Last week we could finally start to see light at the end of the tunnel, as courts reopened across the country and junior organised badminton activity was once again permitted.
As of the 12th April, where facilities are open, juniors have been able to get back on court, one-on-one coaching has resumed for both juniors and adults, and one household or support bubble can also play recreationally. These are critical and welcomed steps back.
As society begins to gradually reopen, and we eagerly await the return of our senior clubs, our sport can begin to rebuild, and participation levels start to rise.
One club which has enjoyed a return to its courts, is Uphill Junior Badminton Club in Avon. Running two sessions, ages 5-11 and 12-17, there were 36 juniors in total who returned last week.
Following Badminton England’s Return to Play guidance, 10 coaches and volunteers across the two groups ensured the sessions were safe.
Head Coach and Junior Club Organiser, Mark Edwards, said: “It’s great to have all the kids back on court, there was plenty of pent-up energy and enthusiasm and the kids treated it as if we had never been away.
“We have a great family feel at our club and with a big mix of children from across the local area from different schools this was the first time they had seen their badminton friends in over four months.
“Although out of our normal season I felt it was important to get back on court as we need to retain and encourage all our young players as they have missed so much over the past 12 months. I’m happy to say the enthusiasm and willingness to return from the players, parents and coaches has made the setting up of the sessions and the successfulness of them very simple.
“We even gave all the children easter eggs as we missed our normal March end of season tournament and trophy presentation which went down a treat!’’
Nine-year-old player Katherine Dormer added: ‘’It’s great being able to play again and practice my smashes! I’ve really missed playing over the winter’’.
Parent and helper, Juliet Dormer, said: “It’s fantastic to see the kids back on court, having fun with their badminton mates and enjoying the game. Lots of energy at our first night back from a big group of youngsters of all ages.”
Giles Dunning, Badminton England’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “It’s been a difficult 12 months for anyone playing and involved with badminton but it’s great to see courts open and players playing.
“Throughout the pandemic, our focus has been on getting players back as quickly and as safely as possible. The fact we have so many people back on court already gives us confidence that we can build back stronger.”
It is not just our grassroots players and coaches that recognise the importance of children being able to return to court as quickly and safely as possible.
With just a few months to go until the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games, our England squad often reflect on their time at their junior clubs and how that helped shape and guide them.
England freelance coach, Nathan Robertson, said: “It is so good to see coaches on many levels back working with our talented young athletes and also with the adults who are wanting to make improvements for when local club badminton leagues restart.
“We have missed seeing busy, energised sports halls all over the country, so it is great badminton is back being played and coached.”
England player, Lauren Smith, said: “It is so exciting and also a huge relief to see so many of our juniors back on court.
“Borders Badminton Club was where I found my love for playing and also made life-long friends. I hope they all enjoy every moment back playing.”
We understand there are still challenges and we continue to work with government on the next steps of easing the lockdown and what that means for badminton. A key focus for us is to work with all those that provide courts to ensure that as many are open as soon as is possible.
We cannot wait for the thousands of you who haven’t been able to play to get back onto court.
Please let us know if you are back playing or when you plan to return using our clubs & sessions survey.
You can also use our places map to show us where you are back on court!