Surrey-based Swifts Junior Badminton Club celebrated their 10th anniversary as a Premier Club in style last weekend after being crowned Club of the Year at the 2016 National Badminton Awards, held on the sidelines of the YONEX All England.
The club, who in 2016 were three-time inaugural champions of the UK’s first ever National Junior League, collected the award from Sky Sports presenters David Garrido and Hayley McQueen at the prestigious event after emerging victorious from a shortlist containing Loughton Lodgers and Faststep Academy.
With a record ‘multi-cultural’ membership in excess of 130 – following significant growth in the past 5 seasons - Swifts are now recognised as one of the biggest affiliated clubs in England.
And the club were awarded the coveted title after a panel of expert judges recognised the sizeable steps they have taken both in the local league performance but also efforts to grow their player base, engage the local community and create new opportunities for players with little previous badminton experience.
“What Swifts have achieved by way of growing the game is nothing short of remarkable,” said a Badminton England spokesperson. “They have brilliantly balanced the needs and wants of their regular players with ensuring they continue to bring new faces into the club.
“There is a real longevity to their club operations from the level of beginner coaching and open door policy right up to the standards they show on the local circuit.”
The club, which boasts a trend-bucking 45% female participation at club nights, have extended their court time offer to accommodate a boom in members and run free taster sessions open to anyone with an inkling to play, no matter what standard of play.
“We now assure every member has the opportunity to play at least twice each week” Chris Thompson said. “We have even added a new 8am coaching session to cope with the number of people who want to play.”
That open door policy tied to a structured coaching programme is clearly paying off in terms of performance.
Swifts won 17 of a possible 21 divisional titles in the local Surrey and District junior league last season and have over 25% of their junior members now representing the county. They also boast a national age group champion in their ranks.
Judges were also impressed with the clubs’ desire to serve the local community. Their work with Hammond Primary School, increasing the number of U10 girl members getting on court, alongside the establishment of a satellite club at nearby Tomlinscote Secondary School were cited as key deciding factors in the judges decision.
Now the focus for the 30-strong volunteer club crew is on integrating court time for disadvantaged groups into their plans. Coaching courses are under way and older members are taking up opportunities to explore how they can help deep root the club’s infrastructure to continue the work being done.
This year, three members will be taking their Level 2 coaching qualification whilst others will specialise with additional training including disabled player sessions.
It’s this ‘badminton family’ spirit that see Swifts soar!
Badminton England would like to congratulate Swifts Junior Badminton Club on their achievement.
There are over 1,800 affiliated badminton clubs in England. To find one local to you visit: www.badmintonengland.co.uk/waystoplay