21 May, 2024

“A couple of medals would be lovely,” Rich Morris says with a wry smile.

Badminton England’s para badminton head coach is talking about Paris 2024, the pinnacle for a squad who all gunning for a prized place on the podium.

With Jack Shephard and Rachel Choong ranked No.1 in the world in the SH6 mixed doubles and Dan Bethell leading the rankings in the SL3 men’s singles, Morris is revelling in his role at the beating heart of the operation.

But his duties do not end with medalling at the Games, and Morris’ ultimate mission is to make the sport accessible to all beyond the summer and for years to come.

He said: “Paralympic medals are definitely a goal of the team here and I just want to scream and shout about it as much as possible.

“It’s the game that we know and love and with a few little permutations here and there, it’s an amazing watch.

“Ultimately, I would love for any player with any disability to be able to access our sport.”

The coach first tried his hand at playing as a junior and found his passion for coaching towards the end of his career.

One thing soon led to another for Morris, who quickly fell in love with giving back to badminton and now finds himself leading a second Paralympic charge following a fruitful Tokyo campaign which saw Bethell win silver and Krysten Coombs return with bronze.

He said: “The community is great, the support I get is amazing, the staff from media, finance and everyone are more than happy to help and friendly.

“Everything that we run, from the Four Nations to the All England, is a showcase. It’s a really good place to work.

“We’ve got an incredible team of staff and players who are all pushing forward on the same mission, I think that helps.

“Everybody is willing to adapt and learn for the bigger purpose and everyone wants to grow the sport and win some medals where we can.”

Morris believes adaptation has helped him and the wider coaching team get the best out of England’s para badminton athletes.

Managing load, tailoring training programmes and approaches to technique and bespoke strength and conditioning plans are at the core of Morris’ day-to-day.

He insists it is the finer details off the court as well as on it that have propelled his para badminton powerhouses to medalling across the world.

He said: “You’re adapting to that for the same result as the able-bodied programme, just to maximise performance.

“The generic way of coaching is not always the right way, I’ve found.

“When a player has a wheelchair or you’re coaching a short stature athlete, the game is different. Not just in how they hit a certain shot but how you train them to hit their certain shot.

“The main challenge we face is trying to get the balance right with performance.

“We’ve always had slight speed bumps in the road where we’ve overstepped in a certain area or we’ve under stepped and undercooked where we could’ve done more.

“In terms of technology, the data of a performance vest has been a huge development for us, where we can see the data and look at the numbers perspective.”

All the hours of hard work and intensity will culminate in Morris’ biggest tournament with the squad to date at the 8,000-capacity Porta de la Chapelle Arena in Paris.

And it will be a particularly pertinent moment should Bethell turn Tokyo 2020 silver to gold after missing out to Pramod Bhagat three years ago.

“I’d be disappointed if we don’t pick up gold for Danny,” he said. “That’s a big objective of mine, I’ve spent a lot of time with Danny, I’ve known him since he was 12 so for him to stand on that top step would be a really proud moment for myself and for the team.

“We’ve never played in front of 800 people, never mind 8,000. Para badminton has only ever had two Paralympic Games, Tokyo was behind closed doors and we got half of it.

“This for me is the biggest tournament to date and if we can go out there and win some medals, that would definitely be a goal of mine.”

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