Some six years ago a tennis group at a local school metamorphosed into what is now the badminton group of the Burnham-on-Crouch U3A. This transformation occurred because the tennis group spent more time in picking up tennis balls than they did actually hitting them to each other and having a rally. It wasn’t until winter when the school offered them the use of their badminton courts that they realised how much more they preferred playing that sport.
The group meets throughout the year, weekly on a Tuesday afternoon at the local sports centre. The first thing that struck me was what an enthusiastic and friendly group it is and I was made to feel very welcome. There are currently around 14 members with the ladies only just outnumbering the men and of course, as with all groups, not everyone turns up at every meeting. The second thing that struck me was the improvement in racquets since I last played some 30 years ago; mine being with a wooden head and theirs made of super alloy or with a graphite content; it was suggested that I could sell mine on eBay with the implication being as an antique! A member had just bought himself a new racquet from a local shop costing just under £19 so it is not therefore a big outlay to start playing this sport. Group leader Molly Mapes offered me a more modern racquet to play with, which I declined as I am quite fond of my ‘antique’. I am certain that if any U3A member would like to try playing this sport a suitable racquet could be found for them on their first visit. Also the first visit is free of charge but normally group members pay £1 toward the cost of the hall and shuttlecocks. Out of choice they play with a medium (middle) shuttlecock which, as the name implies, is neither fast or slow, the skirt nylon unlike in the ‘old days’ when they only came with cork tips and a goose feather skirt.
All games are played as doubles and during the afternoon pairings are mixed up. There are no set rules for who plays with whom but it just seems to evolve amicably with everyone happy to play with or against whomever they end up with. I was impressed by the concentration during play with plenty of praise ‘good shot’, ‘well done’ and ‘bad luck’ and no criticism at all. Some of the rallies were quite lengthy after which nobody on court could remember who had served or from where – a bit of an age thing! They said it would make life easier if they could have video coverage or a scorer! It all made for a very happy afternoon.
The group would welcome more players so if there is anyone who would like to join don’t be shy I know they will make you as welcome as they did me and if you are thinking to yourself that you are too old I think you will find you are not.