Credit: Salman Hossain Saif via Unsplash

The Glasgow Guardian’s Sport of the Month series opens with Tash’s favourite sport badminton.

Badminton. An underestimated sport, both for its technical difficulty, but also for its sociability. I am biased; badminton is my sport and has been for many years. In my opinion, it is one of the best sports to play if you’re just starting out as a beginner or have played a significant amount. Guan-An Chen, this year’s club captain of the University of Glasgow’s Badminton Club, has summed up the sport in three words: “fun, friendly, family”.

My parents insisted that I had to play a sport as a kid, starting off with tennis because my mum played. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the ball due to the sides of my glasses when I had to hit across myself, and constantly got hit in the stomach or swung my racket way after the ball had bounced past me, resulting in the more upwards nature of badminton catching my attention later on. My early sessions were coached by ex-England player Lee Clapham, who ended up being my coach for many years. He was great with players of all ages and abilities and his sessions were always fun. Badminton became my sport of choice, even when I finally got contact lenses a few years later.

I was asked to try out for Derbyshire, my home county, and a lack of girls in badminton (and, sadly, sport generally) meant I was selected, even when my technique was still pretty awful. I have represented Derbyshire since I was 10, in numerous county tournaments and leagues, until I transferred to Devon for a year, whilst studying at Exeter. Badminton was my life as an undergrad: I ended up running the BUCS team in my final year and most of my closest friends have come from playing badminton, both at home and at uni.

But even if you’ve not played badminton before or only played at school,  it is the best sport for meeting new people, getting a sweat on, and being part of a community. Due to the casual nature of most clubs, you can usually purchase a membership and attend as many or few club sessions as you wish. It’s also one of the easiest sports to pick up due to the shuttle flying above you, rather than coming at you face-on. The badminton club, like all other sports societies, runs regular socials. For me, the weekly socials I went to every Friday as an undergrad helped me get through the stress of essays and tons of reading. More informal pub trips after club sessions are also a common occurrence within many badminton clubs.

But don’t be fooled, badminton is also awfully technical. But once you’ve mastered the flick of the wrist, racket pronation, and split step, high-performance badminton is an incredible game to play, and watch. It’s fast, explosive, and powerful. You’d also think competitions are super quiet like tennis matches played at Wimbledon. But please, do not compare badminton to tennis. Badminton tournaments are often louder and slightly more informal – I remember banging on baking trays with wooden spoons at the under-17s inter-counties tournament when we forgot to bring drums one year.

Some of my best friends are badminton players. Some of my best memories – the funniest, most competitive, most exhilarating – are from badminton or the socials affiliated with badminton. The sport has made me a better communicator and taught me a number of life skills, particularly being (somewhat) gracious when things don’t go my way. Without this sport, I would not have had so many opportunities thus far in my life. If you want a sports society that’s fun, friendly, and will become your family, who supports you through your ups and downs, badminton is the one for you.

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