Sweatband spoke to ex-professional badminton player and coach, Tom Wolfenden about badminton at the grassroots and the routes to getting your child into badminton.
Tom opened ‘First of all, badminton is such a great and underrated sport. For me it is one of the best, most exciting and physically demanding sports. Not only that but it is also really fun and very social too. I would encourage all parents to allow their children to try badminton’.
First of all, parents will want to involve their children in a number of sports and activities, whether this is to improve hand-eye coordination through racket sports or cricket, through to more traditional sports such as football and rugby. First and foremost it is recommended to involve your child in a variety of sports to improve all-round sporting ability.
Throughout this process, your child takes a preference to badminton. Lots of parents may want to take their children to badminton lessons or may want their children to progress their badminton, but just don’t know how to get started.
There are several benefits to badminton for children:
- Badminton is relatively easy to play due to the lightweight nature of the equipment
- Badminton is a great form of exercise due to the interval nature of covering the court
- Badminton develops base skills, including discipline, sportsmanship, coping with pressure, learning from mistakes and teamwork
- Badminton also develops positive mentality, improvement of temperament and is a great outlet for stress and anxiety
Tom discussed the options that parents have available to them.
Schools are an ideal way to try out different sports. Whether it be during P.E lessons, lunch time clubs or after school clubs. This is not going to change anytime soon as the UK government has recently pledged £320m to improve sport education in 2022, which will benefit the profile of a wide number of sports.
Tom discusses some feedback from people who he has coached ‘So many people who I meet tell me that they used to play badminton in school and used to love it! I’m not sure how many schools in the UK have badminton facilities. Over 1000 schools compete in the national school badminton championships. With that figure in mind, I would think that the number would be very high. I would say it would be in more secondary schools than in primary schools. If your children first try badminton in secondary school, they may be a little older than starting up through a different way’.
However, this does not mean that there needs to be a restriction on when children should start playing badminton. If badminton is not part of the curriculum and your child’s school does not have the facilities to provide a school badminton club, there are other options at your disposal, including local clubs and coaching.
There are a great number of junior badminton clubs all over the UK. A lot of these clubs cater for all different ages and abilities and are a great way to get children involved in the sport. Some of the clubs may have coaches focusing on skill and technique, and others might be more games and activity based. Your child will benefit from the social side by meeting new friends, learning new skills and most of all having fun. To find a Junior Club local to you, visit the Badminton England website or contact them for more information. Most clubs will already provide equipment for your child to use, and most clubs cater for children from the age of 5.
Badminton England offer several schemes:
- The Racket Pack (5-11 year olds) - this focuses on developing the fundamentals in a fun and engaging way
- SmashUp! (11-16 year olds) - this is largely provided within secondary schools either through curricular or extracurricular activities
Tom explains ‘Personally, this is how I got started in badminton. Both my parents and grandparents all played. My dad was the local junior club badminton coach and I started to go to the sessions. I then fell in love with the sport and couldn’t stop playing, and here I am now!’.
Another option is to find a badminton coach local to you. Most coaches will work with players of different ages and levels. Some will offer individual lessons, and others may already have group sessions which your child could attend. Both types of sessions are great to learn and enjoy the game. Most junior clubs will offer coaching as part of their schemes.
If your child particularly enjoys badminton or shows early promise or talent within the sport, a qualified coach to work with your child one-to-one should be considered. Different coaches will have different styles of coaching, however many will adapt to the requirements of your child and will offer a mixture of technique, skill and fitness within their sessions. A coach will quickly determine the skill level that your child is at and will propose the best route forward for your child to progress.
To find a local coach, again head to the Badminton England website to find a coach local to you.
When it comes to getting your child into badminton, you may want to forgo anything overly structured in the initial stages. Badminton is a highly inclusive sport and one that you want to help your child get started with. Get into contact with your local leisure centre and book a badminton court with your family. Most leisure centres will offer you equipment that you can rent, so you will not need anything at all. It also does not matter how good you are or if you have played before. Just book a court and have some fun with the family.Tom concludes: ‘There is no right or wrong way for you to get your children started in badminton. Everyone starts differently. Some then push on to want to play tournaments and climb the rankings. Others join clubs or just play socially with friends. The main thing being that everyone who continues to play, does so because they enjoy it’.