Badminton hopes Games will drive players’ return

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BADMINTON was once one of the major participation sports in the Island, but it has been hit hard by both the ramifications of the pandemic and people finding other sporting outlets.

Now it is looking to rebound with a central message that there is something on offer for anyone.

‘Lockdown has taken its toll on us, but we’re starting to get back out, getting a steady flow of new members, but it’s nowhere near the levels of where we used to be,’ said Jersey Badminton Association president Steve Le Roy.

One of their challenges is attracting younger people to the sport at a time where not only are there other competing interests, but parent’s disposable income is being hit.

But Le Roy said they were seeing the children of his generation of players starting to take up the sport, as well as adults who were moving to the Island for work.

At its peak, some 20 years ago, the Association would stage tournaments filling a weekend, perhaps with an A, B and C division with 15 or 20 people in each.

There would be players to fill singles, doubles and mixed doubles fixtures.

Now a men’s and ladies’ tournament could be staged in one night.

Equally, a lot of people coming through now prefer to play the sport recreationally rather than competitively.

‘People who are there enjoy their sport. I want to create a friendly and happy environment where everyone can come and join in and enjoy themselves. It doesn’t have to have a competitive edge all the time,’ said Le Roy.

‘You run the club for your members, you want to create an environment where they are happy to come, bring forward their ideas, it should be a happy community to be part of.’

On different nights at the New Gilson Hall on the outskirts of St Helier there are clubs for beginners and for improvers, pay to play has been popular while the club can lend out rackets for those who do not have equipment.

‘It’s nice to have people back, there’s something for everybody and whatever level.’

The NatWest Island Games in Guernsey next year is one incentive for players at the higher end of the sport to dust off their rackets and get involved again.

Le Roy is keen to see them at the club before the trials take place.

‘We put the notices out and some of the familiar faces are back up. Hopefully that will continue through to the trials and the Island Games,’ he said.

The plan is to select the team by the end of March before a period of training and a chance to work and play together.

Some of those who should make the team are away playing for their universities – something Le Roy said the club was immensely proud of.

Badminton offers a full body workout and being indoors can be played year round in a comfortable environment.

‘I’d like to see badminton back at the level we used to have and the interest we used to have,’ said Le Roy.

‘It would be nice to have the club nights and the friendly competitions in the league nights. Lockdowns are receding, hopefully we can get things back up and running. We need the numbers to make these tournaments and leagues work, we also need the buy-in and commitment from various members.’

Another ambition would be to have teams travelling to the UK regularly for competition.

There is also potential for a social corporate league. ‘Some people might think we’re a closed shop. That’s not true, we’re open to everybody,’ added Le Roy.

‘At the moment the numbers are growing constantly, two or three people a week are enquiring and signing up in our database. Hopefully, those people will come along and stay with us and enjoy their badminton.’

If you are interested in finding out more about playing badminton email or or call Le Roy on 07829 700466.

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