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Air badminton eager to follow in the footsteps of beach volleyball and 3x3 basketball


SOS – responsive organising of sports
Slagvaardig Organiseren van Sport (SOS – responsive organising of sports) is the name of a project – developed by several medium-sized sports federations and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports – that should help smaller and medium-sized sports federations become more responsive and better equipped to anticipate changes in society. To start with, twenty sports federations took part in the SOS programme. Over the next six months Sport Knowhow XL will feature a series of articles on how those sports federations experienced the programme, describing, among other things, how one federation executed the change process, the effects and any follow-up steps. Previously we published part 1 (with the cooperation of the Dutch handball association) and part 2 (with the cooperation of the KNCB (Royal Dutch Cricket Union). This is part 3: The change process of Badminton Nederland.

by Leo Aquina | 25 June 2020

"Our main objective was to promote badminton”, says Mathijs Deken. As the manager Marketing and Research, he was responsible for the organization of eleven outdoor Badminton Festivals in 2019. With those festivals the federation followed the initiative of the BWF, the world badminton federation, which with Outdoor Badminton had developed a new variant of the sport. As part of the Slagvaardig Organiseren van Sport-project, the Dutch Badminton Federation saw the festivals as an opportunity to create new dynamic within the federation. Under the name AirBadminton, the outdoor variant should eventually gain a status comparable to beach volleyball versus indoor volleyball.

Badminton Nederland was the first national federation that got to work with AirBadminton as developed by the BWF. The international federation designed a special shuttlecock, and modified the rules. Deken: “The new shuttlecock is less wind-sensitive. This means it is easier to play the game outside, even up to wind force 3. Of course, you try to find natural shelter from the wind, but the weather impacts the game, like it does with tennis, for example.” But there are more differences compared to the indoor version:


“The game can be played on different surfaces, but the court’s dimensions are about the same as indoor. But there is a dead zone: a two-metre area behind the net. If the shuttlecock lands here, it is considered a fault. It changes the dynamics of the game.” The scoring system is still the subject of much experimentation. “During the national open championships, for instance, we want to do a team relay, with consecutive doubles, triples and mixes. Every time you get 11 points, you start a new match, but you build on the points you scored.”

“While we were organising the first festivals, the badminton world federation was still developing the sport and the branding”

Official sport
The introduction of outdoor badminton came at the exact right time for Badminton Nederland. “The SOS program is actually separate from AirBadminton”, so Deken. “As a federation we wanted to be more responsive, and sought to gain exposure for the sport. That was the reason to organize those festivals. They gave us a real edge. While we were organizing the first festivals, the badminton world federation was still developing the sport and the branding. The name AirBadminton was not launched until June 2019, but already in May we held a festival in Middelburg, where the AirShuttle was used. Because we got in on it early, we could give feedback to the BWF. Both the participants and the clubs working with us on the organisation of the festivals were very positive about the game. That is why it was decided to introduce AirBadminton as an official sport.”AirBadminton-2

Close to members
With the twelve festivals (the one in Tilburg had to be cancelled because of heavy weather), Badminton Nederland had concrete events to organise, living up to the name of the SOS program (responsive organising of sports). Deken: “We organised the festivals together with the clubs, and for them, this was new too. Thanks to that close cooperation we, as a federation, came closer to our members.”

Badminton Nederland benefited from several aspects of the SOS programme. “The guidance helped us to see this as a business case. How do you go about that? The Brown Paper Company gave us a concrete step-by-step plan. It was important also to go this SOS route together with other federations. All federations have their own projects. By sparring with other federations, you can learn a lot.

 “We have managed at least to reach different target groups”

Change in culture
But did the organisation of the festivals actually cause a change in culture at Badminton Nederland? Deken: “We have started to really innovate, which is something we had never done before, in the Netherlands. We got outside. Literally. If you want to jump on the trends in sports today, that is something you have to consider. Many sports took the game outside. Beach volleyball is the ultimate example, but 3x3 basketball has meanwhile also made it to the Olympics.”

In concrete terms, everyone really enjoyed the festivals. Deken: “We got a lot of positive feedback. It is difficult to determine if and how many new members the clubs and the federation will gain eventually. We are currently still collecting data. But we have managed at least to reach different target groups, both people who were not familiar with badminton and players who played outdoors for the first time.”AirBadminton-3

Happy accident
AirBadminton has proven an escape route for indoor badminton in corona times. “The festivals, the national championships and the tournament circuit are on hold”, Deken explains. “But we have a club tour and clinics. And within two weeks a hundred clubs registered.”

Although the coronavirus has put a stop to the festivals, Badminton Nederland is still working on developing AirBadminton into an official sport. The SOS programme has been completed, but with the help of the NOC*NSF innovation fund, the federation works on an online platform with its own branding. Deken: “At you can read all about the sport, and there’s an online store where you can buy the AirShuttle and other products. Not so much as a means for us to make money, but first of all to make the sport more popular. We have our own slogan, Always and Everywhere. And the online store is a low-threshold means to market the items you need to play. Because we keep control, we can offer sets to clubs, schools, municipalities and community coaches.”

“If we take the sport seriously, we need serious trainers"

As Badminton Nederland is keen to bring this new sport to maturity as soon as possible, the federation has already developed a course for trainers. Deken: “If we take the sport seriously, we need serious trainers. We have developed a module, and meanwhile the first trainers have had level-1 training. Of course, we are still at the infancy stage, but we really want to turn this into a big thing.”

Does Deken have any tips for federations considering applying for subsidy for a SOS project? “Take up the challenge and be open to change. Make sure you absorb all and take away what you believe is right for you as an individual or as a federation. The Brown Paper Company’s route is not the bible, but it is a tried and tested method that could be very valuable to a federation.”

For more information: AirBadminton, always & everywhere

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