When Kait Roser began her freshman year at Vacaville High, she had never played badminton and didn’t know much about it.
“I love to stay busy so I was looking through all the sports and I found a sport for each season,” recalled Roser, who already played basketball and volleyball, “but I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll try something new and branch out.’”
That experiment went well.
“She very much has an ‘absorb everything’ mentality,” said her coach, Corey Lee. “She didn’t know a ton about badminton, but she was very motivated to sit and learn and observe what the experienced players were doing and how she could adapt that to her own style of play.”
Roser, now a junior, earned a varsity letter in badminton in both her freshman and sophomore years. Last season, which was cut short due to the coronavirus, she and her doubles partner, Kierra Peterson, won all four of their matches, including victories against Rodriguez and Armijo, two perennial powerhouses.
“She was paired at our number five doubles position,” said Lee, “and it’s pretty rare for sophomores to pop up on the varsity ladder. It really takes motivation on their part… Lettering her freshman year is also a feat.”
Badminton is now not only Roser’s favorite sport, but she also feels it is her best. This season she hopes to play both singles and doubles.
“I like playing with the girls,” she said. “They’re very welcoming. It’s very competitive, but it’s easy to communicate with just the two people on the court.”
Roser also loves volleyball, which will present a unique challenge for her this school year. Due to COVID-19, the California Interscholastic Federation has compressed all high school sports in the 2020-21 season between late December and the end of the school term. And badminton and volleyball fall at the same time.
Official practice begins for both sports on Dec. 14. The badminton regular season ends March 6, the volleyball season on Feb. 26.
Further complicating Roser’s plans is that she is on the cheer squad and also plays basketball, which runs from Feb. 22 to May 28. Which and how many of the four activities will this multi-sport athlete participate in?
Practically speaking, it would make sense to choose one for the earlier part of the season and one for the later part of the season, say badminton and basketball. But it’s not that easy.
“Volleyball and badminton are my two main sports that I absolutely love playing, so it’s a harder decision,” Roser said.
CIF regulations specify that a student-athlete can only participate in 18 hours of sports activity in a week. A competition counts for three hours. If practices from two sports fall on the same day, the student must have an hour-and-a-half break between them. Also, no student-athlete can participate in two practices on two consecutive days.
If she decides to play volleyball and badminton at the same time, it is likely the two sports, which share the same gym, will alternate their practice schedules. But the schedules would need to be an hour-and-a-half apart in order for her to do both. Then she has to hope that games don’t fall on the same day. Coaches and players will need to be flexible in this unique season.
The second half of the semester would be less complicated. Roser figures she can cheer at the boys varsity basketball games and play for the girls varsity team. The 5-foot-9 Roser just started playing basketball last year for the junior varsity.
“I feel like I started off as a weak player because I really didn’t know anything about the sport,” she said. “But as the season went on I had the support of all my teammates and my coaches pushing me to do my best. And at the end of the season, everything just clicked and I was able to compete with the passion that I have for every other sport.”
She began playing volleyball in third grade in the city league until she turned 12 and transferred to club ball. The setter has now played four years of club, two years of middle school and two years of junior varsity ball.
Regardless of which sports she chooses to play, will she be able to also keep up with her studies?
“As we are distance learning, I think it’s going to be a little bit easier to balance everything out because I only have four classes per quasimester (the first semester of material is divided into two nine-week courses),” said Roser, who has a GPA between 4.1 and 4.2. “We also have a little bit more time to do assignments. So I think if I manage my time right I will be able to not only complete my assignments but participate in the sports that I’m playing as well.”
Lee agrees. He teaches Roser in AP chemistry and is her advisor on the Student Council (she also serves in the Link Crew leadership program).
“I don’t think she’s going to have any problem handling all those things,” he said. “Will she be stressed at times? Yes, I’m sure she will. I think that comes with the territory of taking advanced classes and juggling multiple sports. But if anyone can do it, it’s Kait. She has this fantastic work effort that’s ultimately going to drive her to be able to do anything that she sets her mind to. I have no doubt about that.”
The volleyball team began conditioning with social distancing in July, took August off because of the fires, then started back up in September. Cheer practice and basketball conditioning are just starting up. Badminton practice will probably not happen until the season draws closer.
So Roser is already plenty busy. But Lee thinks her outlook on life will see her through.
“Kait is a bright shining star in personality,” he said. “She’s always just super happy, super positive attitude towards everything, and she’s really good at bringing other people up around her. I’ve rarely seen someone as consistently positive as I have with her.”
The Reporter will be publishing multiple-sport athlete features leading up to official practice in December. For ideas on local players, email [email protected]