Over the last three years, the ‘Melbourne project’ was undertaken by Badminton Oceania’s Coaching and Development Officer, Ian Bridge, in collaboration with Badminton Australia, Badminton Victoria and Paralympics Australia. The findings were released last year (delayed by the impacts of COVID-19), with results to aid the understanding and planning of Para badminton programmes.
Originally, the review identified that there had been initial growth in numbers following the announcement of Para badminton’s inclusion at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, however, participation numbers across the region appeared to have plateaued in recent years. A working group was set up, focussing on the city of Melbourne, to investigate and understand the various barriers to Para badminton participation and the opportunities which lie within.
Some of the ideas experimented by the working group included the introduction of a Para badminton state development squad, an ambassador programme, disability data collection, come and try sessions and female only events. The findings highlighted the importance of cross-sport collaboration and a bottom-up approach to ensure the exact needs of Para badminton athletes are catered for.
Two products of the project were recently utilised to implement a session for new and existing players. The relaxed and welcoming concept of the come and try sessions, featuring the Para badminton ambassador (Celine Vinot) saw eight players, five of which had never played Para badminton before, attend a session at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatics Centre – the home of Badminton Victoria.
The session featured some basic exercises around grips, underarm and overhead techniques, to ease the new participants into it. Meanwhile, Ian and Celine shared their coaching and playing experience to help players understand the rules surrounding Para badminton’s various disciplines. One of the participants, Bree Mellberg, represented Australia in wheelchair basketball at the recent Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. After retiring from the sport, she is looking to broaden her horizons, taking an instant liking to the sport and proving how the impressive transferrable skills make the ambitions of competing in Para badminton a very realistic prospect.
“Our first session of 2022 exceeded all expectations. We were thoroughly impressed with the turnout and attitudes towards Para badminton. Celine is a fantastic role model for the programme given her experience in competing and training for previous Continental Championships and international tournaments. Our next step is to retain the players and provide pathways for the players, like Bree, who wish to go the extra step in competition”, says Ian Bridge.
The come and try sessions will continue through this month, with longer term plans to onboard a coach and more players to assist with shuttlecock feeding and training drills.
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