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This Coaching Week, we wanted to take the time to highlight just how important the coaches in our community from grassroots all the way up to elite are to keeping our sport going. Motivating players and developing them to the best they can be is just the start of the great work these coaches do and it’s appreciated at the very top level.

We spent some time catching up with our very own Rio Olympic bronze medallist, Chris Langridge, to hear just how important his first coach has been to his career. Why not share your stories with us on social media of your first coach?

How did you get into badminton?

My year 5 Middle School teacher, Jackie Cunningham, set up a badminton club at my school. She was one of the county badminton coaches so had a real passion for the sport and her and her husband, Alan, ran the local Mole Valley Junior Badminton Club. At that time, I was playing short tennis and tennis and this was really the route I was going down, as I’d never really heard of or had any experience of badminton.

What made you continue with badminton over other sports?

I went along to Mrs Cunningham’s (!) school club with my friends and I remember it being really fun and enjoyable. As a result of my hand/eye coordination that I’d probably picked up from tennis, I progressed quickly, and this made it even more fun and enjoyable. I could see my improvement, and this motivated me and made me want to return and get better. From the school club I joined Alan & Jackie’s junior club and here there were juniors of all ages to challenge myself against and improve further. From first picking up a badminton racket it snowballed rapidly, and I was soon playing matches for the club to get more competitive experience and then playing in tournaments around the country and being involved in the county and then England Junior Squad. All this progression kept my interest and made it exciting.

What impact did your grassroots coach have on your badminton career?

Quite simply I do not honestly believe I would be playing badminton without being introduced to the sport through Jackie’s school club. I enjoyed the school sessions and doing a sport with my friends and this is where my interested started. Through the Cunningham’s being a big part of the Surrey County Badminton set up they were able to spot early badminton talent and open doors to help players to commence and progress along their badminton journey. They knew where the opportunities were and did not hold players back, helping them where they could by encouraging further development at cell training and working with other coaches within the county. I feel really lucky to have started with the Cunningham’s as I always felt they had my best interests at heart. For the last 25 years badminton has been such an integral part of my life, it’s hard to imagine that without Jackie I may never have picked up a racket.

What do you remember most about your first experiences of badminton?

We had just one court at the school, there was hardly any space around it and the roof was so low you could not play any lifts or clears!! I just generally remember it to be enjoyable and fun and being eager to improve. Early on I did private sessions with Alan, and he provided me with a sound base to my game, and these sessions as well as group sessions at the club, made me want to continue to return. I remember the Cunningham’s always being very positive with my progression.

The inter club matches provided me with my first experiences of competition outside of playing people within my school/club and I remember a couple of thrillers against Matt Honey, who I ended up partnering for several years! As I progressed to representing Surrey, I also have fond memories of the bigger team tournaments such as RIO and ICT.

What makes a good grassroots coach?

  • A coach that can make the sessions fun and enjoyable whilst getting the basics across in an environment that is conducive to learning.
  • A coach that has high energy and is positive
  • A coach that is happy to pass their player along the pathway when they know they have taken them as far as they can (this could be having just taught them the basics).

Photo Credit: Badminton Photo