Lauren Soodeen 1200

Lauren Soodeen may no longer be chair of St. Margaret’s Badminton Club but she remains the heart and soul of the Tooting-based institution.

Soodeen has spent half a century with St. Margaret’s, with her force of personality and trademark humour helping the club blossom to over one hundred members.

She recently celebrated 50 years of service and attributes her lengthy tenure to the friendships formed playing a sport so close to her heart.

She said: “Badminton’s a good sport for fitness, but it’s also so sociable.  My best friends are from badminton.

“I would do anything for them, and I know they’d do anything for me.  We have a shared interest in badminton, and such a long shared history together.

“They’re the reason I stayed with St. Margaret’s all these years.”

Soodeen’s badminton beginnings can be traced to the words of a neighbour, with the then-23-year-old parent in search of an activity to spend her evenings.

It would be the start of a journey that has so far lasted 50 years.

Lauren Soodeen (1)

She added: “I was at home all day with two young children and needed to do something in the evenings. My neighbour suggested night school and the options, I remember, were basket-weaving, wrestling, and badminton – so you know which one I chose!

“Once I’d worked my way through beginners, intermediate and into advanced, the instructor said that I was ready to play at club level.  So, at 24, my friend June and I started touring badminton clubs, and we eventually settled at St. Margaret’s

“It was very strict. Games were taken very seriously, and you had to wear all white – not just for matches, but for club nights, too. June and I were called into a committee meeting once and told off for giggling on court!”

Soodeen went on to flourish in the capital, forming St Margaret’s first women’s team and eventually captaining regional side Surrey Ladies’ Sixes to the 1995/96 Croydon League Division 2 title.

She added: “You should have seen us when we won – we were all crying on court! We celebrated by going to Bruges for the day though the new(ish) Channel Tunnel!

“We went up to Division 1, and came straight back down, again – they were all young county players, and we were in our forties.’’

A born leader on the court, Soodeen was equally effective off it.

When Covid-19 struck, Soodeen was instrumental in convincing players to return to St. Margaret’s in the aftermath of the pandemic.

And though she no longer plays owing to her age, Soodeen can take pride in witnessing first-hand what she helped build and the friendships and bonds she helped create at the over 100-strong club.

She admitted: “I love that everyone playing in our club is playing the way we played – socially.

“They’re not just going to play badminton and coming home.

“They’re the same about that as we are. We hold a Family Day every year for players, their family and friends. Seeing everyone have a go and understand the social aspect of the club – that’s the most important thing to me.

“Have a go.  If you can hit the shuttle over the net, then you can play!  Give it a try.”

Top pic: Lauren (second from left) with (L-R) Rachel Kiernander,  Sarah Witts and Veronica Hammerstone 

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