MMU Sport offers free ‘turn up and play’ sport sessions for students and staff several times a week. With four free badminton sessions available, the badminton club began to feel the heat, as students opted for the free games organised through our Active Campus programme, rather than supporting the competitive club route.
Sam Duda, Club Chair, knew something had to be done if the University wanted to maintain a strong badminton presence in the BUCS league and approached MMU Sport staff and the Student Union for help. The solution was to create a new performance based strategy and bring in a professional coach to enhance the performance offering of the club, while using the social sessions of Active Campus to bring competitive and social players closer together.
Sam explains the club’s progression:
“We had a casual coach before, but the focus was only on the first team. We decided to rebrand our coach position as high performance coach and were lucky to enlist the services of Paul Stewart, who has an excellent reputation for coaching,” he said.
“Paul and the Club committee worked together on a new coaching programme as we didn’t want someone to just go away and make a plan that we have to react to. It needed to be a combined effort form the Club, the coach and the University to respect all different aims and interests.”
At first, the transition to the high performance coaching strategy was a shock to the system for the badminton players. Attendance numbers started dropping off and people were turning up late to training. Sam and the committee sought advice from some of the University’s high performing teams as they had gone through a similar development.
Paul was able to individual profile players and respect their level, giving them confidence, and focus on the areas they wanted to improve. Paul’s dedication to games improved morale as he came to Home and Away games and supported the club’s cause.
“We re-positioned the team,” Sam said.
“We wanted to make it feel like a privilege to play for the club and make people feel responsible about coming to training and engaging with the performance remit.”
“We also made sure that the social activities were not separate from the professional side. Our team and committee members engaged with Active Campus sessions so people got to know them and we were active on social media, to get people to come to the club matches and support us. We also had joint events, for example, going to the All England Championships together which introduced individuals to the badminton culture. This event was the first of its kind for the club and was really important – if you want to develop your club, you can’t neglect the social side.”
From a committee member’s perspective it wasn’t all plain sailing. Sam admits:
“There were probably times when the committee were making decisions that were not popular. You have to have a reason why you’re making changes and make sure you communicate that vision and the benefits,” said Sam.
“But then you have to stick to your guns. Keep people in the loop of the decisions you’re making and changes that are taking place, minute committee meetings and listen to their concerns. For example, we knew that people didn’t like not being part of one big family so we tried to incorporate the social elements across the Club as well as Active Campus.
While it was a difficult time, the Club committee can take comfort in knowing that it paid performance dividends; the two Manchester Men’s teams moved up a league – and the committee members have gained invaluable experience of making difficult decisions and seeing through change.