Wednesday 8th February 2017, By Phil Gwyther
I've been doing two hour senior club sessions at Pembroke and Tenby for a few years now, but having now done about ten weeks of 2 hour sessions in Christchurch New Zealand, I'm beginning to understand why Kiwi Sport is so strong!! They are so intense about sport - even the netball gets major TV coverage. Including full coverage of the Kiwis just walloping the Welsh Netball Ladies by about 70 goals or more.
Linda and I are staying about 25 miles from Christchurch but all the local clubs close down for the summer so the only badminton we could get was a long drive to Canterbury "Masters" in Christchurch. These are all over 35 but all very experienced and with a population of about 250,000, I'm sure you will appreciate there are some talented players amongst them. They also run on a computer programme which one player on a weekly rota basis sits out and administrates.
Matches play for fifteen minutes - usually about a game and a third. All matches are stopped at the same time and the next matches are already on the computer screen, so there is barely time to take a drink before starting the next one. There's usually some players go straight on to court to start again so there's pressure on the older players, not to have a breather or a chat between games. As I said at the start of this, there is a competitive edge to it all, which only happens in a few of the strongest games in Pembrokeshire. It's all very friendly like at home - don't get me wrong - but there is a real determination to play fast and hit hard. Thankfully not everyone is brilliant, there are one or two weak players and there are also a handful of players in their late sixties and seventies who are much slower and rely on disguised slices etc but coming up against some experienced forty year olds can be very challenging.
The facility itself is also great to see. There are 8 courts and the hall is permanently set up for Badminton. Good ceiling height but part of the lighting is set between courts and quite low so takes a bit of getting used to. The only small drawback is that the lighting is computer controlled with no staff there in the evening, so the "Masters" book two hours and the hall is plunged into darkness precisely on the hour so you had better get your kit together fast after the last game.
What is fantastic is that the players have use of the lounge and bar upstairs with reasonably priced drinks and snacks. They stock and run the bar themselves so they can make a small profit for club funds and this way there is a very sociable finish to the evening. It's great that the local authority considers sport an important part of the services they provide for the public, but are quite happy to let clubs take charge in this way. If only Pembrokeshire County Council were this enlightened.
A number of players also go each year to the New Zealand Masters Tournament on the North Island which seems like a great trip and this year there is also the World Masters Tournament in New Zealand. One pair is going to the World event by mistake as they thought they were entering themselves for the New Zealand one. Definitely an age thing and I'm glad to see it can effect them just like it does me! These Kiwi's are only human after all!
Phil & Linda