A Sport for the People: Badminton

August 11, 2016

Most heroic stories begin with one person and a dream for making something better. In this case, it was Sebastião Dias de Oliveira’s dream of building a community center that would teach children sports and keep them out of trouble after school. When Sebastião came across badminton and its thin tennis- like racquet with a feather cone for a ball, it was a sport that very few people knew about. After all, only fancy sports clubs had badminton courts and equipment for its members. But that didn’t stop Sebastião from
making his dream come true of building Brazil’s best badminton talent in his own favela (or very poor areas in Brazil where houses are hand-built with materials found around the area) and giving the children there an opportunity to succeed through sport.

So Sebastião went to work. He was given a small piece of land that he was going to use to build a community swimming pool, but decided instead to build a badminton center. In his mind, badminton would be a cheaper sport to play. When people heard about what he was doing, donations of money and equipment came from all over the world. But wait, how do you teach badminton to children who have never even heard of the sport? Sebastião had an idea: use something people do know, like Samba dancing! Samba (the native dance of Brazil), requires quick footwork and the anticipation of the other dancer, just like badminton. Children at Sebastião’s school quickly learned the game of badminton through Samba instructions, Youtube videos, and visiting experts. Soon, Sebastião’s community center became a place where children could escape trouble. One of Sebastião’s greatest successes is his own son, Ygor Coelho de Oliveira. Ygor is now representing Brazil in the Rio Olympics.