How to Assure the Survival & Prosperity of Your Badminton Club

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In my patch of South Gloucestershire, at least two badminton clubs playing in leagues have closed in the past year after a lengthy period when the organised, club-orientated game in England has been in steady decline since its zenith in the 70s. I imagine many clubs all over the country are experiencing a similar fate.

The reasons are many and varied – competition from other ‘sexier’ activities like Zumba, Pilates, the gym, cycling and dozens more; changes in lifestyle with players unwilling to commit to regular competition and the travel and time this may involve; long-standing club members not exactly welcoming less experienced and less able newcomers etc.

BUT THERE IS A WAY TO INCREASE CLUB MEMBERSHIP

It goes like this. Last summer, I was approached by Tetbury Badminton Club in the Cotswolds to coach a group of beginners/improvers at the beginning of the season if they could get enough people along. The club was losing members and was in danger of going under. Keen individuals in the club set about publicising a free taster session and follow-on coaching. They circulated flyers door to door and wrote a piece in the local newsletter.

The result was around twenty people aged between 14 and 60 (most of them beginners) turning up for the initial taster session. Most returned for two hours’ coaching which I led the following week. My main emphasis was to increase confidence and hitting consistency, employing a wide variety of fun activities and mini games and competitions.

I continued this theme for six more sessions (which averaged around 16 players attending) and also concentrated on essentials such as basic movement and footwork, low serve and return, clearing to the rear of the court, tight drops, fh/bh drives and net shots etc.

At the end of the sessions around 13 new players joined the club (at a reduced rate) putting it on a sound footing for the future.  Even though they lack the experience and expertise of many of the established players they are given a chance to play with them from which they will benefit considerably.

Everything considered, members both new and old are happy with the initiative. The newcomers have rapidly improved and taken up a new healthy and active sport – perhaps for life – whilst the established members are happy to see the club thriving again with many more people coming to club nights.

 

Recommendations for Clubs to Increase Membership

  • Advertise as widely and efficiently as possible in the local area when you are having a free taster session with follow-up £5.00? per evening sessions for, say, four weeks
  • Ideally, try and enlist the services of a local badminton coach to lead these sessions
  • If a coach is not available, club members should discuss how to make new players welcome and provide some basic ‘coaching’ mainly by demonstration and simple drills to encourage consistency, variety of shots and, most importantly, develop confidence. Games which newcomers play in could become ‘coaching’ games
  • Offer a year’s membership to those who wish to join the club (perhaps at a reduced rate for the first year)
  • Continue to monitor the progress of the new players and coach/help where necessary

Recommendations for Badminton England to Support such Initiatives

  • Open up a dialogue with all registered clubs as well as unregistered and casual clubs/groups
  • For those badminton clubs and groups wishing to increase their numbers, inform them of the recommendations above
  • Institute a club-coaching qualification which can be awarded to club players by completing a straightforward, relatively simple on-line course which would outline the most important steps to help progress a beginner/improver into performing more consistently and skilfully

 

Roger Stroud, BE Level 2 Coach