Having being brought up by two very keen tennis and badminton players, I’ve always been involved in racquet sports. In fact my dad still plays tennis for Lancashire Veterans over-70s.
I started to play both sports and soon realised I was better at badminton. I played through school and college and carried on when I moved to Yorkshire 26 years ago, and I’m still playing in the Huddersfield league now. Badminton is incredibly physical but it provides a great release after a tough day in the office or driving the length or breadth of the country to meet clients.
The big change for me was becoming a coach. And to be honest, it wasn’t something I’d really thought about. I’d been taking my daughters Lynsey and Jess for badminton coaching and I got to know the coach, Graham Howe, pretty well. I helped out when I could and as I already played, Graham suggested I did my Level 1 coaching badge. So myself and a couple of others did just that. It was a one-day course and we passed. That meant we could officially help.
A while afterwards, Graham and his wife Linda wanted to wind down on the coaching – they’d been doing it for 30 years. They wondered if myself and a couple of colleagues would be interested in doing our Level 2 and take on the running of the club. So rather than see the current club fold, we took up the challenge to get our Level 2 badges. After lots of paperwork and four weekend training sessions at Sheffield University we passed and went on to set up Huddersfield Eagles Junior Badminton Club.
I work with two other fantastic coaches, Ron Mellor and Helen Calverley, and together we coach players aged five to 19. Our aim is to get everyone to enjoy badminton and then nurture whatever talent they have. Some may just want to play with friends, some will join clubs and we’ve been lucky enough to have a few players who’ve gone on to further coaching and played for Yorkshire.
We want to enthuse them enough so they want to keep playing and remain fit and active. Plus we want to sustain the leagues and keep a steady stream of players coming through.
But it isn’t just about the sport. Our reward is seeing young, shy children discover they have a skill and as their confidence grows on the court they become more assured. They make friends outside of school so their social and communication skills improve and they start to excel in other elements of their lives.
Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of coaching and giving something back to a great sport. Plus I’ve learnt a lot, which I can apply to business.
And it isn’t just the children who discover a love of badminton. We have had quite a few parents who come along and rather than sitting around watching they’ve had a go themselves.