Badminton clubs have suffered - but are ready to bounce back
Sussex’s Badminton Development Officer says clubs have all suffered through the pandemic– but looks forward to welcoming an influx of new players following a brilliant summer of sport.
Sussex is a hub for Badminton, as one the most popular regions for the sport across the country. The county boasts 62 Badminton England clubs with over 1520 members that engage with the sport. Despite its popularity however, the pandemic has caused unprecedented difficulties and prevented many from taking part in the sport they love.
As a predominantly indoor sport, badminton suffered heavily during multiple lockdowns, with the majority of clubs unable to open until July this year, and a large number still unable to reopen following the effects from Covid.
Julia Alkema, Sussex’s Badminton Development Officer, reflected on the devastating effects of the pandemic, and how the sport is coming back with a bang across Sussex:
“As well as my role as development officer I am also a coach, and after 18 months of not playing I was worried that my youngest players - who are only 7 - would have moved onto a different sport. But I shouldn’t have worried, they all came back and were super excited to see me and to be playing again, some even bought their younger siblings who are now old enough join. It was genuinely so touching.”
“Players have been playing together as much as they can between lockdowns, even when we couldn’t run coaching sessions, they’re so passionate about badminton and I think it’s helped them get through this terrible time. But now we’re looking to kick on and get more and more people involved, Badminton is so beneficial for both mental and physical wellbeing, so we’re delighted to be back running full sessions with coaches involved again.”
Last week saw the launch of Badminton’s The Big Hit week, which saw Badminton England clubs host a series of events across the country in order to get members back on court and playing after the pandemic, while seeking to introduce the sport to a host of new faces.
Dan Bethell and Krysten Coombs, who won silver and bronze medals respectively where badminton made its Paralympic debut, have highlighted how important this participation can be given the complexities over the last eighteen months.
Coombs reflected: “The Big Hit is really important. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get back into badminton and get back on court after the tough times we’ve had. It’s just great to see para and able-bodied players in the badminton community getting the chance to be back on court.”
"We know sport can be life-transforming,” said Bethell. “The power of sport is incredible. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, when you step onto a badminton court it’s a level playing field and it’s just about meeting amazing people and becoming healthy. Through The Big Hit we really want to spread that message to people both disabled and able-bodied, show them that it’s an amazing sport and I really encourage everyone to get down to their local club and give it a go."
Julia believes the brilliance of Bethell and Coombs on court in Tokyo will have a lasting impact at their club – with members already dreaming of shining on the world’s biggest stage.
“Anyone who saw the Badminton at the Olympics and Paralympics will have been inspired by it. People are always amazed when they see badminton played at that level, it’s so fast! The sport is fully inclusive and we want to see as many people as possible enjoy playing with friends and family.”
Badminton England is working to get as many public facilities across Sussex open as soon as safely possible, in order to get players, clubs and coaches back on court soon.
To get involved at a club near you, and to find out more about The Big Hit week, visit www.badmintonengland.co.uk