We are very fortunate on the mainland to have good transport links to attend the Scottish Open. Many only have opportunities to view world class badminton on screens at home.
On the weekend of the Scottish Open, the Isle of Barra inhabitants had a badminton experience of their own. As the only way of reaching the mainland is by ferry from Oban or flight to Glasgow, many adults and junior are hindered from experiencing mainland badminton in terms of competition and coaching.
I jumped at the chance when I was invited to the island to assist them. With my experience of working with very young children to get them started in badminton, I was positive I could make a difference.
I was joined by Bruce Aitken of Oban – he travelled over by ferry and I flew in a little plane from Glasgow airport – to deliver a coaching weekend on the island.
Already in place on Barra are regular training sessions, clubs and ‘ladders/leagues’, but with a limited player base, they welcomed some ‘external’ influence.
Welcomed with open arms at the airport, I was taken straight to the badminton hall – three courts joined onto the local school - to get started with the youngest ‘first hitters’. Bruce arrived later into the second session to lend a hand with the groups.
Different children and adults came in constant succession Friday afternoon and evening and all day Saturday (Bruce and I were trying to look up the Scottish Open results between sessions).
There was a range of children in terms of age (6 to 14) and ability (complete beginners to their own development squad), and also a good number of adults. In total 36 children came to the sessions, as well as 12 adults.
Really well attended considering it was a holiday weekend on the island and there are only just over 1,000 inhabitants on the island!
Everyone was so keen and eager to learn. They were given various activities and worked in different ‘stations’. Even the adults were up for multi-shuttle and other punishing single-shuttle routines, although some didn’t make it back on the Saturday due to sore legs.
Bruce and I mixed in with some doubles games and were challenged to some singles, where we offered tips and advice (which will probably backfire on us on our return trip).
I was touched by the gratitude and good attitude of all the players. The children in the development squad have been over on the mainland for some Highland Squad training and some ranking competitions and junior leagues.
Their plan is to practise locally some of the things we worked on and attend further events – they intend to prove that even players on the most remote of areas can still play, improve and compete and have fun!
We look forward to welcoming them on home turf.
Report by Laura Muir
Photos by Prancing Jack Productions