By Lanarkshire Badminton
For this edition of ‘Coach Spotlight’, we spoke with current coach and ex-international player Keith Turnbull from Larkhall, who gives us a glimpse into his early coaching experiences, his passion for developing people and how the lessons learned as a player has helped shape his philosophy and approach as a coach.
Q&A with Keith
When and how did you first get involved in badminton?
In Primary 5, the receptionist working at my primary school Glengowan Primary School, Betty Forsyth (who happened to be a Commonwealth bowler – she won bronze medal 1998 Kuala Lumpar) ran a school badminton club.
Larkhall Academy was a strong badminton school with a thriving school club programme which was taken by Lanarkshire legend Hugh Ainsley. There were many pupils who went on to play and compete at a national level including Russell Hopkins.
I also started playing at Larkhall Avondale Badminton Club which my mum and dad are still involved to this day – they have been part of club for 40 years. From there, I began to be coached at 12 years old by Tom Courtney. At that point I was competing in various Lanarkshire and SSBU national schools events.
When and how your coaching career began?
I started doing some work with South Lanarkshire Leisure around 2008 whilst still competing to earn some extra money.
This initially began with delivering after-school clubs in the Blantyre area and with various other schools including Glasgow Academy, Hamilton College, St Aiden’s High School (Wishaw) and St Andrew’s High School (Coatbridge).
Around the same time I was coaching with The Machan Trust who are a church based charity in Larkhall. From there I picked up my first clients on a 1-2-1 basis at Esporta (now David Lloyd Hamilton), including current Scottish internationalist Alex Dunn who was 11 years old at the time.
I also jointly setup and ran a club called the Lanarkshire Badminton Academy for 10 years until it merged with Badminton Academy Social Enterprise (BASE) who now operate the sessions.
What do you enjoy about coaching?
I enjoy being able to positively influence people’s lives and I like supporting players/athletes’ journey – particularly having a long term commitment from individuals, seeing players of all ages and abilities from a starting point as a beginner improving and progressing to a higher level in some cases to playing at an international level.
What skills do you think are required for coaching?
The important things for me in regard to coaching skills, include building trust with clients. Providing reasoning and explanation of the purpose behind why I may ask a player to perform a specific drill or practice is really important.
Further to this, explaining things in a way that each individual understands – tailoring my delivery depending on who I am coaching.
People management skills are key, with emphasis on coaching the person rather than the sport itself. This way you more likely build a stronger relationship with players/athletes which will allow trust to be built and a mutual respect is developed between player and coach.
At a performance level, you need be versatile as a coach – looking at the bigger picture (almost like a jigsaw) with supporting players/athletes with any other aspects of life not just badminton.
Are there any particular highlights within coaching career?
Coaching Alex Dunn from a young age at 12 years old up to senior level winning European Junior Bronze in Level Doubles and Silver in Mixed Doubles.
Supporting Rachel Andrew and Adam Pringle to win Bronze at U17 European Mixed Doubles.
In more recent years, a highlight would be coaching Matthew Waring from beginner level to current senior national player who was this year runner-up in Men’s Singles at 2023 Scottish Senior National Championships and recently gained his first senior Scotland cap at the 2023 European Mixed Team Championship Qualifiers in Milton Keynes.
I coached several of current senior national and development squad players and continue to work with many of these athletes still on a regular basis which I enjoy.
I guess another highlight has been assisting various of the Lanarkshire Senior County Team players in preparation for their Badminton England Senior County Championship League matches. It is pleasing to see the success of the team who gained promotion to the Championship from Division 1 North for this season.
I worked out that approximately between the players I coach or have coached previously have won around 50 National Junior titles – this also includes over 100 more tournament titles won in general including A Grade Competitions.
What do you admire most or like about badminton?
I like how it is the ultimate test of both physical and mental capabilities. It’s a fast paced game and it tests your full body.
I also like how social the game is at all levels it is a great activity for improving mental health, meeting new people, making friends and getting people out the house.
Badminton is a sport that caters for ages and abilities, which is evident in the popularity of masters badminton scene. It’s a really interesting sport with its variation and multitude of layers from different shots/strokes and tactics/strategy.
Hobbies outside badminton?
Spending time with my family – my wife Becca and two young daughters. I love playing golf when I can. I am bit of a petrolhead – love cars and motorsports.
Any lessons learned from your own professional career?
I played professionally and keen to pass on knowledge I experienced as a player to the athletes I work with.
From reflecting on my own career, as an internationalist for Scotland and double national champion I probably I did not work as hard as I could of and I am keen to pass on these lessons to my players so they do not make these mistakes.
I think the main challenge experienced as player was a maintaining a balance between training & competing and working, studying & family life. Hard work trumps everything else. The more I coach the more I realise this – there are no shortcuts to the top unfortunately.
What coaching activity are currently involved in?
Mainly my work is individual 1-2-1 private lessons although I have began assisting the performance team with coaching at the SSNS singles group once a week which I am thoroughly enjoying.
If you wish in touch with me, you can phone me on 07736071866 or email me at email@example.com
Do you have any advice to anyone looking to get into coaching?
Just go for it! It is very rewarding and one of the most satisfying jobs can do. The more you put in, the more you get into it.
I would recommend contacting Badminton Scotland to find out routes into coaching which could include signing up for a coaching course or shadow/assist are more experienced coach by asking to help out at a club.
Don’t be scared to ask for help, support or advice. Coaches are generally happy to share ideas and learning.