I first 'played' badminton at the age of about four at my mother's "housewives and househusbands" beginners club in south London where my grandmother had previously coached, but didn't play seriously until I joined the University of York badminton club, which I went on to chair. After moving to Sheffield, I joined Oakbrook in 2006, and became Secretary about a year later. I now live in Derbyshire with a wife who prefers swimming and two bunnies who prefer eating the wallpaper. When I'm not playing badminton, I've been known to play ultimate frisbee, hockey, cricket and a few other sports, and play flute and sing. I also do puzzles and play board games. Oh, and do some work sometimes, too, probably shouldn't forget that.

Badminton back on, on 20 May

We thought the hall would be off-limits due to exams this week, but we’ve been told that we’ll actually be ok for Tuesday 20 May after all.

So that means badminton will go ahead as usual this Tuesday, 20 May, 1945-2200, and every Tuesday after that until the end of August, until the main season kicks in again in September.  See you there – members and visitors all welcome!  (see post below for more details of summer badminton)

Summer Badminton: May – August

Oakbrook are running Summer Badminton from May to August to make sure we can all still remember how to play by the time the main season restarts in September.

Summer badminton sessions are the same as our normal club sessions, except for the following:

1) They are on Tuesdays only* (not Fridays).

2) They are from 1945-2200 (instead of our usual 1900-2200).

3) The fees are completely separate from the main season and are the same for both visitors and normal Oakbrook members: (a) £25 for the whole of May, June, July and August, or (b) £3 per session.

4) There is no “membership” for summer, so we are more lenient on the standard of players – this is therefore an ideal time to come along and try out the club in advance of the main season in September.

5) There will be only two courts instead of four, but they’re the white lines and there won’t be any matches getting in the way.

6) It will be** warmer, lighter and generally more pleasant outside for your journey back home afterwards.


* Note: Sessions are every Tuesday in May, June, July and August with the exceptions of Tuesday 6 May and Tuesday 20 May when there is no badminton at all because the school hall is being used for exams.  So don’t turn up on Tuesday 6 May or 20 May!

** It had better be, or I’m taking ‘summer’ back for a refund.

Brunswick C vs Mens Feathers

Brunswick C 9 -0 Oakbrook

Gavin B & Simon T | Tipue M A & Aamir K | Tom M & David W

Our final feathers match was rather a disappointment, and an anticlimax at the end of our season.  Not so much for the fact that we lost 9-0 (we’ve been on the wrong end of that scoreline a couple of times every season, and are quite used to it by now!) but more for the lack of enjoyable badminton played.  This was due to the exceptionally slow speed of the shuttles at Brunswick – which caused all our players problems throughout the evening.  The one upside was that their fastest smashes which we’d struggled to return in the last match were now much more easily returnable.  But the downsides were that we failed to get any penetration from our own smashes, our lifts kept falling a long way short of the back line, but most significantly we mis-timed huge numbers of shots, often having finished playing the shot before the shuttle turned up.  This all led to a lot of mistakes and shorter, less fulfilling rallies than we’d enjoyed against them at home a week before.

Brunswick’s players seemed happy enough with the slow speed, and due to being used to it were not finding timing problems.  All the games went the same way – comfortable wins for Brunswick while Oakbrook players took all evening to get used to the shuttles, with all three Oakbrook pairs’ scores getting a little better each rubber as they grew more accustomed to them.  We’d have needed another three games each to be more comfortable, and even then we’d have not come close to winning as Brunswick are undoubtedly a better side.  But we might at least have found it a little more fun in defeat.

By the end of the evening, Tom & David and Tipue & Aamir had identical scores of 74-126, with Gavin & Simon faring a little better less badly, taking their final game to three ends and finishing with 119-142.  Thanks to Tom and David for putting in a solid performance for us as stand-ins for Aaron and Glen.

Thanks also to all the main team (Gavin, Aamir, Tipue, Glen and Aaron) for their play over the whole of this year and of course our huge collection of substitutes too numerous to name – maintaining things over the course of the season while always getting out a team for the matches being definitely a club-wide-effort at times!

According to the current league table, while Brunswick and Rawmarsh take the two promotion spots and fight between themselves for 1st and 2nd, Oakbrook’s team have won half of their matches, lie third, and can’t be caught by those below – so actually in the top half of the league table – a rare achievement for our team!  Congratulations to all involved.

Club Tournament (no club session) – 1 April

Tuesday 1 April:

We’re holding our annual tournament on 1 April for Oakbrook Club members.

Those members who have signed up to take part – please make sure you’re there at 1900 prompt ready to start playing.

Everyone else – apologies but due to the tournament there is no club session on Tuesday 1 April, and therefore we are not able to accept any members who have no signed up for the tournament, and are not able to accept visitors on this day either.

Club resumes as normal from Friday 4 April and beyond.

Mens Feathers vs Brunswick C, 26 March 2014

Oakbrook 2 – 7 Brunswick C

Gavin B & Simon T | Tipue M A & Ibrar K | Jamie K & Glen T

Our final home game of the season, against Brunswick’s new C team.  Given their A team have won the league title 25 years out of the last 26, they may be a C team but they’re still pretty good, as proved by the scoreline.

First game was good for Oakbrook – Gavin and Simon overcoming a mid-game wobble in the first to take it 22-20, 21-12.  Tipue and Ibrar meanwhile made a consistent but insufficient 16-12, 16-21 in their first game against Calvin (formerly of Oakbrook, now playing at Brunswick) and his partner Jordan.  Jamie, kindly playing for the feathers team for the first time this year to fill a gap, was dropped in the deep end against probably Brunswick’s strongest pairing, and along with Glen who fortunately turned up to club night two minutes before he was due on court, to find he’d agreed to be playing in a match he’d forgotten about, struggled to a 4-21, 11-21 defeat.

The second round of games saw Tipue and Ibrar trying to add to Gavin and Simon’s victory; against that same pair, they took it to three topsy-turvey games, but lost momentum in the final game: 16-21, 21-14, 10-21 the result – I’d write in more about Tipue’s amazing defensive play and Ibrar’s deft variety of shots, but somehow I missed seeing any of their games, so you’ll just have to imagine that they played pretty well to get that close to a win.  Jamie and Glen were given a more realistic mission from Simon to get 21 overall in the two games, and this they managed, 11-21, 11-21, against Calvin and Jordan – their combined tight serves being key given the speed the two Brunswickers attack the shuttle – and Simon gave them a half-point for that although sadly it wasn’t allowed on the scorecard.  Gavin and Simon meanwhile started badly against the strong Brunswick pair of Matt (also formerly of Oakbrook) and his partner Paul.  Matt and Paul breezed through the first game, after which Gavin and Simon decided to ‘hit it in more’.  This seemed to have the desired effect, and although feeling all the way through that they were losing, somehow came away with a 10-21, 23-21, 21-16 victory.

The final round of games saw Jamie and Glen improve – as you might expect for a pair still getting used to playing together and still getting used to feather shuttles in general.  A result of 10-21, 20-22 not only saw them get another half-point from Simon, but gave a tantalisingly close finish and nearly took them into a decider.  Gavin and Simon, having previously won the game they felt they were losing all the way though, then lost one they were winning for the most part – unable to follow through on five game points in the first to lose it 24-26, they were made to look old and tired by Calvin and Jordan in the second game with Jordan’s smash from our poor lifts proving largely unreturnable – and 17-21 being the second game just as the clock ticked (somewhat past) ten – Gavin and Simon ruing their first game loss that would have given them a draw.

Overall not a bad performance against a team that play regularly with feather shuttles, and play regularly with a much higher standard of opposition than our Oakbrook team are used to.  On a particularly good day we might have snuck to a 4-5 loss instead of 2-7, but we have the opportunity to see if 9 April is a particularly good day when we play them again, at their place, for our final game of the season.  Thanks lots to Ibrar and Jamie for standing in for Aamir and Aaron – as always the support of the rest of the club is vital to us getting a feathers team out each match.  Also many thanks to all those who helped tidy up so quickly at the end, particularly Gavin who has developed an effective routine for tidying up the hoard of dead and half-dead feather shuttles into the correct tubes for me.

Westfield C vs Mens Feathers, 15 March 2014

Westfield C 7 – 2 Oakbrook

James S & Simon T | Ben A & Aamir K | Jack E & Ben J

A few ‘firsts’ from this match, as we were unable to follow up our excellent 7-2 win at home with a win away.

Sadly it’s not the first time that captain Simon has had only two of his regular team available for a match – with a mix of injuries and work commitments, only he and Aamir were available. But on this occasion none of the second team were available either, so it was the first time that the feathers team was filled two thirds with players more often seen playing for our third team in Plastics Division 4.

Another ‘first’ that was achieved before the match even started was the presence of all six Oakbrook players, ready to play, five minutes early at the start of the match. Punctuality not being a strong suit of ours usually, it was a pleasant stress-free change for Simon – regular team take note!

Westfield’s team were mostly super-trained kids, whose near-perfect footwork and racquet skills stood in sore contrast to our team’s collection of self-taught, make-it-up-as-you-go-along playing styles. This was most obvious against their first pair, where the whole Oakbrook team struggled to get momentum in any game. Usually we rely on youngsters making a decent number of errors to counteract their annoyingly good movement and skill, but there weren’t many to be seen, and between the six of us, we lost in straight sets 70-126 overall.

Their third pair contained their only adult, combining with a twelve-year-old: described by his coach as “one to watch for the future”. We weren’t that bothered about the future, as we were struggling plenty with the present. Probably our height and strength gave us a slight advantage over him, but this was of minimal help when his partner was a strong player too and lacking in neither height nor strength! The two of them together provided more stiff opposition, and although James and Simon went close, being 17-17 in one game before Simon turned useless and hit everything out, the Oakbrook combined attempt again ended in straight sets defeat for a total of 84-126. Nice as it would be to say that’s the first time our pairs have been beaten by a twelve-year-old, it’s not true!

Our only success came against their second pair, where there were two more ‘firsts’. It was the first time we’ve ever played against someone in the national team – in this case Jack Shephard, who is part of the England National Para-badminton squad and has won medals at international competitions. What he lacked in height he made up for with some deft shots and dedication to the cause – the ‘diving net shot winner’ is something the rest of us might consider adding to our repertoire. Partnered with another of Westfield’s youngsters, they took a 21-18 lead in the first rubber before Ben and Aamir made their size count, and went on to win it 18-21, 21-12, 21-11. James and Simon had a relatively comfortable 21-17, 21-16 win, but the match-up of the day was the very last rubber with Jack and Ben. The Oakbrook pair made a good start, taking a narrow 21-19 victory in the first game. This was matched by a 19-21 loss in the second. The third game was an epic with great play by both sides. As the score rose, the mistakes started to creep in, and a tense finish saw defeat for the Oakbrook partnership, 28-30 – the first time our team has had a game go to 30.

So overall a 2-7 loss, which, combined with our 7-2 home win, makes it a friendly 9-9 draw on aggregate against Westfield this season. Many thanks to James, Ben, Jack and Ben for playing for us when no-one else would, and to Aamir for not being injured or at work. Only two matches left for the feathers team now, both against Brunswick C team, which will undoubtedly be a challenge to end the season.

Mens Feathers vs Phoenix, and vs Rawmarsh, February 2014

Oakbrook 6 – 3 Phoenix

Aamir K & Simon T | Tipue M A & Glen T | Ibrar K & David R

Rawmarsh 9 – 0 Oakbrook

Aamir K & Simon T | David W & John W | Ibrar K & David R

Two matches in close succession for the feathers team in early February.

First we hosted Phoenix.  As always, Simon said at the start of the match it would be 5-4, because it always is against Phoenix.  Except for the first time in about five years, he was wrong.  Aamir and Simon got off to a good start, getting to match point against the Phoenix first pair – at which point Simon became useless and hit everything out, leading to a 21-17 21-23 7-21 loss.  The other two pairs followed a similar pattern against that first pair, of winning the first game, and losing the next two.

But against the other two Phoenix pairs, things were a lot smoother.  Aamir and Simon won both theirs in straight sets.  After going down 20-22 in one of theirs after a long gap watching, Tipue and Glen warmed back up to win theirs comfortably to fifteen or below, with a solid defence providing the base for winning attacking shots.  Ibrar and David, not to be outdone by the regular A-team pairings, also won theirs to 15 or below, except one blip in the middle game of a three-end rubber – between the two of them, the produced a really good variety of different attacking shots to keep their opponents working hard.

So the end result was 6-3 to Oakbrook – the highest win we can remember.  And to think it was closer to 7-2 than to 5-4!  Perhaps we’re getting better?

A few days later, Ibrar and Dave were called on again to play for us in place of Gavin (still injured) and Aaron (still on an oil rig in the North Sea).  But with Tipue and Glen unavailable also, we required our most experienced substitutes, David and John, to play for us as well.

Pushing the definition of “…and District” of the league formerly known as “Sheffield and District”, Simon probably had the longest trip of over 26 miles to the venue, and was glad of a car-sharing effort, something the Oakbrook men rarely seem able to organise despite how often the ladies manage it.

Rawmarsh are new to the division and almost certain of being promoted to division 2 next year.  At home earlier in the season, a 2-7 loss saw Gavin and Simon scrape two wins while the opposition got used to the blue lines, so we weren’t expecting victory in this one either.  Even with three of their normal team players missing, Rawmarsh were still a little too good for us all round.  Aamir and Simon were the only Oakbrook pair able to take any of their games to three, but after losing four points in a row from 10-11 to 10-15 in the third end, weren’t able to come back, and it ended up 21-14 16-21 21-15 to Rawmarsh.  Their final game of the night finished 21-19 and they showed glints of promise, but not enough for a serious challenge, 105-142 overall for the night.

Meanwhile our subs were putting in good performances as well, but were unable to take any to a third end.  John and David W played well enough to get 21 in every best-of-three rubber, if not in every game.  They finished up 81-126 for the evening, and got the best scores of the evening against Rawmarsh’s first pair, 18-21 13-21.  Ibrar and David R weren’t far off the scores of the more experienced substitutes, with 68-126 overall, with their best game of the evening coming right at the end: 17-21.  A reasonable performance against a good side.

Thanks to Ibrar, David R, David W and John W for standing in for our missing regular players and putting in good performances with unfamiliar shuttles in unfamiliar venues and unfamiliar partners!  The feathers team would be impossible to run without your support each year.  We now have a break for a month, with our next match being a trip to the other end of the division: Abbeydale D team on 9 March.

Mens Feathers vs Westfield C, 7 January 2014

Oakbrook 7 – 2 Westfield C

Gavin B & Simon T | Tipue M A & Glen T | Dave W & John W

The feathers team would like to make it clear that they’re good really, and the fact they play in a division where half their opposition are kids and old men is purely a coincidence. Having finished 2013 with a game against Abbeydale’s team of teenagers, we started 2014 playing against Westfield’s teenagers – a number of whom had played for the Abbeydale team in previous years.

Gavin and Simon set us off to a good start, winning 21-13 21-13 in their first rubber, but the other two pairs were keen to get their money’s worth. Tipue and Glen found it hard to shake off the Christmas spirit (or, as Glen put it, the Christmas intake of food and alcohol plus a lack of practice for weeks), and struggled in the first rubber. The first game was an epic in terms of length if not in terms of quality, and the Oakbrook pair were happy to sneak ahead to win it 23-21. With the momentum in their favour, they pressed on for a victory… and promptly lost their mojo and lost the next two games 13-21 13-21.

There was then a spell of downtime while we waited for Westfield’s sixth player to navigate Sheffield’s roads and find our venue, to play in the third game. With Aaron absent, and Aamir coming back from illness, we had been in need of a replacement third pair, so had recalled the Walker duo. Realising that we were behind schedule, the Walkers did their usual trick of taking the game to three. Oddly, they seem to win more games in the feathers team when they play as subs than when they’re regular members of the team, and today was no exception as they managed to come back from a slow start to take the rubber 17-21 21-19 21-16 after exchanging the lead with the opposition many times in each game.

By now it was 20:40 and we were only just starting the fourth rubber… captain Simon was starting to worry a little that time would run out to complete the match. Fortunately Tipue and Glen decided to put their foot on the gas and played better, to come out 21-16 21-17 winners. We then got the second court back, so rubbers five and six both went on together. By the time Gavin and Simon had raced to a 21-17 21-12 victory in theirs, the Walkers (there’s a reason they’re not called Runners!) had just about started the second game of theirs. They took pity on Simon who was sitting at the side hoping they’d break tradition and win in straight games, but made sure they got the best value out of those two games with a close 21-19 21-19 victory.

By this time, to Simon’s relief, the club had all run out of energy and within 18 minutes had gone from using 3 courts to using 0. This meant the feathers team were able to finish the evening on three courts, with Simon relieved the match would finish, and the team relieved that since we were by this time 5-1 up, the final scores didn’t matter and the pressure was off.

The lack of pressure had differing effects. A negative effect on Gavin and Simon who seemed to lose a little concentration and had to make use of all three games to win it 21-17 17-21 12-12. A positive effect on Dave and John who decided it was home time, rattled through their final game 21-16 21-10 as if to say “see, what were you worried about the time for?” and were in the car to go home within half an hour. And Tipue and Glen? No effect at all, it seemed – the first game was an epic in terms of length if not in terms of quality, and the Oakbrook pair were happy to sneak ahead to win it 24-22. With the momentum in their favour, they pressed on for a victory… and promptly lost their mojo and lost the next two games 9-21 13-21.  Glen afterwards admitting that his only excuse was that everyone else played better!  We’re sure by the next match he’ll be back in the swing of things.

Overall a successful evening which means we may yet finish the year as close to the top of the division as the bottom of it. Thanks to Dave and John for covering in winning style, and thanks to Gavin and Glen for helping pack things away at the end – much appreciated!

Christmas Dates

Note the following dates over Christmas for Oakbrook badminton club sessions:

Tuesday 17 Dec – Open
Friday 20 Dec – Open and fancy dress
Tuesday 24 Dec – Closed
Friday 27 Dec – Closed
Tuesday 31 Dec – Closed
Friday 3 Jan – Open

Mens Feathers vs Abbeydale D, 19 November 2013

Oakbrook 8 – 1 Abbeydale D

Gavin B & Simon T | Tipue M A & Glen T | Aaron G & Aamir K

Our last match of 2013 was also our easiest – at home against Abbeydale ‘D’ team, consisting mainly of some of their super teenagers.  And for the first time this season, we had our full team in action – despite Gavin’s grumbles that all three of our feathers team matches this season have fallen on the same evening as a televised England international football match.  Fortunately he chose to win at badminton rather than watch others losing to Germany at football.

In a few years, Abbeydale’s teens’ will all undoubtedly be playing at a far higher standard than any of our team ever have, but for the time being, their perfect footwork, deft racquet skills and textbook training can still be beaten by our height, strength, consistency and experience.

With Aaron unable to make it for the normal start time, Abbeydale’s team kindly agreed to play out of order, so although their pairs played in roughly the usual sequence, ours were a bit mixed up.  Aamir patiently sat watching for the first four games, as Gavin and Simon, and Tipue and Glen, both started with two straightforward victories.  Although the kids showed flashes of talent, they were unable to control it into a consistent run of winning shots.  By keeping them moving and forcing them to play shots from the back of the court that require more strength, the Oakbrook pairs took us to a 4-0 lead by the time Aaron arrived.

Our double-AA pair then took to the court, but perhaps without sufficient warming up!  For they first faced the Abbeydale first pair who had already played one game and were ready for the challenge.  With Aaron not having played feathers since last season, Aamir still fairly new to the feathers team, and neither having played together before, they struggled to keep consistency and take the game to the opposition.  Aaron’s consistency wasn’t at its usual level despite some great shots from close to the net, and Aamir found himself too often having to play a defensive lift instead of an attacking shot.  A combination of these meant that Abbeydale’s pair were let off a few times, and were given too much time to pick clever overhead shots from three-quarter court, which led to our only loss of the evening, 15-21, 17-21.

The Oakbrook pair were back on court immediately, and again they struggled to find form at the start and lost the first game, but then things started to improve as they warmed up more and got back in the swing of feathers matches.  They pushed through to win that game 16-21, 21-13, 21-19, and then soon after played their third game which they won 21-19, 21-18.  Hopefully they will be able to carry that improvement forward to our next match, although that’s a couple of months away!

To round the evening off, the other two Oakbrook pairs played their final games with similarly comfortable victories as before.  Gavin and Simon won every game to between 10 and 13, and finished with a total of 126-73; Tipue and Glen had a bit more variation with games won to figures as far apart as 4 and 18, and ended up very similar with 126-70 overall.

Thanks to the team for playing, and for doubling our points tally in the league.