Ray Scott Award Recipient Named
There must be a tree somewhere inscribed with a carving that says, “Beth Loves Badminton.”
And that would be a great way to mark Beth Sopka’s love for the sport. But at this year’s Masters Nationals, the board took that notion up a notch, announcing that she is this year’s winner of the Ray Scott Award.
Established in memory of the former USAB Executive Director, the Ray Scott Award honors a Master player; one who like Scott, dedicates much of his or her time to promoting and assisting U.S. badminton, and someone who will "press on," as was Scott’s motto, in getting things accomplished for the sport.
Beth Sopka is an accomplished player with a USAB membership dating back to 1995, but her participation began two years earlier when she first played indoors as a guest of some family friends at Gut ‘n Feathers Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She joined the club in 1994 and later volunteered to administer the junior program so Barb McKinley could focus on coaching. Instrumental in the start of the New England Junior Open (NEJO,) Sopka helped McKinley escort a team of 17 junior players to Atlanta, Georgia for the Junior Nationals. Younger players might recognize her as the mother of Ted Shear who represented the US in Pan American competitions in Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Canada.
Recognizing the lack of access to badminton training for juniors (beyond the private Gut ‘n Feathers Club,) Beth Sopka, along with Barb and Dick McKinley, and Dudley and Ann Welch, co-founded the Northshore Junior Badminton Assn (NJBA.) There, she served on its board, recruiting and hiring Andy Chong as coach. In 1997, while attending Junior Nationals, Sopka took the umpire training course and became certified as a Regional Umpire. The same year she competed for the first time at the USAB Senior Nationals in Portland, Oregon.
By 1998, Sopka had joined the Boston Open organizing committee and excelled as a winning member of the Gut ‘n Feathers Club team in the 1998 Boston Invitation Team Tournament. At the Long Island Open the following year, she and partner Andy Chong finished as finalists in mixed doubles competition.
Sopka continued playing in competitions, winning the 35+ Mixed Doubles at the 2002 USAB Senior Nationals with Chong as her partner. Working both visibly and behind the scenes, she became President of the Massachusetts Badminton Association (MassBad), and is the Board Secretary of Northeast Badminton Association where she has held various positions as an officer since 2004.
Her ability to initiate and organize new activities is unrivaled. Besides her accomplishments as a player, Sopka has:
- Conducted umpire clinics, instructed and certified over 30 USAB regional umpires
- Officiated regularly at regional, national, and international events as a National III Umpire
- Co-initiated the Boston Team League for inter-club competition (now MassBad Team Tournaments)
- Introduced badminton into the Bay State Games
- Organized the Senior Nationals in Westborough, Massachusetts (2006)
- Brought the US Adult Trials to Massachusetts (2011)
- Been elected to the Board of USBEF (2012)
And Sopka was responsible for bringing the 2014 US Adult National Championships to Massachusetts, a first since the 1970s. Ray Scott would have been proud as Sopka has indeed pressed on.