Bringing Badminton Opportunities Back To Wirral
WBDG Aims & Objectives:
- Help provide access to the sport of badminton for players of all ages and ability.
- Promote and develop badminton on Wirral through the provision of coaching, equipment, facilities, publicity and funding where appropriate.
- Increase the number and quality of coaches and players participating in badminton on the Wirral.
- Develop and implement an appropriate pathway for junior and social players into Wirral Badminton League Clubs.
- Act as a local representative to assist Badminton England with future badminton development plans.
- Assist WBL and its clubs with development opportunities in respect of the above objectives.
The Wirral Badminton Development Group started life back in 2010/2011. At that time Badminton England were able to provide funding to enable a local coordinator based on Merseyside to pull together and coordinate a variety of initiatives. The aim was to get people in this area to pick up a racket and play the sport via the implementation of a Community Badminton Network in the borough.
This encompassed: inclusive, accredited clubs; the provision of pay & play sessions; running participation programmes; improving the provision of badminton in schools; and continued development of the WBDG steering group.
The Group at that time consisted of key interested parties representing Wirral Council, local Sports Funding and Wirral badminton league officials. The Wirral League were fortunate to secure a small amount of funding to use for assisting in development opportunities. To date some of this money has been used to pay for local Junior tournaments. Sadly however by 2012/2013 the funding for the Group had been reduced and Badminton England were only able to provide a regional coordinator representing the North of England. This meant we effectively lost a local hands-on approach to help set up and coordinate the various initiatives that were in the pipeline. By 2015 Wirral was no longer a priority area for development for Badminton England.
Developing an appropriate Pathway for Juniors into Senior League Clubs
Common feedback from the survey held in 2016 was a simple lack of junior players coming through the system and into our senior league clubs.
Junior players will be the future of our sport and our local league clubs. With the majority of our current league playing community well into the 45+ category our priority must be to increase the numbers in the 25 and under age group and notably in the 18 and under age group. Yes we recognise that we often lose teenagers to further education and university and there will always be that challenge, however we must try and encourage a steady flow of young players into our league structure who have the confidence to mix with senior players and improve their game via regular club and match play.
So where do we start?
Improve our local schools relationships.
Primary schools on the Wirral must be our first port of call. We need to advertise the sport within the schools with a view to running coaching within that school’s environment - currently Badminton England offer The Racket Pack (formerly BISI) - or we offer them a route to market via out of school hours coaching using our own junior club set up.
Secondary schools offer us the best opportunity by age to quickly populate our league clubs with the 11 - 18 age groups. Many of our local secondary schools have excellent sports hall facilities ideal for developing badminton talent. Schools who have the facilities but under use them for badminton need to be encouraged in the same way. As such the WBDG will be targeting these schools. We need to make the sport appeal to teenagers. Badminton England offer Smash Up, a no dress code, no formal training approach to badminton. This is a starter but we need to have a good balance of interest and quality coaching to enable a speedy pathway into our league structure.
Explore funding and expertise.
Funding these activities will always be necessary. As such the WBDG will be looking to maximise opportunities to either assist financially or draw on appropriate expertise to help Schools with their development progression.
Work closely with our existing Junior Club set up.
We currently have four junior clubs affiliated to the Wirral League: West Kirby, Bidston, Neston and Millbrook. A lot of hard work, time and effort is put in by those people running the clubs. We need to give them support and ensure that we have capacity to take on more juniors when numbers partaking in the sport begin to increase. We have been also discussing the opportunity of a Wirral League supported Junior Hub aiming to perhaps develop and fast track young players into the senior league.
Give support to our existing League Clubs.
It’s great that we have potential to increase our junior numbers but we need to also ensure that our existing League Clubs have the appetite to encourage young players into their ranks. We all follow learner drivers on the road and often frustrate in their ability but eventually learners become just as good drivers as the rest of us. The same in badminton. Club nights and match play should be seen as helping juniors along their pathway - short term pain for long term gain. They will after all be the future of your club. The WBDG will aim to assist clubs who want to increase their club playing numbers at both junior and senior level with any marketing, help and support as appropriate.
KEY DEVELOPMENT AREAS:
- Look to refine, modify and improve the quality of our existing league and club structures.
- Promote, develop and improve our current Cup competition offerings.
- Modify and enhance our social media strategy.
- Continue to improve and evolve our development opportunities working closely when appropriate with Cheshire BA and Badminton England.
- Ultimately increase the number of players and league clubs on Wirral.
Going back through the mists of time to the early eighties the Wirral had a thriving league structure with clubs entering teams in the Birkenhead, Wallasey and Hoylake Leagues. Remember some of the old club names; Hilbre, Upton, Wallasey St James, Cadbury et al. So why have the numbers fallen? Loss of interest in the sport; less parent playing club members introducing their children to the sport; costs of running a club; facilities just not up to scratch; competitive players just playing matches and not interested in supporting club nights. It is probably all of these and perhaps more. As a league we clearly need to modify, adapt and change our thinking process if we are to have a Wirral league for the next generation of badminton players. Our development cannot be undertaken by one individual. It will need a team effort to make things happen. The Development Group will not just be a static committee that meets up occasionally but a pro-active, fluid team who can be brought together based on expertise to tackle the key areas of change we need to make including improvements with social media, school relationships, coaches, funding, our own league structure etc. The WBDG will report back the the Wirral Badminton League periodically on development progress and will always welcome constructive feedback.
If you have any ideas or would like to help contribute in any way please contact Andy Meredith at St Peters BC (details on rear of the pdf brochure that you can download here).