Is the game passed down from generation to generation now losing out to other sports?
It’s a game you may have played out in the garden or on the beach in summer. For one of the female players we met at the Cramic vs Marlborough Ladies League fixture, it was the game played as a child with her grandparents, parents and siblings, on the patio with a court marked out in chalk lines and a net left permanently in place.
Current players love the sport, the exercise, the social aspect, and the opportunity to play in a local club as a family. But participation figures suggest worrying trends for players exiting the sport and lack of new player recruitment
At the National level, the Sport England Active People Survey for the period April 2014 to March 2015 highlighted a decrease of over 35,000 in 14-25 year olds participated in the sport on a weekly basis compared to the October 2013 to October 2014 period.
At a local level, the Leagues that Cramic and Marlborough compete in have reduced significantly since the mid-1990s to reflect the decrease in the numbers of teams that Clubs can form on a weekly basis. To be specific, there were 4 Ladies Leagues of 6 teams, and currently there are 2 Leagues of 5 teams.
The picture is similar for the Mixed Leagues which have reduced in that same time period from 7 Leagues of 6 teams to 3 Leagues of 6 teams.
Addressing the issue is a key part of the role of Badminton England, and there are a number of levels of performance and types of activity for the approximately 170,000 players in England. It’s also clear that schools have a role to play in promoting as part of GCSE PE modules and broaden the player base.
The fact that the No.1 Mixed Pair in England, Chris and Gabby Adcock, is a world class husband and wife team highlights both the strength of the sport as a family activity, but also the need to engage and excite additional players from non-Badminton families to enjoy the fun and fitness benefits of this traditional sport.