The 2018 Manitoba Winter Games powered by Manitoba Hydro are usually framed as an elite competition, where the province’s top development - aged athletes come to prove their mettle. But in regions with smaller populations, Games tryouts are often a place where athletes with latent talents get their first taste of true competition.
Team East badminton coach Dale Kinley is one of those athletes that found their awakening at the Manitoba Games. Kinley had already once completed in the Games as a track and field athlete in 2004, but it was in 2006, at the Winter Games hosted in Beausejour, when he caught the fever for badminton, after trying out for what was then the Interlake Team with his friend on a whim. “We thought, why not?” he said. “And we made the team for our zone.”
Kinley and his friend were, in his words, “creamed” back in 2006. But the sheer level of competition left him hungry and inspired. “I wanted to get that good. I just started training hard, four to six times a week.”
Training with friends and a badminton club in Winnipeg, Kinley stepped his game up strong for the next Winter Games in 2010, hosted in Portage la Prairie. He came home with a silver medal, just shy of a gold medal win.
He hasn’t stopped, either: Kinley went on to compete provincially and nationally several times, including the 2015 Canada Games, hosted in Prince George, British Columbia. But these days, he’s more about training the next generation of badminton players. “I’ve always been more into coaching others than playing myself,” he said.
The home communities of Kinley’s athletes from the East region include Whitemouth, Lac du Bonnet, and the areas surrounding Stonewall and Riverton. They run the gamut of skill and experience, from the “very new” to “some of the most experienced ones here.” He sees himself in many of them: “A lot of them have my good qualities, along with my bad ones,” he joked.
Traditional sports like badminton are often seen as carved in stone, but even in Kinley’s 12 years of experience, the sport has changed. Most markedly, he mentioned the shift to rally points, where teams now earn points for earning points for every rally, rather than only those that they score during their serve. He’s ambivalent about the change, but he still loves the sport: “I like the competitiveness of this one, but I also liked the endurance game of the old system,” he explained. “They were much longer games, but it’s a hard thing to sit through sometimes. You want people to be involved.”
Kinley has been impressed with the Games in Thompson so far. “It’s been really well run.”