Badminton England’s hugely popular National School Badminton Championships celebrated its 45th birthday earlier this year - and it proved to be a right royal bash as national champions were fittingly crowned from the 6,800+ teams who entered.
In a month of April, headlined by a Royal Wedding, 36 of England’s finest schools’ badminton teams arrived at the National Badminton Centre– home of the Commonwealth Games medal winning Team England squad – each harbouring hopes of winning their own national crowns.
Fittingly, three of those teams still in the mix after local, county and regional rounds came with a royal association of their own - King Edwards VI High School for Girls and Queen Elizabeth’s School reached the final five in KS3 and KS4 Girls respectively whilst King Edward VI Camp Hill finished fourth nationally in KS4 Boys.
Ultimately though it was another royal connection, the county of Royal Berkshire that provided champions with Reading School taking top honours in KS4 Boys. It was another successful title defence for the boys having been crowned kings of the court in 2016 and 2017. It is now four back to back titles for this Reading team having progressed through KS3 as champions to complete a KS4 hat trick. Only Upton by Chester High, the all conquering KS4 Girls team – can match such a feat in the past 15 years.
The Reading School did not have it all their own way though with The Manchester Grammar School running them close in the gold medal match to take silver following a 3-2 scoreline whilst Gordano School were worthy winners of bronze.
There was a familiar name too on top step of the KS4 Girls podium with Aylesbury High School, unbeaten throughout, being crowned champions – adding to the KS3 title so impressively won in 2014 at Sherwood Forest.
With reigning champions The Westgate School opting to England at the World Schools Games in India, the KS4 Girls competition saw Truro School collect silver for the second year running whilst regular finalists Chelmsford County High School for Girls took bronze.
In the KS3 Boys age group, it was finals day newcomers The Webber Independent School who took top honours but credit must also go to Silverdale School as the highest ranked state school. The Coopers Company and Coborn stood proud on the podium in third.
Like the boys event. The KS3 Girls trophy went home with a first time champion, this being Walthamstow Hall School from Kent who dropped just one game en route to the title. And like the KS4 bronze medal heading to Chelmsford, Colchester County High School for Girls took a silver back to Essex showing off the strength of the county’s junior badminton scene.
Arden Academy, champions for the past two years, just missed out on a hat trick, collecting a third place from their latest final.
The 2017/18 finals weekend of the National Schools Championships, in partnership with Babolat, were played out on the courts used by Olympians and the England squad – something that adds to the experience for pupils, some of whom are taking their first steps into competitive badminton.
Reading captain, Dillingham added: “It’s really cool knowing we’re playing on the same court that the England stars play on every day”.
And making it a truly junior badminton experience are an army of young officials who officiate the championships – from umpiring through to managing technical score software. The Championships remain for the young people by the young people.
Having started life in 1972 under the guise of ‘Top Schools’, Badminton England’s National School Badminton Championships continues to be a big draw for secondary schools across the nation.
The 2017/18 season saw player entry exceed 40,000 pupils in 8,000 team for the second year running and organisers believe more than 1 in every 3 secondary and middle schools across England are now entering the Championships.