be  involved, badminton is a tool to encourage cooperation between the school and the  village and to involve the adult members in an active sport. 

It is hoped that ANTHC and others can help Tribal Councils learn of the program’s  availability and continue to work with BGV in the future to engage more people in a  physical activity to improve health, wellness and fitness that youth have expressed they  can and want to play. Badminton Goes Viral is ready and eager to play a part in this  worthy endeavor in Alaskan Native communities.

Orion Elementary, Alaska

Coach Paul and Lisa spent 2 ½ days with the Orion Lions in Anchorage, Alaska. Students were shown the basic shots and had opportunity to work on clears, serving and modified game play.

The older groups had a great time playing the game Wipeout, lots of students who had a blast and want to continue playing.  Karen Howard, PE teacher was a great host and after seeing the enthusiasm and enjoyment of her students, decided to start an after school club and possibly have a team to compete in the 3rd Alaska State School Team Championships in April. 

Why Badminton?

By Lisa Ward, ‘Chief Education Officer’ at BGV

Badminton is one of the most-played sports in the world, but here in the United States, it has a lower profile. So why focus on badminton for PE programs?

Simply put: badminton is fun! Almost everyone can find quick success. Badminton is relatively gender neutral and success does not depend on size or strength. It can be played as an individual, with a partner or as a team sport. This sport is enjoyed socially, on a recreation level and competitively. As players learn skills, they begin to challenge themselves. It is inexpensive and is a sport players can enjoy for a lifetime!

Over the course of my career as a teacher, I enjoyed introducing students to non-traditional sports and the most popular of all was competitive badminton. Other teachers who share that passion can attest that badminton is embraced by students! BJ Condron, Varsity Basketball Coach and Physical Education teacher in North Carolina, sums it up well: “Badminton is one of the equalizer sports for PE that everyone from the best athletes to your least active students can find some level of success and engagement.”