The value of club friendlies

The development of college sport has been in the spotlight this year with the introduction of the new College Varsity against Durham. Although events such as Collingwood – James College’s annual tournament with Durham’s Collingwood College –  have given college players the chance to compete outside of the university, the opportunities available for college level players have historically been limited. Originally introduced in 2012 by Cass Brown, current York Sport President, the University of York Badminton Club has just taken part in its second annual friendly competition against the University of Leeds.

And current Club President Josh Cole said “the Leeds friendlies are a great chance for club and college players to get some competitive match experience against people they’ve never played against before. It places them in a real match setting, playing games to 3 ends, something which they won’t often have the chance to do. For once the limelight (and the pressure!) is on the club players and not on one of our BUCs teams! Leeds also happens to make a great day out!” Not only therefore, do opportunities like this allow players to develop, but they provide key motivation and a goal to work towards; it is also incredibly gratifying for players who have worked hard and enjoy sport to have the opportunity to represent their university. But the friendly isn’t just about playing sport, throughout the matches the teams socialised and at the end of the games the two teams had dinner together at one of the campus bars. Sports friendlies provide the perfect excuse to visit all of the great cities on our doorsteps and meet people from different universities.

After their victories in the friendlies last year, York continued their fine form with Cole saying that “this year the team from York performed unbelievably well, winning in all events, against a very strong side featuring many Leeds uni team players. Everyone playing put in 100% effort, and it was great to see club and college players putting their game faces on and playing some high level badminton!” They hope to continue their success when Leeds travel to York for the home leg of the competition in the second term and Cole says that “from what I saw on Saturday, I know our club and college players are more than up to the challenge” finishing with a faithful “YORK IS BLACK AND GOLD.”

Cass Brown is a strong advocate of the friendly, and commented: “the Badminton club’s friendly tournament is a great way of encouraging college players to improve by allowing them competition. It’s also a fantastic way to integrate different standards of players.”

Club friendlies like this could also however, have a key role to play in improving university level sport at York. Having taken part in both Leeds friendlies, although on the first occasion competing for Leeds due to illness, I have found the value of simple friendlies like this is huge. As a club and college player I found myself regularly practising and training against the same people. I got used to the ways that they played and knew their strengths and weakness. It wasn’t until I played my first university match this year that I realised how much this model doesn’t prepare players for inter-university competition. Suddenly you don’t know your opponent and you can’t rely on the experiences you have had playing against them. Additionally, when faced with a new opposition you realise the bad habits you have that they are more than willing to prey on and are faced with new playing styles you haven’t encountered before. Playing with the same players is a useful and necessary part of training but it can only develop people so far; friendlies and tournaments have huge potential to improve our club and college level players who will go on to become our university teams and could help us achieve our top 40 goal.