Coach & Volunteer Spotlight: Jill Smith

By Lanarkshire Badminton

When and how did you first get involved in badminton?

I started badminton at 4 years old as my Dad played and introduced me to it. This involved playing in the living room and garden – many lights were hit!

We also had access to Lanark YMCA where badminton was a popular sport. My Dad ran kids clubs and I joined in. Once I got into secondary school (Lanark Grammar) that provided opportunities to represent Lanarkshire at SSBU events.

I remember at 12 years old getting the bus from Lanark to Motherwell where I got a lift to Bellshill on Saturday mornings to attend Lanarkshire Schools Squad training which was coached by Jimmy
Philips. From here I started attending a county squad and I recall making my Lanarkshire County Team debut at 15 years old and began to compete in the Junior National Tournament circuit.

I also trained at Airdrie Sports Centre under the watchful eye of the late Alistair Morgan. In 1981, I had the opportunity to represent Scotland at the European Junior Team & Individual Championships along with current Badminton Scotland CEO Keith Russell!

What current roles do you fulfil within badminton?

I still play when I can on a Tuesday evening and enjoy competing in Masters tournaments (due to all
this activity I have just had a hip replacement and just easing myself back into competition).

My main roles as a volunteer include being Director of Coaching for BASE and Group Convenor for
Lanarkshire Badminton Group. As part of my Badminton Academy Social Enterprise (BASE) role I coach/run the junior sessions at Rutherglen and Lanark.

What sort of things does this typically involve?

The role within BASE primarily involves encouraging kids to get involved and enjoy the sport. From
there we aim to develop and grow the sport.

Currently there are four Junior Badminton Clubs that BASE operate with around 6-7 sessions across Lanarkshire per week – East Kilbride, Hamilton, Rutherglen and Lanark. There is quite a bit of organisation and administration which includes managing bookings/payments, t-shirts/kit, tournament entries, affiliations to Badminton Scotland whilst keeping parents informed and up to date. It can be a lot of work at times, but it’s very rewarding when you receive appreciative comments and feedback from the parents.

My role within Lanarkshire Badminton Group as Group Convenor and Junior County Team Coordinator involves chairing meetings, representing the Group at Badminton Scotland meetings,
helping at events and trying to coordinate/manage Junior teams at various events including SSBU
Inter-Area competitions.

I enjoy the team camaraderie and being supported by people from a variety of backgrounds and expertise in many fields such as finance, marketing, legal matters, coaching, administration and business.

What do you enjoy about being involved in the sport and volunteering?

It has kept me focused and active as I like being busy. I also find it rewarding having the chance to
give something back.

One specific example that comes to mind involves a young person in one of my clubs who has a condition which makes it difficult for him to integrate. His mother has commented on how he has stuck with badminton as in the past he has dropped out of all other sports/activities.

It is really pleasing to see how this child’s confidence has improved, he has developed a passion for badminton and has fun in a comfortable environment. There are various factors contributing to this including the other participants in the session, but it is nice to know that we are offering that opportunity. Also, Parents often say its great to get their kids active and away from screens.

Why did you take up volunteering?

Since I have retired I now have more time and that has allowed me to commit quite a bit to
volunteering. I have always had a connection to badminton and for me it felt a natural thing to do. I
did qualify as a PE teacher many years ago and as I only taught for a very short time I sometimes
think this is my opportunity to work with children and fill that gap.

What skills do you think you require for volunteering?

The main attribute that you need is the drive to get involved. A basic knowledge at least in
your chosen activity is beneficial along with good communication skills and patience. In this
field you need to be comfortable working with others and be a good team player.

What do you think the benefits of volunteering are?

I would like to think we are offering more opportunities for people to get involved/play badminton. Self-satisfaction is also notable and can create a chance to develop your own skills and knowledge. The ability to share new ideas and good practice has been valuable with other volunteers and coaches.

What do you like the most or admire about the sport of badminton?

I think the physicality – like many things it looks easy until you appreciate the size of the court, the
strength and accuracy required along with the tactical skills. I find the tactical challenge of the game
very interesting and it’s a great sport for coordination and keeping you fit & healthy.

I have lots of friendships that I have made through badminton over the years and have recently started having lunches with girls who I started playing with when we were U14. Furthermore, I believe it is a very accessible and affordable sport which can be played by anyone.

Do you have any particular hobbies or interests outside of badminton?

I generally enjoy the gym and fitness classes. I like to spend time with my family, ski, cook/bake
and walk my dog. My ambition is to see as much of the world as possible so holidays are a top agenda item, fitting them in around masters competitions and kids clubs. I am looking forward to a trip to Asia soon – a part of the world I have yet to visit.

What has been your highlight and favourite memory in badminton?

In 2019 my partner, Steve Thomson and I won a Silver medal at the All England Masters in the Mixed
Doubles. Perhaps not a highlight as such but I think I can class that as a favourite memory more

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get involved in volunteering in the sport?

Just get involved for as much or as little as you can manage and give it a go! Feel free to get in
touch with Badminton Scotland or ourselves at Lanarkshire Badminton Group if you want find out
more about any opportunities.