OFSAA journey caps athletic Hawks
By Darren Lum
Published June 5, 2018
There may not be any OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championship medals from which the Red Hawks senior doubles badminton team of Ben Schmidt and Owen Patterson-Smith will be able to look at with nostalgia years after leaving high school.
But they share something more valuable than medals: the satisfaction of an unforgettable and enjoyable journey of potential fulfilled as a player and as a mentor.
Weeks have passed since the duo played in the all-provincial tournament, going in as the second seed from COSSA and where they finished as a C flight quarter-finalist in Windsor, and they sat down to share the ups and downs of the season.
“This year was probably the most fun because all the games were close and I played with my friend. I remember playing with Jaydon [Wood], who was a lot of fun too ... by yourself is a little different because you’re not doing it with somebody, you have pressure, and it’s always fun to do sports with other people,” Schmidt said, referring to when he played singles last year.
Schmidt earned three consecutive trips to the all-provincials for badminton. First, in Grade 10 with senior Jaydon Wood and then as a singles player last year and then with Patterson-Smith.
There’s no doubt Schmidt still feels a slight disappointment at the finish, referring to the close scores and how narrowly they missed advancing to the quarter-finals of the A flight. He doesn’t dwell on it though – merely mentioning it for context.
There is perspective by the youngest of four brothers, who have all played in OFSAA – older brother Darcy finished second in the country at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Championships earlier this year with his doubles partner from Humber College.
Schmidt acknowledges there is always expectation, but for him it’s always about playing and preparing for each match, forgetting about what is supposed to happen and more on preparation.
This was the first trip to the all-provincials for Grade 12 athlete Patterson-Smith.
“At the start of the year when I was the chosen one to play with Ben I was pretty excited I might actually get the chance to go to OFSAA for something in my high school career. I’m really glad we did. It was a great experience. Tons of fun,” he said.
This badminton season was far simpler for Patterson-Smith. It contrasted greatly from his time with the Red Hawks senior boys’ basketball team and the OMHA midget Highland Storm, who won the provincial title. For those teams he was expected to be one of the leaders and in badminton he only focused on his game.
“It’s not as much about bringing everyone else up. You just have to elevate your own game and I definitely felt the pressure having to elevate my game,” he said, “to meet the standards.”
Schmidt quickly interjected, saying he didn’t consciously apply any pressure to his friend.
Both players are open about the disparity in talent between them.
Despite the apparent differences, commitment to excellence wasn’t one of them and Schmidt knew this about his friend.
He said his partner was motivated from the beginning.
“If you want to go, I’ll take you there ... you just have to work at it,” he said.
Work wasn’t an issue for Patterson-Smith, who not only practiced regularly at the school, but also travelled down to Schmidt’s club, the Ridges Club based in Millbrook, and practiced there once a week for hours at a time.
The work paid off as the pair dominated Kawartha.
Schmidt, who admitted it was a challenge to play with a partner that started at a lower calibre than him, found fulfillment in being able to see his friend and teammate progress and improve and play up to his potential.
He even remembers a memorable shot, executed during OFSAA on the first day.
With his back to the net, Patterson-Smith ran back for a deep shot, destined for the back left corner. He managed to not only get to it, but struck the shuttlecock with his racquet before it hit the court floor and had the touch to drop the shuttlecock just over the net for a point.
“That might have been the highlight of my badminton career,” Patterson-Smith said, laughing.
After heading into the third set tied 1-1, the Hawks were narrowly defeated 22-20. A win then could have put them in the A flight quarter-finals. It wasn’t meant to be as the Hawks dropped the last set.
Schmidt has been playing for the Ridges Badminton Club in Millbrook for the past four years.
Patterson-Smith doesn’t downplay the perceived pressure he felt this season to not only raise his game, but to perform and to, ultimately, advance to the all-provincials as everyone expects of “a Schmidt.”
It was a reference to the family lineage, dating back several years to other Hawks elite badminton players from Schmidt’s eldest brother Jesse, Darcy and, the most recent HHSS graduate, Caleb. They all were OFSAA finalists.
Patterson-Smith admitted the pressure was owed to his own perception.
Upon reflection, it was a good thing and he felt he responded well to the challenge.
“It definitely pushed me to play at another level, I guess. Badminton was always more fun for me for the first three years. This being my Grade 12 year playing with Ben, I took it a lot more seriously and competitively. I tried to actually make it somewhere,” he said.
The highest level of competition he achieved was earning a trip to Kawartha.
Patterson-Smith called it a great year.
“It was lots of fun and full of challenges, which makes everything more interesting. We dominated for quite a bit too. You don’t see a lot of competition when you’re playing with a Schmidt in the early competitions,” he said.
He adds there was satisfaction derived from the sport by playing at a higher level than what he was used to. His past doubles partner Nolan Flood was not available because of a co-op placement, keeping him out of school. Patterson-Smith credited Flood with the foundation of his skills.
This doubles team came together rather suddenly.
At the end of last year, following Schmidt’s OFSAA run where it ended in the semi-finals in C flight for singles, there was discussion about a rule to only allow one club player per event. It left Schmidt, who has played the past four years for the Ridges Club, looking for a doubles partner this year since he would have likely become the second entry for OFSAA (knowing the best singles player from COSSA was returning this season).
Schmidt was confident he would earn a top two placing to advance to OFSAA with Patterson-Smith.
That said, he adds, it’s a common practice for him to not look past any matches.
“Just give it your all and the outcome is the outcome, right?”
OFSAA wouldn’t have even been possible without the team’s narrow defeat in COSSA.
The team won two consecutive sets (21-19 and 21-6) after dropping the opening set 20-22.
“This woke us up,” Patterson-Smith said.
The pair admit they came into the game overly confident, having beat their opponents soundly in Kawartha. They didn’t let their guard down like that the rest of the season.
The Hawks doubles team probably ended up playing some 10 matches at OFSAA in two days, Schmidt said. They ended up being one of the last few teams on the court to end the entire tournament.
Neither realized the significance of that match since it will be the last match of their high school career.
Success doesn’t just happen overnight without dedication and hard work without a framework of support. For both of the players it came from not just their hard work, but the support of family and the dedication of coaching.
Schmidt thanked his dad, longtime badminton coach Bob Schmidt.
“My dad has been a big factor. He’s been training me all the time after school. When it’s the season and the off-season in the evening. I’ve been practicing six days a week when the season’s been on,” he said.
Patterson-Smith credited the team’s coaches such as Jason Morissette for the foundation of his game and Ben’s dad, Bob, the past two years, including his ex-partner Flood, who was a strong partner and prepared him for this final year in badminton.
This pairs team is unlikely to play again competitively except for the odd match for recreation.
Schmidt is ready and excited for next year when he will be playing for the Humber Hawks, like his older brother, Darcy, who he will live with this autumn.
Schmidt and Patterson-Smith couldn’t believe the high calibre of play demonstrated by players at the all-provincials. For OFSAA first-timer Patterson-Smith it was revelatory.
“Watching some of the men’s singles is just absolutely insane. Some of them there were top players in Canada for their age. It was crazy to watch. The amount of hours you’re putting in to become as good as that. The consistency was insane,” he said.