One De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) sports club has particular cause to celebrate, after two of its sides were crowned champions of their respective British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) divisions.
Both men’s badminton (firsts and seconds) teams ended the season with glory, while their female counterparts were unlucky not to add yet more silverware to the cabinet, having made the regional cup semi-final before struggling for a side during the deadline-heavy months of February and March.
Ricky Porter, first team captain and club secretary, has played for the club since arriving at DMU.
He said: “I’ve been here for four years now and we’ve never had a promotion and never had relegation, either. It’s always just been very mid-table, average.
“We’ve had the skill; we’ve had the talent and quality of players to be promoted, but just lacked that kind of edge and structure and leadership to take that final step.
“It’s been really frustrating the past couple of years so the fact that we’ve got two teams promoted, and close to three, it’s definitely been our best year.”
A tough start to the year for the men’s seconds after player recruitment issues meant they were playing catch-up in the title race, particularly after a heavy curtain-raising loss to their chief rivals.
Nick Batty, second team captain, said: “At the start of the year it was all about recruitment and then finding everyone’s strengths.
“I had to keep postponing matches, so we had to play all our matches late in the year, and then at the end of the year we struggled to get out a team; but we still did.
“It really came down to the last three games where we won promotion. At the start of the year we lost against the side that were top.”
Ricky added: “The first game was a really big kick in the teeth for [the seconds] because they played the strongest team in the league first, not knowing who each other were.
“They lost to them quite heavily, and then the rest of the league by comparison was not that strong.
“But because they had lost to the good team at the start, the way it was going to go was that if the pattern had continued and they both kept winning, Anglia Ruskin firsts would get promoted because of the head-to-head record [between the sides].
“Instead, along the way Ruskin got an unexpected draw and that opened the gate for us.”
A similar issue of recruitment affected the first team, though after a while it soon became apparent that they had uncovered a gem to propel their charge to the top.
Ricky said: “At the very start, recruitment was always going to be tricky. A lot of our first team players left last year.
“I was really thinking that the past two, three, years we always had the team, but have never been promoted, and this year was going to be no different.
“Then, at our trials, we got four new first team members in one go, just like that.
“One of them I especially want to mention is Jenath Kan. He’s been our ace this year.
“He started playing first team games and kept wining, kept winning, kept winning.
“The only game I’ve seen him lose all year was Varsity, and that was against a former Hong Kong international player – even that was tight.”
With so much success on-court this season, Nick was quick to praise the impact of the club’s coach, Adrienne Morley, in helping the squad play to the best of their abilities.
He said: “The coach we had helped to develop second team players and bring out the best in them.”
Ricky added: “We didn’t have a coach last year. We had me and a couple of other players teaching the rest of the squad what to do.
“It lacked a little bit of authority – you can’t always tell someone what to do when you’ve got to be their friend and coach at the same time.”
Away from the court, the club decided to boost their chances of success on it, by making a conscious decision to improve the structure of the club and the social aspect of the club.
“Because last year didn’t go so well, despite having such good players and group of people, a few of us went, ‘Let’s make something of this, there’s something special here’.
“So we had a proper election day, a proper committee vote, and because of that people saw some community and structure, and I think it brought more people to badminton.
“Having a good social is really important as well.”
Moving on to next year, Nick hopes to see the club’s sides cement their positions at a higher level.
He said: “Hopefully, we’ll stay in the leagues that we got promoted to and try and cement our positions to prove we’re not just one-trick ponies.
“For the cups, we hope to go further. Men’s seconds didn’t go far at all. The women, we know, can go far. But we always want to keep improving.”
Leaving this year, Ricky hopes that the club’s sense of community continues and gains further recognition across campus.
He said: “For me, it’s the structure and sense of community I don’t want to see go away.
“For the past four years it’s been getting better and better. I want to see badminton at DMU still getting recognition.
“When I got here, we were never really seen like that but now we’re nominated for Club of the Year [at Colours Awards].
“I want to keep seeing stuff like that happen, year after year.”