By Nick Gandy, Florida Senior Games
If there’s a badminton event going on in South Florida, it’s a pretty good bet that Dave Zarco, of Miami, is going to have something to do with it.
A Florida Senior Games badminton player and sport director, Zarco has served as the National Senior Games badminton sport director since 2007. He is also “stringing racquets,” for athletes at the Broward County Convention Center.
Zarco had a chance to play mixed doubles with someone in need of a partner, but opted to find another partner for the player in need.
“Something would have suffered if I played,” the selfless Zarco admitted. “More than likely it would have been the racquet stringing for the athletes. I’ve played in plenty of National Senior Games.”
Following a trip to the 2005 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, Zarco stepped into the sport director role in 2007 and has occupied the position since. He was a Men’s Doubles gold medalist in the 2003 National Senior Games in Virginia Beach, with Dudley Chen, also of Miami, and won a bronze medal in Men’s Singles.
Chen, who assists Zarco with his administrative duties at the National and Florida Senior Games, is teaming with Andrew Williams in the 65-69 age group Men’s Doubles event.
Besides his duties at the Broward County Convention Center, Zarco leads a Sunday morning open badminton program for anyone interested at Shula’s Athletic Club, in Miami Springs. Zarco worked with Bill Graham, a badminton enthusiast and brother of former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, to make the facility more badminton friendly than normal gymnasiums.
He has also coached the Miami Palmetto High School Badminton team for the last 13 years. Miami-Dade County is the only county in Florida to offer badminton at the high school level, with 20 schools competing.
“In the 13 years I’ve coached, we’ve never finished lower than third in the county,” Zarco said. “We have been county champions six times and demolished the competition at this year’s tournament. Our team members combined for 21 points and the second-place team had nine points.”
Miami-Dade County has offered high school badminton since 1950 and Zarco played for the Palmetto High School team in 1969 and 1970. Only two other states, California and New York, offer boys and girls high school badminton programs, like Miami-Dade County.
“I drive 25 miles to coach at my alma mater,” he said. “My players are the smartest kids in the school. I’ve turned mathletes into athletes.”
Besides Zarco and the current County Badminton Champions, other notable Palmetto High School alumni include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and pop star Camila Cabello.
Badminton is documented as the fastest racket sport with birdies (shuttlecocks) traveling more than 200 mph. Between Zarco’s wealth of experience in the sport and the skills of his mathletes at Palmetto High School, they can come up with a way to further demolish their South Florida competition.