Grassroots Coaching Study – Campbell and Sandra

In this coaching week, we wanted to take the time to highlight how important the coaches in our community, from grassroots to elite, are in keeping our sport going. Motivating players and developing them to the best of their ability is just the beginning of the great work these coaches do and it is appreciated at the highest level.

Today we meet Campbell Wilson, our Relationship Manager and Cambridgeshire Country 1st Team player, and Sandra Dennis, Coach. Why not share your stories about your first coach with us on social media?

Player: Campbell Wilson

Badminton England Relationship Manager & Cambridgeshire County 1St team player

How did you get into badminton?

I started playing badminton when a local volunteer badminton coach started an after-school club at my elementary school.

Who was your first coach?

My first coach was Sandra Dennis. She still trains in the area (St Neots Juniors, St Ives Juniors, Junior County) and is very passionate about developing local badminton.

What made you decide to play badminton over other sports?

I enjoyed badminton more than other sports. It’s technically difficult but rewarding and requires a lot of skill and tactics. I also had a very passionate and enthusiastic coach after I got promoted to Junior County and a large group of friends.

What influence has your grassroots coach had on your badminton career?

Sandra taught me the basics and then referred me to Junior County Training when she saw my potential to grow. Without her efforts (especially considering she was a volunteer!), I probably wouldn’t be playing badminton at all.

What do you remember most from your first badminton experience?

I remember the sessions were always fun and Sandra did a great job taking up to 20 kids to a badminton court. Several kids from our school went on to junior county setup and I think that reflects their efforts.

What makes a good grassroots coach?

Someone, who:

  • Can convey the basics clearly and concisely
  • Brings a positive energy to the sessions
  • Communicates clearly
  • Really cares about player interest and focuses on player development
  • Gives constructive feedback
  • Recognizes when a player can further benefit from another coach at a higher level

Trainer: Sandra Dennis

Sandra is a volunteer coach in Cambridgeshire who started her coaching journey working at several schools and now mainly coaches at junior clubs. A few years ago she was instrumental in the regeneration of badminton in Cambridgeshire, involving a large number of children in the game and dueling as coach and team manager to bring a team to ICT for the first time in 20 years!

How did you come to coaching?

My love for badminton started at school when I managed to book 3-4 lunchtime lessons. Unfortunately after attending these sessions, badminton was removed from the curriculum so I didn’t return to badminton until I was 28! My girlfriend invited me to her club and after playing tennis I was a natural and went on from there by joining a club myself. Then when I was in my early 30’s I noticed that there were very few opportunities for children to learn to play and also a local junior club was collapsing. Because of my love for sports, I decided to get involved in coaching and it really went uphill from there! I did everything on my own because there was nobody to look after me at the time. I went to several schools to hold sessions – through the initiative of the school all schools played each other in a badminton competition and this increased their desire to have a coach to run sessions/after school clubs.

What motivates you as a coach?

I enjoy contact with people from all walks of life. I love seeing the kids enjoy themselves and get better. There’s nothing quite like putting together a program and seeing everyone’s achievements, no matter how big or small.

How would you describe yourself as a coach?

I consider my skills best suited to beginners/improvers and really like to create a positive environment and praise both effort and achievement. I believe that in every activity there is always something that every player does well. I like to think that I’m being fair, treating all players equally, and making sure every player gets a chance to work with me at some point during the session. I also like being organized and making sure activities are planned so that the session changes things up regularly to keep their attention. Some of the players I coached have come back to help me, which hopefully has a positive impact on my coaching style and the way I run my groups.

What makes a good grassroots coach?

I always remember my first coach saying, “The louder the kids are, the more fun they have and the more they learn.” I also think the following attributes are crucial;

  • Good level of patience – Juniors progress at different levels and some Juniors take longer to learn new skills
  • Aware of when things need to change to keep everyone engaged – being able to make progress or digress practices when needed
  • Good communication skills
  • Be ready to get involved

How do you ensure your sessions are fun while encouraging learning and development?

I like to stay in small groups so none of the players are standing around for long and I keep them busy as much as possible so if they don’t score they continue or wait to continue next. We also use the skills in fun game-based exercises like Around the World and One Knee, Two Knees, Out. We also have different drills that take place on each pitch to suit the players’ abilities.

What traits do you see in more talented players that you believe can further advance within the sport?

I think you can tell the players very early on that they can develop within the sport. They usually have some natural talent, whether it’s in the way they move on the pitch, their coordination or the way they think about what they’re doing. They also often express eagerness and want to improve, even if they don’t get it right away.

At what point do you recommend players to keep pushing their potential?

The club structure allows us to meet a variety of standards, with players progressing to different sessions as their skill improves. Our St Neots Club caters to the beginners and they only do one hour and when they are ready they move on to the Ramsey Junior Badminton Club which takes care of the more experienced players in a two hour session. At Ramsey’s we are looking for senior club players to help them take the next step. All players are moved through the path according to their skill level.

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