In late 2018, Badminton England caught up with a Leeds LGBT club, ‘The Bad Mittens’ as they were paving the way for even more people to pick up a racket and get involved in badminton. This Pride Month, we interviewed some of their members, to understand how the club continues to be an inclusive setting for all. Adrian and Germaine are a married couple playing at the Bad Mittens club in Leeds, and we interviewed them to find out more!
Hello to both of you! Tell us, how long have you played or been involved in badminton for? When did you first join your club?
Adrian: Badminton has been part of my life since a toddler. My father played in a league in N. Ireland and I remember him going out every Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening to play. Inspired by my father I joined the junior club when I was 8 or 9 in the late 70’s. My history teacher ran a club which I joined playing lunchtimes twice a week. One of my roles in my career in mental health services took charge of a Recreation and Social Therapy Dept at Shelton Hospital in Shrewsbury in 1988. I led two one-hour sessions daily, 5 days a week for patients and staff to encourage physical, mental and social activity.
On moving to Leeds in 1990 I did search around for a club to join but none were available. It was only when I retired in 2019 that I heard about the Bad Mittens Badminton Club. My wife had been playing and she suggested I join which I did in April 2019 and have tried to attend two sessions a week. Needless to say, I absolutely love it.
Germaine: I’ve enjoyed and been interested in playing badminton for as long as I can remember. My parents were both keen badminton players and as children we’d play in the garden, on the beach or join them in the sports hangers in the RAF camps. It was always a family orientated, fun and sociable activity with others. Through adulthood, working and family life my interest in playing badminton remained, but it seemed accessible opportunities to play for fun with others were limited. I’d keep an eye out for clubs to join but would feel I wasn’t a good enough player to join one, and would be put off by membership or subscriptions fees.
After I retired from a 30 year career in nursing to become a carer for a family member I began to feel that all I was doing was caring for others, and I really needed to start caring for myself. I wanted to do something physically active, something sociable, and something local. I turned to badminton and began an internet search of clubs and opportunities nearby. I came across The Bad Mittens Group and it seemed to fit all the boxes. I contacted the organiser for more information and plucked up the courage to attend. This was over 2 years ago now – it really has been the best thing I’ve done for myself!
What a rich history of badminton experience! What would you say your favourite things about The Bad Mittens is?
Adrian: The Bad Mittens are a great bunch of people from all walks of life who have many things in common but particularly badminton. Since retiring there was always the risk I would become more isolated, so starting meeting new people and re-engaging in regular exercise became important. So, my favourite thing about our club is playing badminton, a sport I love, with fabulous people.
Germaine: My favourite thing about The Bad Mittens is its wholehearted acceptance of others. Regardless of identity or ability – the club accepts me for who I am. My favourite thing about badminton is the physical activity with others, the fun of the game, and the sense of wellbeing it gives me. I feel so much better in myself for playing and sleep so much better too!
Of course June is Pride Month – how are you and the club celebrating this?
Adrian: Unfortunately, Covid 19 seems to have put a stop to any club celebrations, as it has to any actual badminton. I look forward to any future plans for celebrating Pride when the climate permits this.
Germaine: Current lockdown and social distancing restrictions have certainly changed the way we celebrate. I personally will be reflecting on my time with The Bad Mittens over the last 2 years, my developing awareness of stigma and prejudice and will be challenging myself to make a difference. I will certainly miss the Leeds Pride celebrations which I joined for the first time last year – and will be looking forward to celebrating in the future.
Great to hear you’re keen to celebrate in the marches when you can! What impact would you say badminton has had on you individually, and has it helped you in any way?
Adrian: I have met a load of lovely people and am now getting regular exercise. I love playing people who are better than me and supporting people new to the sport.
Germaine: Badminton and being part of the Bad Mittens Club has had a huge impact on me individually. It has given me a regular opportunity for fun, friendly and sociable play with others. It is a great help physically and a tonic for my wellbeing. It has helped me to find who I am, helped build my confidence and sense of self-esteem. It has enabled me to make new friends, feel included, and given me further opportunities for socialisation and activity with others.
While you don’t identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, what would your advice be to anyone from the community who wanted to start to play badminton?
Adrian: Do it! Come along and try, you will meet great people and have a brilliant time.
Germaine: My advice would be simply not to be afraid – to go for it!
Brilliant – it’s so encouraging to hear! And finally – who would you say is your badminton hero?
Adrian: My Dad! He’s 85 and can still wallop me at badminton!
Germaine: I have always been impressed by the skills of watching South East Asian players playing competitively on TV. Since joining The Bad Mittens I am always impressed by the skills within our own group!
Thanks to The Bad Mittens Badminton Club, and to Adrian and Germaine for taking the time to complete this interview! You can find out more about the club on Twitter @TheBadMittens and on Facebook @BadMittensLeeds