Unsung hero Banfield gives all credit to her fellow volunteers

Ladies only first group 800

14 May 2024

Claire Banfield does not want this piece to be about her, which is exactly what an unsung hero would say.

The 62-year-old is a valuable part of the Rossendale Badminton League committee, serving as the secretary alongside Nigel Holt, Michael Crilly and David Holt.

The retired English teacher is a fiend when it comes to filling in forms and generating press coverage but gives all the credit to the group of committed volunteers she works alongside.

“I’m an ex-English teacher so I do all the boring things that other people don’t like doing. I like doing them because I like words,” the Westholme club player said.

“Peter Wood, our president, is in his 80s and he has been a brilliant player and coach, and he still turns up to support our sessions, he’s the hero.

“We have a really brilliant fixtures secretary, Nigel Holt who basically does everything so I came onto the committee and kept thinking, what can I do?

“Because I like to keep busy, and I get bored quite easily so I found ways I could help.

“I’m just promoting the work we do. I looked at the local newspaper and could see it was really good but there was no badminton.

“Since then, every week I have sent 300 words and pictures to the local paper to increase coverage.”

One of the major successes the Rossendale Badminton League have seen is the progression of the Rossendale Juniors, which is now so popular there are separate primary and secondary age groups.

Additionally, the group has gone from being all boys to close to a 50/50 split between boys and girls.

The parents of the juniors also showed a keen interest in badminton, leading to the committee setting up a ladies’ only group in a church hall perfect for a one-court set-up.

That group has already swelled to 32 members and across their various initiatives, the Rossendale Badminton League is helping to make a real difference in its community.

She added: “Where we play in Haslingden, it is a lovely, rural area but there is not a lot of money or opportunities for the kids.

“What the assistant coaches have noticed is, the kids want to come, they really enjoy it. It is really easy and relaxed, if you don’t come every week it doesn’t matter.

“But the same kids are coming every week and they are bringing their friends and it is just building on its success.

“They love it, they are enjoying what they are doing, they are learning skills, they are working together and making new friends.

“We’ve kept the price really low but with how much the group has grown, we are now able to cover the cost of the courts too and make it self-sustaining.”

Part of Banfield’s motivation is to increase the number of women in the sport that she has been playing since she was a child, alongside her brother, sister and father.

“Most local leagues are struggling to get women on the badminton courts, into our leagues,” she added. “When people are short in their league matches it is usually because they haven’t got a woman.

“So the Ladies’ Only group was to help with that, I had no idea it was going take off like it has done.

“Some of them are totally new to the game, some played at school and others are coming back to the game and they all feel safe in that environment.

“It’s not just me doing this, we are the Rossendale Badminton League and we are all volunteers.

“All the captains of our clubs, the secretaries of our clubs, the committee members, every single one of them is a volunteer.

“I’ve played badminton all my life and I am retired now so I’ve got the time now to give back.

“Badminton has meant everything to me so I can give that back, but that is the same for every single person in the league. They are all doing for the sport they love.”

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