Junior Performance

Posted by Rob Short at 02:02 on 22 February 2018

Celtic Challenge 2018
National Performance Coach, Donal O'Halloran, provides a commentary on the first few months in his new role.

After some months in the job I have come to realise the passion and drive that is within Badminton Wales.  It has been a fantastic experience and I feel very fortunate that I am part of a sport with the ambition to make badminton a better sport throughout the whole of the country.

I started the role on October 2nd although I had been doing some work prior to this. I find the players in the Regional Academy South East a tremendously hard-working group and I enjoy watching them develop. I have visited the Regional Academy West once and saw the great work Huw John is doing there.  And while I haven’t been able to get up to the Regional Academy North so far, I was able to see some of the players during the half term training camp and Luke Tanner is obviously putting in quality sessions. It will be our responsibility to try to help continue their growth and provide BW with senior players that will represent their country with pride and ability.  The development of professionally tailored Strength and Conditioning sessions for all Regional Academy players will be added to their training programme. 

For those who choose not to target International representation, hopefully they have the will to play badminton with the same passion that they currently have. I am currently working on 10-week training plans for the Regional Academy South East.  I will post these on our website for all to see and follow if they so choose. It will give you an idea what it is I am working towards.

I believe the players are improving, and will continue to do so, so long as they keep putting in the work.  We now need to build on their performances and start to put in place a structure that will make sure every player in Wales has a place and can receive quality coaching.  Recent development initiatives have started to spring up. Shuttle Time is a wonderful introductory course and grounds in some key basic technical skills players need to maximise their potential. Satellite centres are being prepared which will help develop players who are not yet ready for the RAs. Some of the junior clubs are giving great time and effort in providing for their players. Mark in Newport and Ley in Vale and Penarth Juniors, are two examples of these clubs but by no means the only ones. There is a passion within these clubs that needs to be supported and helps them to continue to improve.  While there can be disagreement between BW and some people, the value of clubs like these cannot be overstated and I would like to work with them for the future success of all Welsh badminton. These clubs, and personnel, exist all over Wales and they will be a key part of the future success.  County Associations can provide a competition structure that is focused and social and helping to develop other important life skills. I would like to thank, each and every one, who gives up their time; and one day I will hopefully get the chance to do so in person.

So, from a Regional Academy perspective, what are some of the challenges facing us?  I recently got to see the quality of the current batch of European U-17 players during the European Championships in Prague. The quality of technical play was outstanding, from a range of countries.  While the traditional countries were still to the fore, the rise of so many others including Turkey and Hungary was clear. For Wales to compete at this level we need to make sure there is a high focus on technical training.  Technical footwork and hitting exercises must dominate the sessions. I believe there is too much focus on winning at a young age, rather than playing correctly.  And a Multi-feed is not the answer to every problem. To win at a young age is straight forward – hit the shuttle hard and run all day.  To win at senior level you need to be able to hit the shuttle from every part of the court to every part of the court; you need to do so while moving at a speed, an unbelievable speed (which is technically developed), and then with a mental strength that drives the performance. In my opinion, improving technique is the only way to make sure Wales can compete at a senior international level.

I recognise that a sole focus on senior international performance is not, and should not be, the goal for every single player.  BW needs to find a place for everyone. Matthew Hughes has a Vision for the future of Welsh badminton that is positive and has this in mind in his decision-making process.  His Vision looks at providing every player (of every ability) a place so they can enjoy badminton from the moment they pick up the racquet till the moment they decide to stop.  I believe in Matt’s Vision but it needs the support of players, parents, officials, volunteers, coaches, clubs, county associations, in fact everyone interested in improving Welsh badminton. It will take time and is not going to be straight-forward, but it is a development plan that is worth following.

As for me? I would like every child in Wales to have an opportunity to play badminton, and if they like it they have a place to go to get good coaching and suitable play for their goals. Those that are genuinely interested, well they become the next Welsh Commonwealth Champion and more.

I am looking forward to the challenge.  

Thank you.

Donal O’Halloran