I spoke with Ubaid-ul Rehman of the Goslings Sports Club, London’s LGBTQ badminton club, to see whether I had what it takes to grab a racquet and hit the court.
How easy is it to learn badminton?
Badminton is super-easy to learn. Essentially, you need to hit a shuttle cock using a racquet from one side of the court to the other and that’s it. You don’t need to know how to play badminton or have any experience at all to join Goslings – we’re happy to welcome anyone into the club and show them the ropes. We only ask that you’re willing to learn something new, be willing to run around, and be willing to meet and make new friends.
With over 200 members of the club, do you have capacity for further growth?
We’ve had to adapt as we’ve grown, so there is capacity for further growth and it’s something we continue to plan for because we want to make sure as many people as possible take on and enjoy badminton.
Only a small proportion of the club’s members are women. Does it matter that it’s a male-dominated club?
We work hard to make Goslings inclusive for all and reach out to attract all communities, including women. We’re aware that the number of women players is low. To address, this we employ a number of strategies and attend the annual LGBTQ sports fair to speak directly with people and see if they’d be interested in playing badminton. We also have a close working relationship with London Women’s Badminton Club, and together we hold mixed double tournaments, coaching weekends and lots of other activities to bring more women to the sport. Plus, Goslings works with other sports clubs to learn and progress with this challenge, as we’re aware that there is a low participation of women and other communities in sports generally.
You’ve been working on a community outreach program to showcase the role that badminton can play in mental health. How’s that going?
This has been going well. Working with other sports clubs, we’ve been able to raise the role sports and being active can play a positive role in mental well-being. Goslings is not just a sports club, we’re a family. By coming to this club, individuals get fit but also from a mental health perspective they have fun and make new friends. I was able to let attendees know this at a recent LGBTQ Disability event held by Unique, the London LGBTQ Disability organisation at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Goslings continues to focus on mental well-being by providing spaces for people to get out, get fit, and get social.
What are some of the goals and aspirations for the club in the coming months?
Next year, we’ll be connecting with other badminton clubs across London, nationally, and internationally. It’s important we work together to promote health and well-being via badminton to various communities, to raise the need for better badminton provision and funding in London, and also to learn from one another. Goslings will be working with other LGBTQ sports clubs to help the London bid for Eurogames and Gay Games. We’re also aiming to open a fifth weekly session to accommodate the growing membership. Apart from these goals and aspirations, we’ll continue to work for our members, holding sessions, events, tournaments and coaching weekends. We also plan on participating in Pride, as we do every year.
If I was interested in joining the club, or just giving badminton a try, what advice or guidance would you give?
I’d suggest coming along to our Thursday session and giving us a go – you won’t know if you’ll like badminton until you actually give it a try. When here, speak to other members about advice and support – they’ll be more than happy to share. Finally, don’t be put off if networking or speaking to someone new scares you – we’re a very friendly club and there are no expectations.