Turns out, I forgot my first experience with badminton. But a story we received from a friend in Lugazi, Uganda, reminded me.
You see, around the world, many children and adults have one thing in common: they started their badminton experience outdoors. Some eventually make it on to practice badminton indoors, but many don’t.
I didn’t, but for other reasons than lack of access.
In so many places around the world, people do not have access to proper training facilities, motivated coaches, and a supportive badminton environment. Therefore the experience of the vast majority will be limited to playing outdoors. I can’t help but wonder how many talents are lost because of the lack of proper training facilities around the world.
The impact of parents on badminton around the world
The Lugazi badminton kids, you are about to learn about, have something in common with most children who get involved with badminton. They are guided by their parents.
As I recall my first experience, my father took me to play at a “nature court” steps away from the home of my grandparents in Barløse (a tiny village in Denmark). I am pretty sure I enjoyed it. I must have. Because so many years later, I can still envision the “court”, the old wooden racquets, and the slow breeze.
Although my father never played organized badminton, he’s always loved the game. And that’s why he got the idea to take me to the nature court. (I refer to the court as a nature court, since it was “built” in a tiny forest. The court was surrounded by trees on all four sides).
Parental influence is also very much in play in Lugazi. Children in Lugazi are coached by parents or other adults with knowledge of the game. The adults themselves also enjoy the game of badminton on the two outdoor courts available.
Our thanks to Senthil Kumar who brought us this story. He is an Indian ex-pat living in Lugazi with his family.
What’s the badminton story in Lugazi?
At the moment, badminton is mainly enjoyed by the expatriate employees of SCOUL (they produce the famous Lugazi sugar) and Cable Corporation in Lugazi. It has become a popular activity for fun and exercise.
On a regular basis, there are around 10 children and 10 adults playing on the 2 outdoor courts in Lugazi. The courts are with concrete surfaces, but with flood lights enabling players to enjoy badminton after dark.
Currently, the Lugazi players use synthetic shuttles. They have not used the AirBadminton shuttles, which are specially developed for outdoor badminton.
The children also play at school. And some of them have even become school champions.
What happens to talented badminton players from Lugazi?
Talented players from Lugazi, have no other option than to seek organized training in far-away Kampala. Receiving professional training is key to talent development. Even for those who do not wish to compete at the highest level, training is crucial. The reason is that the more skilled a person is, the more enjoyable they’ll find the game of badminton.
The lack of structured training is a general issue in rural areas around the world. And it is a challenge in areas where badminton has not been given priority. A city the size of Lugazi has the potential to involve at least 800 children between 6-17 in organized badminton.
But without the right focus and commitment to expanding the sport locally, the potential will never be reached.
Resources and how to grow badminton in the city
In Lugazi visitors will find Uganda’s biggest privately owned, most scenic beautiful golf course (the Mehta Golf Course). So, naturally, golf is a popular sport in the city. But so is football – the city has 2 purpose-built football stadiums.
Volleyball is another popular sport. It is played at the volleyball stadium. Interestingly, baseball is also popular in Lugazi, as is weekend cricket for the ex-pats living there.
Are you thinking what I am?
Seeing how the city has given priority to the aforementioned sports, it seems there is an opportunity for badminton as well.
Imagine what could happen if a purpose-built badminton hall was erected in the city. A hall with – say – 6-8 courts, shower facilities, a physical fitness room, and a small cafeteria. Preferably one with solar panels on the roof capable of producing all the energy required to run the hall. (lots of sunlight hours in Lugazi).
We know that badminton is becoming more popular in Uganda. The country has been actively seeking to host international tournaments. This gives us reason to believe that a plan to grow the sport further is realistic.
Moreover, Uganda is home to a large population of Indian descent. Not as many as in neighboring Kenya, but enough to become a driving force in making badminton more popular in the country.
At Badminton Speak we are working on plans to help places like Lugazi explore the opportunities to grow badminton locally.