Roberta Cannell 1200

July 7, 2023

Over the last five decades there is barely a sport that Roberta Cannell has not turned her hand to, but when all is said and done, she kept coming back to badminton.

The Onchan native was recognised at the Isle of Man Sports Awards earlier this year where she received the lifetime achievement award – a fitting tribute after more than 50 years of promoting badminton, in particular, and sport, in general, on the island.

Whether it was darts, hockey, rifle shooting or even introducing pickleball to the island, Cannell has done it all.

Her first love was badminton though, and that is the sport that has kept her coming back all these years – always as a player, but more also as a coach and an administrator.

“I started playing in 1967, before most people were born!” she joked.

“I joined my club, called Fencibles and I am still a playing member. I’m secretary of the club. In 1981, I did my first coaching course and decided to start up a junior club. It’s still in existence. A lot of those children have gone on to play the Commonwealth Games, Island Games, county, so that is one thing I am very proud of.

“I never wanted anything out of badminton because I have had so much over the years, I just want to give back to badminton and hopefully other people will follow what I have done.

“It’s so friendly and it doesn’t matter what standard you are, there will always be somebody there to help you, to give you some advice. If you don’t want to improve, that’s fine, but they can give you some tips that might help you.”

While badminton is the perfect sport for competitors of any level, Cannell was a talented player in her own right – representing the Isle of Man at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, as well as twice appearing at the Island Games.

Having enjoyed plenty of success as a player, Cannell was eager to return the favour and has been doing so since the early 1980s.

She explained: “I decided that I’d got a lot out of this. I wanted to give back to the sport so I did my coaching courses, I also acted as a Badminton England tutor, running badminton young officials and junior help club awards in the secondary schools on the island.

“I have also organised the Manx Youth Games for 21 years, that’s the biggest sporting event on the island. We normally have 1000 children come together.

“I’m on the organising committee for all junior competitions and chair of the badminton association.”

So having been involved in volunteering for more than four decades, does Cannell have any advice for those who are keen to do the same?

“Never say no to any opportunity,” she answers.

“I would say have a go. I volunteered at the Commonwealth Youth Games that were held here. My job was to look after the players in the warm-up area. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I met so many different people. It was really, really great.”

After everything she has done to promote the sport over the course of her lifetime, it was only fitting that Cannell was recognised for her efforts.

Although, she had absolutely no idea what was coming when she attended the ceremony.

“I knew nothing about the award,” she said.

“I was brought to the sports awards under false pretences by my husband and my family. They had a video and the people were talking and I was thinking, that sounds familiar. Then when my son actually appeared in the video, I thought, oh God, it’s me!”

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