When asked, Saints Badminton President, Hayleigh Edson to describe the sport of badminton in three words, her response was instantaneous – it’s “fast-paced”, “sociable” and “fun”! It is no surprise, that given the exciting nature of the game, our national perception of badminton is shifting from one of indifference to an eagerness to get involved in the sport.
Before university, Hayleigh was practically a stranger to the sport. Although, she had brief encounters with badminton during school P.E. lessons, she found happiness in practicing every activity she came across. The reality is, many young people across the nation only play badminton, as they are following in the footsteps and influenced to do so by family members. But not for Hayleigh. After trying out a plethora of “taster-sessions” in her first semester at St Andrews, badminton was the one that demanded her attention. It is true, this sport is gathering momentum, with clubs springing up across the country due to rising popularity. Maybe it’s time you considered your future in badminton.
There is a palpable buzz surrounding the sport. Badminton England recently launched an initiative- SmashUp- which is described by them, as a “modern mix of school mates, bass-line pumping music and big hitting badminton challenges that makes after school badminton court time a social hub”. Convinced yet? Hayleigh admits that this was a necessary response to rid the stereotypes associated with the game: “I think that over the last 10 years, badminton has developed a bad reputation as a sport which is populated by old people.” She agrees that for many, attending local clubs and watching people battle on court, boasting their weird and wonderful technique from the 80s can be intimidating for youths. Initiatives like this, geared towards the new generation of players, are a way to combat this. However, that is not to say, that badminton isn’t and shouldn’t be a sport accessible to all. In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, Badminton Scotland established relationships with a number of organisations in order to increase the diversity and reach of the sport. New partners included a number of Scottish prisons, the Boys’ Brigade, BEM groups as well as establishing local clubs in the Highlands and Islands to ensure universal access for all.
The power of television broadcasting is something all sports seek to harness. Following the near-continuous coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics, “snow-sport fever” plagued Britain, with a rise in visitors to dry slopes and indoor facilities being reported nation-wide. In October 2014, Badminton secured a major triumph, in its partnership with Sky Sports. The National Badminton League (NBL) was born, bringing with it, the promise of live action being televised each month from October-April. Hayleigh agreed that getting badminton on television was a “major success” and the response from the public has been even more encouraging. The event is extremely popular, often attracting sell-out crowds who come to marvel at a league which breaks the mould of conventional badminton, with a fresh game format, unique scoring system and emerging young talents engaging in thrilling battles. The NBL slogan- “The fastest sport on the planet just got a whole lot faster”- couldn’t be more accurate.
How does this impact badminton in St. Andrews? Hayleigh was surprised by the initial response badminton generated this year. “There were so many freshers signing up to the mailing list and showing interest in coming along to the sessions. The guys that compose our 2nd team are all first years which is a great development base for the club moving forward”. The badminton club hosts 4 training sessions per week and of these four, only one is designated to team practice- is this what makes the sport most appealing? Haleigh is proud that the club is truly open to all: “Mixing teams at training sessions means that everyone is together, both social players and team players. Some people may find that intimidating but it is how you improve.” It is evident that a great camaraderie exists within the club. A big focus is helping beginners develop and grow as players, in their skills, fitness and knowledge of the game. With the sports centre redevelopment in progress and the prospect of a larger sports hall, Hayleigh believes that Saints badminton success will only improve.
Hayleigh’s parting words are a rallying-cry for all potential badminton players to stand up and take part: “Badminton is for everyone. You don’t have to be a superstar. It is a sport that provides anyone who wants it, with many opportunities”. With new initiatives and more television coverage, badminton is looking to attract new waves of followers to the sport. Its intensity and excitement continues to ensure that it flourishes across the UK. The future is definitely bright.