Jacob and James Barreto

The badminton community have continued to work together in 2021 to bring the sport to as many people as possible.

Through creative return to play programmes, engaging with clubs and players, and the impact of Olympians and Paralympians as accessible role models, the nation’s most widely played racket sport has welcomed new and returning players in circumstances which remain challenging due to the impact of Covid-19.

There will be plenty more exciting initiatives to come in 2022 but for now, let’s take a look back at five of the best grassroots programmes to have taken place this year…

Para badminton festivals

Dan Bethell, Krysten Coombs, Jack Shephard and Martin Rooke were part of a ParalympicsGB squad who inspired a nation in Tokyo during the summer.

And soon after their return to the UK, Badminton England staged a successful week of para badminton festivals across the country to celebrate the team’s success and attract new players to our great game.

Shephard and Paralympic bronze medallist Coombs visited the Sheffield Para Badminton Festival on September 19, when they met up with brothers Jacob and James Barreto, who both have a rare form of dwarfism known as Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia Congenita (SEDc).

The pair are looking to follow in Shephard and Coombs’ footsteps and play in the Paralympics themselves one day, as mum Kim explained.

“The boys first met Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs back in 2019, they were both great with them,” she said.

“They were then so excited watching them in action during the Tokyo Paralympics, which made Jacob really want to start playing again (after Covid).

“They then played with them at the Para Badminton Festival after Tokyo, which they both loved. Both were so excited, James had kept asking all morning when Jack (Shephard) was going to arrive.

“They even got the chance to hold the bronze medal Krysten (Coombs) won in Tokyo! Jack and Krysten were both brilliant again.”

Launch of Inclusion Champions programme

At Badminton England, we pledge to ensure everyone can access and enjoy our sport regardless of their gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, background or circumstances.

June 2021 saw the launch of our Inclusion Champions programme, which aims to create role models amongst our community to champion, promote and advocate inclusion within their local community.

Ten-time world champion Rachel Choong is among those to have taken on an Inclusion Champion role and she spoke to us in October about why doing so was important to her, alongside her existing ambassadorial positions with Badminton Europe, Sporting Equals and the Asian Sports Foundation.

Rachel Choong 1200x410 1

“I knew it was important to get involved in various roles and use these opportunities and platforms to help champion all types of inclusion, diversity and equity,” she said.

“Working with these organisations has helped me understand that I am passionate about promoting women and girls into sport, promoting disability sport and participation – particularly para badminton, and promoting racial equality in sport.

“The work the clubs and Badminton England are doing is great and hopefully that will create a real energy throughout England to grow the number of disabled players.”

Blackburn bounce back

As the country began to emerge from lockdown through the spring and summer, leagues across the nation had to be creative to attract new and returning players.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Blackburn and District Badminton Association, who put on two-hour long sessions for just £1 and soon saw their numbers rise from a handful to an average of 18-20 – much to the delight of committee member Andy Howard.

“It was very, very pleasing,” he said. “I love badminton, so it was a relief for all of us to see a full hall again and great to be back.”

Let’s Talk Badminton

Midway through 2021, we launched our biggest ever consultation with the badminton community and the response has been excellent.

We continue to listen and develop based on the feedback coming in and we are keen to keep the conversation going, as we continue to understand the challenges and opportunities clubs face, while helping to identify where our support is best placed.

Whether it’s specific Let’s Talk Badminton groups, monthly webinars or the ‘Coaching’ group on the Badminton England Resource Hub, there are plenty of ways to ensure your voice is heard and we’d love to hear from you.

Click here to find out more about Let’s Talk Badminton.

No Strings

This popular social programme restarted on May 17 and we helped ensure it was able to pick up where it left off.

Badminton England invested in partners to support the return of the low cost, fun ‘pay and play sessions’ as well as establishing some new sessions of our own.

No Strings Badminton (NSB) is fully inclusive and open to adult players of any age or ability.

We hope it will continue to go from strength to strength in 2022.

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