by Bo Jensen, CEO Badminton Denmark.
A few weeks ago, I posted on my private Facebook page the range of Danish players in top 50 on the newly updated BWF World Ranking. 24 players in total, most of them with an average age well below 25.
At the same time, I mentioned that Denmark’ s total population is just +5,8 mill. people.
A few days later, an Indian Magazine posted an article, in which they had conducted the same survey. They found that India, an upcoming nation in the global badminton sport, also has 24 top 50 ranked players. India has a population of +1,3 billion people.
The article investigated the possible explanations for Denmark’s success in badminton, the “Danish Miracle”, and came across topics such as history, club structure and league culture.
Whenever I am traveling the world and meet up with colleagues, especially from Asia, I always get the same question, “How come such a small country as Denmark can continue to produce world class players and compete with Asian Power Houses like Malaysia, Indonesia and China?”
I shall do my best to give some meaningful explanations in this blog.
Badminton came to Denmark in the early 1920s and rather quickly became very popular. The first clubs were established subsequently, and in 1930 six clubs founded “The Danish Badminton Federation (DBF)” – today known as Badminton Denmark (BD).
Today, Badminton Denmark represents no less than 706 clubs with app. 94.000 registered players. In fact, close to 1.400 clubs in Denmark offer badminton as part of their activities, which include more than 130.000 registered players.
These clubs can only exist because several thousands of volunteers use a significant part of their leisure time helping the clubs with all sorts of tasks. From training the beginners, arranging camps and tournaments, to managing the youth teams and helping us stage the nationals, VICTOR DENMARK OPEN, and so much more, the volunteer work from passionate parents and badminton enthusiasts is without a doubt one of the most crucial ingredients in the Danish success in badminton.
All 706 clubs under the umbrella of Badminton Denmark are very well-organized offering training sessions for most of their members. Most of them have more than one educated coach organizing each of the training session either for groups of players or on an individual basis. In this context, Badminton Denmark offers different coaching educations, courses and educational materials covering all levels as well as being a continuously provider of knowledge and knowhow.
The DNA in most of the clubs are the Danish team league. Badminton Denmark offers a wide range of opportunities for the players and clubs to participate in a relevant team league for all ages and levels.
Domestic team league culture:
Participating on a club team has for many years been a significant part of Danish badminton culture. Regardless of age or level, it is possible to participate on a club team. The youngest players under 9 years old can participate in a regionally organized U9 team league competition and likewise for players U11, U13, U15, U17, and so forth up until they are old enough to compete in the +50-team league competition. In other words, we have team league competitions for an entire life, which to me is a good illustration of why
Badminton Denmark’s foremost motto is, that badminton is for everyone, the entire life.
The club team league is spread out all over the country, structured regionally, and each year the best teams from the different age groups and levels qualify to participate in the National Team League Championships. The crown jewel and top-level feature of this is the Final 4, in which the four best professional teams compete against each other over two days, and where the winning team can call themselves the official Danish Team Champion. A championship that has been played continuously since the early 1930s.
Each year, in cooperation with its 706 clubs, Badminton Denmark also arranges several hundreds of individual tournaments for players on all ages and levels. As a player, you participate or qualify in a tournament based on your ranking points, ensuring that all players compete against other players on both an equal level and within the same age group. The more equal matches you play against others, the more joy, experiences, and individual development you get from playing and competing in badminton.
Coach and talent development program:
Badminton Denmark has also developed an extensive coach development program, continuously helping clubs educate their coaches, and ensuring them at all times, if wanted, to get updates on the newest knowledge within training programs, physical training, mental coaching, techniques etc. It is a basic principle, that until the players reach the age of 12 – 13 years old, badminton shall foremost be played for fun. From Badminton Denmark’s perspective, the junior players shall not be selected too premature to play for instance international junior team championships etc. This is also the main reason that Badminton
Denmark no longer has an U13 national junior team. Not until junior players reach the U15 age group, they can be chosen for a national junior team.
Numbers of players registered in the age group from 0 – 12 years old.
In 10 years time, less than 0,05 % of these players today aged between 0 and 12 years old will be knocking on the door to The National Elite Training Center in Brøndby (Copenhagen), where approximately 30 of the absolute best players in Denmark have their daily training sessions and practice. Badminton Denmark has an ambitious goal to increase the number of players in this age group with +25 % when we reach 2025, and at the same time having increased the share of girls from 32 % to 40 %.
To help the clubs with this task, Badminton Denmark supports the clubs with knowledge, experience, guidance, coach education and development, direct in-house support, development programs, especially for girl’s etc. At the same time, we have introduced a “talent development strategy and program”, which offers the most ambitious clubs relevant information and guidelines on how to create an inspiring, motivating, involving, and developing training environment based on fun, joy and community.
This program is intended to help the clubs and Badminton Denmark to increase the number of players with the potential of being chosen to participate on the National Elite Training Center (NETC).
Regional talent centers:
Part of the talent development program is the establishment of six regional Talent Centers, spread out all over the country, where the best junior players from the respective regions, on a weekly basis are offered training sessions at the center as an add-on to the daily training and practice in their own club.
The eldest and best of the junior players are also offered practice on one of our two Elite Centers, where they will be offered training sessions on a weekly basis. Here, they practice with some of the most talented senior players (sub elite), normally under the age of 25.
This pyramid structure of Badminton Denmark Talent and Elite Centers, with the NETC at the top is, in combination with the Club Structure, the Team League culture, our education programs for coaches, our history and tradition for playing badminton, is some of the key elements in “the Danish badminton miracle”.
This must be very expensive, you may think!
I have tried to calculate the total annual investment, including not only Badminton Denmark, but also the contribution from clubs and players. The annual investment is roughly calculated to a total sum of 3,75 mill. Euro. Far less, compared to what the different Asian Power Houses spend on their national teams
So, being an international Badminton Power House is not only a question of resources and capital, but also about a clear and operational strategy, innovation, efficiency and the dedication and passion from thousands of volunteers in all our 706 clubs.