EDITORIAL – And so the GB saga continues……

Mark Phelan is a regular contributor to Badzine International. He takes a more personal look at the current controversy that strikes Badminton England, a few days after Jenny Wallwork resigned […]

Mark Phelan is a regular contributor to Badzine International. He takes a more personal look at the current controversy that strikes Badminton England, a few days after Jenny Wallwork resigned from the program, hinting that players should be listened to.

By Mark Phelan. Photos: Badmintonphoto

I think at this stage there is not a person in badminton who has not heard something or had something to say about the ongoing saga over the unfortunate resignation of Jenny Wallwork for the GB badminton programme.

As a badminton-infused journo it is my job to write about these things but I think anyone who knows me also knows that there is nothing more important to me than the welfare of the most important people in badminton, the players.

This is why I have left my Internet-free hotel this morning 5 hours before play starts at the German Open so I can sit and write about the players involved in what most be a very difficult time for them.

Last year, of course, we had the pre-Olympic stress-filled Twittergate between some of the GB squad and it was no surprise to see Imogen Bankier head back to Scotland after London 2012 and almost twelve months later we have this terrible situation centring around the resignation of Jenny Wallwork.

For me, as someone looking from the outside in, it is clear that there have been few lessons learned from a player management perspective but what is also clear to me is that there are players hurting and it really pains me deeply to think of Jenny sitting at home with Nathan and the dogs shedding a lot of tears coming to terms with this whole situation.

There has been a lot written in the past week about lack of results for the huge investment made in GB badminton. Some have even commented about the odd freakish result here and there that has served to sustain the programme’s funding. In many ways, a lot of these conclusions may be valid but what I can say is that it is not for the lack of effort from the players.

I travel the circuit and I breathe the sport and I hate when I have to leave the hall and in the morning I find myself powering walking to get back to the hall. As a result of my freakish obsession with the game I find myself in most halls a minimum of 2 and sometimes three hours before start of play.

On most occasions when I get to the venue or while waiting for the first bus of the day to the venue the people who are with me are the players of the English or GB squads. There is no questioning the players’ dedication and determination to succeed and alongside the England/GB players I put their coaches.

As a unit, they are always first in the hall to train, those who may have lost in early rounds are back the next morning going through their paces on the court in an effort to be better and get better. There is no lounging in hotels, or treating a tournament as an excursion or break from the daily grind in Milton Keynes.

Added to this I can put my hand on my heart and honestly say there is not one of the Eng/GB squad who have ever refused me an interview even when times have been hard. Badminton has many ups and downs and as everyone in sport knows there are always more downs and with these downs come tears.

I have seen the tears but normally with this bunch of Eng/GB players the tears serve to act as a stimulus to train harder and be better.

The game changes every year. Even this last 12 months I have seen a drastic shift in the level of play in women’s doubles. I now enjoy watching women’s doubles and commentating on it. The commentary match between England’s White/Smith and Goliszewski/Michels was one of my favourite matches of the week at the German Open as it was out and out attack.

What all this means is that maybe, and just maybe, it’s the powers that be in GB badminton that need to revisit how they work with and involve players in their own personal development. Please listen to the players as every one of them are different.

I agree in most part with Chris Adcock’s extra-long tweet (you can read this by just following Chris on twitter) on the saga as there is no questioning the youthfulness of this GB squad and I suppose many people would be envious of the funding with the GB system but with this funding comes pressure to perform.

All I can say is that with players working as hard as they do and sacrificing so much for their sport I certainly see a bright future for this young GB squad. For me it may be a question of the many, and I mean many, legislators and behind the scenes people in the GB system finding the process’s to really support these players and lay real and meaningful foundations for their players going forward.

In the meantime, I will certainly be supporting team GB because the players’ work ethic deserves that support. I fell so sorry for Jenny Wallwork but something tells me that we might see Jenny again and it is a simple fact that some players are suited to federation control and some are not.

And as for my overall thoughts on federation-based systems, well that will have to wait for another day.

About Mark Phelan