January

Badminton Coach Andy Cooke receives his MBE from Wills

Having been involved in badminton for the past seven decades, Cooke became the first professional badminton coach in Scotland in 1977.

The avid sport fan coached a whole range of players including those who played recreationally, as well as at the highest level.

Badminton Scotland chief executive Keith Russell is just one person who Cooke coached when he was a junior and by coincidence Alastair Russell – Keith Russell's dad – was the reason the badminton legend got into the sport.

“My mother used to babysit Alastair when she was younger,” he explained. “Time passed and my mother noticed he became Scottish champion and she said that she used to babysit him.

“We went to the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh to see him play when I was only 13-years-old and I didn’t know about badminton.

“Alastair invited me to watch him at Kelvin Hall and I enjoyed it. Later on, when the family moved to Grangemouth, I got invited to the local club, so I went along and played.

“Being a stranger in a new place, it was something to do and it was convenient at the time plus I enjoyed it.”

Cooke began coaching Joanna Flockhart in 1976 and after a few months more and more players began to ask if they could join the group.

Flockhart went on to win bronze at the World Championships in 1977 and silver at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the mixed doubles with Billy Gilliland.

The right attitude was an attribute Cooke looked for in his players, as well as implementing fitness techniques he had learned while playing other sports such as football.

“A player who would give me 100 per cent on the badminton court, that’s really what I wanted from anybody who came to me,” Cooke said. “I was really making good players better because of the fitness training.

“Being involved in other sports at a reasonable level I had been training for every sport and the knowledge I got from there developed into the badminton training.

“There wasn’t a lot of coaching when I started and now there’s so many professional coaches in Scotland.”

And the 82-year-old brought in the new decade in style with a trip to Buckingham Palace to be presented with his MBE.

Having his family by his side one of the high points of the weekend but Cooke made sure to acknowledge all the players he has coached in his career and dedicated the honour to them.

In the picture is Andy's three children: David, Margaret Alison and Alistair (current coach at Andy's Badminton classes at Grangemouth Sports Complex).

 

“It was a tremendous honour to receive my MBE at Buckingham Palace,” Cooke said.

“I was the recipient for all the work that my players have done throughout the years. They deserve the honour and I only helped them out a wee bit.

“It meant everything to have my family there, that was another highlight, considering I was so dedicated to the sport while they were growing up.

“It helped to make it a lovely weekend. It was a tremendous day out and a real honour.”

 

We caught up with Andy at the Scottish Open last year, where he told us about his career and what he loves about the sport: