Richard Morris congratulates Martin Rooke WH2 after European gold
Coaching through the pandemic
Date: 12/30/2020 3:38 PM
Published by : Bobby Griffin (BEC)

GB Head Coach Richard Morris reflects on how his Para badminton team has made it through an unprecedented year

A difficult 9 months culminated for GB Para badminton with a tournament they created, to give some focus to a team desperate for some sense of achievement.

Four years of hard work should have ended in September, with a huge sigh of relief and a massive sense of pride, having seen three or possibly four GB Para badminton players perform in the Paralympics. There would have blood, sweat and tears no doubt. 

This year has ended very differently to how it was once imagined and we interviewed England’s Richard Morris on what he believes to have been the major struggles in 2020 and how he and his team have overcome them. He had this to say

- we should be well rested after a holiday abroad right now, after seeing the team perform in Japan and after guiding our players through what might have been the highlight of all our career’s. It has been tough mentally to cope with that. 

- the players and coaches, the support staff, the families and everyone else involved in the journey of sending this team to the Paralympics have all been affected by the ‘goalposts’ that keep moving. Of course the health of all of these people has been the priority and I’m proud to say that we have managed the situation as best as anyone could, but I can’t hide the fact that as sportspersons we want to be out there on court performing, achieving and giving our all, said Morris

What have been the most difficult things to cope with, this year, we asked Morris?

- keeping motivation levels high, and focus. That’s been a challenge. It isn’t easy training on your own at home, and so we have had to put all our efforts into maximising what can be achieved with limited resources available. We have pulled together as much as possible as a team, that’s been key as well, coming up with fun and exciting ways to keep that sense of a group all working together, he said

- I don’t want to give too much away, but to keep up the sense of hard work and fun we’ve implemented lots of things. Many very successful and we’ll keep doing some of them even after this pandemic. There have been a lot of positives this year, that have come out of this situation, he added

Read: The President's 2020 recap

‘There’s nothing to aim for, so we created something’

We asked about the recent tournament that people have been talking about, and what the thinking was behind it? Morris said

- we created a socially-distanced tournament, months in the making. It was designed to feel important and getting the buy-in from everyone involved in the lead up to the tournament was crucial. We’re in the middle of twelve whole months without anything in the calendar and that’s a long time for players to go without a true, real measure of how they’re doing.

- we made this tournament feel important. The results were going to matter. The performances, and I mean every aspect from preparation, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology, stamina.. everything, was going to be reviewed and if the high standards we expect are not hit, there would be consequences, said Richard

That sounds ambitious given the current circumstances, how did you achieve this under the recent government restrictions?

- We’ve been back in our training venue for a number of months.. just about. Fortunately elite sport has been given just enough priority that we’ve been able to continue training and we’re grateful for that, he said

- each of the players training programmes was tailored to lead to this one week in December. We managed to bring in carefully selected players from our regional performance centers and universities to create a schedule of play for each of our athletes. Replicating a realistic tournament week for them, from group stage matches through to a final. And we managed to do so with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place. That took a lot of work and stress! He added

- we had friends and family in on finals day, crowd noise, representatives from our governing body, media interviewing all week and it really felt like an international competition. It was a huge success and I’m proud of everyone involved, we all learned a lot.

What’s next for you and for the team now, we asked the GB Head Coach

- we threw everything into this, and threw everything we could at the players this week. Again I’m proud at how they have handled themselves. We have Spain in a few months, assuming the pandemic doesn’t change that, but right now intend to rest, to spend time with family and enjoy the Christmas break! said Morris 

The Para badminton focus heads to Spain in March 2021 for the final qualification tournament in the Race to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Look out for updates on our normal platforms

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