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This Coaching Week, we wanted to take the time to highlight just how important the coaches in our community from grassroots all the way up to elite are to keeping our sport going. Motivating players and developing them to the best they can be is just the start of the great work these coaches do and it’s appreciated at the very top level.

Today we catch up with u15 County player Scarlett O’Grady, and her first coach Paul Pratt. Why not share your stories with us on social media of your first coach?

Player: Scarlett O’Grady

U15 Yorkshire County Badminton Player

Who was your first coach?

Paul Pratt

How did you get into badminton?

I was 7 years old when Paul came into my Primary School to coach various classes.  He invited my brother to come down to the local Junior Club and I asked my mum to contact Paul to see if I could come along as well.

What made you continue with badminton over other sports?

Badminton was the only sport I really enjoyed, and I didn’t like any other sport as much. Paul was a big part of my enjoyment of Badminton, he is fun to be around, patient and always has time to explain things (more than once, on some occasions), he calls them my ‘cotton wool days’!

What impact did your grassroots coach have on your badminton career?

Paul has had a tremendous impact on my badminton career.  He makes me want to be a better player and I know he really cares about me and the sport. He has already helped me accomplish so much in Badminton from school, to junior club, the Hull Performance Centre, playing for Yorkshire from the age of 9,  Badminton England competitions and to helping me qualify for my first Nationals last year. His support is unconditional and has literally spent 100’s of hours training with me. As a grassroots coach he knew when to pass me on to another coach to enable me to improve my badminton even more. Although I have moved on I always go back to Paul for advice and support and I always will because he has done so much for me and I value his opinion. He is genuinely interested in what I do. He is also my mixed partner in the local adult league, so he never gets away from giving me encouragement, support and advice.

What do you remember most about your first experiences of badminton?

I remember one of the first experiences of badminton was warming up in the assembly hall in my sandshoes and using a very small racquet and plastic shuttles.  Also hitting a shuttle attached with string to a wooden post. Paul made the sessions fun and I was always wanting to go back for more.

What makes a good grassroots coach? 

A good grassroots coach is having the patience and the commitment of wanting to spend time introducing children to the sport and making it a sport inclusive, fun and enjoyable for all, no matter what your age or ability.

Coach: Paul Pratt

  • Works in local Schools, at local Junior Clubs (Hull Badminton Club, Avenue badminton, East Riding badminton club) and at the Hull Performance Centre, working with the raw cell predominately
  • Feeds players into the Hull Performance Centre and Yorkshire Badminton

How did you get into coaching?

I started at Hull Junior Badminton Club as they were desperate for an adult to help at the session to keep the junior club going. I was making it up as I went along, trying to help by drawing on my own game and analysing what the juniors were finding difficult and trying to find a fix. Eventually I went on a Level 1 coaching course which was a revelation, the handbook is well thumbed through, I then attended as many locally arranged courses as I could and tried to talk to other coaches about how they overcame the problems I encountered.

Eventually I had to do my Level 2 as I was, by then, leading the session. When the Hull & East Riding Performance Centre was formed in 2009 my learning increased considerably from the 3 main coaches involved both practically on court and the discussions afterwards.

What motivates you as a coach?

People seem to enjoy learning new things and getting better at them so it’s mainly the joy on the players faces as they progress. Badminton is a fantastic social sport so witnessing the formation of friendships and the players working together as part of a squad/team is good to see. Giving them the confidence to walk into any school, college, university, adult badminton club whenever that is in the future and be made welcome. Getting to know players and their families is also brilliant. My overall motivation is being able to contribute to the above.

How would you describe yourself as a coach?

My circumstances have enabled me to become involved in coaching in primary schools. My learning broadened into developing ways of keeping a classful of kids in a small area with different abilities and outlooks to sport happy whilst they all learn the important core skills of racket carriage, moving, shaping and shuttle control with the target of enthusing them sufficiently to want to continue by coming along to a junior club. I can coach to county junior level up to aged 13 but my skills to add value to the player start to diminish after that. I can keep adding value to players to become adult club players after that age but not for them to become elite players. I’m a bit better than just a “basic standard” coach but my coaching skills are certainly in that area.

What makes a good grassroots coach?

The ability to keep players enjoying being part of a group developing their badminton skills by having many different practices to learn the fundamentals.

How do you ensure your sessions are fun, whilst still encouraging learning and development?

  • Working hard to keep the atmosphere friendly and positive at all times.
  • Mixing the session so changing between working all together, in small groups, with friends, with peers, or older ones helping younger ones on a carousel-based skill approach in both cooperative and competitive scenarios.
  • Hopefully showing I care about the individual, not just their badminton potential but their potential to grow into lovely people.

What attributes do you see in more talented players that you believe can progress further within the sport?

  • Coachability – the ability to listen/watch/do and then replicate
  • Self-motivation to want to come even if their friends aren’t there
  • Determination to master the task

At what point do you signpost players on to further fulfil their potential with another coach?

Once I’ve given as much as I can or if someone else can progress them quicker. 

What do you feel is the key to your success with regards to starting off so many players that have gone on to progress to a high level?

  • A combination of all the above.
  • Enthusiastic – if pushed for only one answer. Maybe wanting to come across as helpful, approachable, a badminton skill problem solver, happy to share my knowledge.

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