UK Coaching Week: Keith Burns

This week (June 6-12) is UK Coaching Week, and we are highlighting the important role that grassroots coaches play in our community by celebrating our inaugural Grassroots Coach of the Year winner Keith Burns (Hertfordshire), and runners up Sheila Boyes (Durham) and Phil Hall (Northumberland).

All were #Born2Coach, making such a positive difference in their local communities, providing the first experience of our sport, and driving badminton participation forwards.

Today we introduce Keith Burns, winner of the inaugural Grassroots Coach of the Year and share his coaching story.

Keith, married to Louisa who he has three children with, is the head coach at Abbey Badminton Club and ABC Coaching in Hertfordshire.

Having first experienced badminton at his local community club, playing out of a single court hall with a ceiling so low you couldn’t clear the shuttle at nine-years-old, Keith went on to play competitively for many years and developed a love of the sport.

A dislocated knee spurred Keith’s journey into coaching, along with the support of Liz Bateman who guided him through his coaching qualifications.

Keith has been coaching since 2004, setting up Abbey Badminton Club in 2008 and making the decision to pursue his dream of coaching full-time in 2018.

When nominating Keith for this award, his nominators said: “His energy and commitment is an inspiration to the young people he coaches and he is a positive role model for them.

“Keith’s main achievement is creating a culture within the club where players thrive and improve through a welcoming and consistently committed approach.

“Through Keith’s personality and skill as a coach, he has promoted a culture within the club where everyone interacts in a friendly, open and welcoming manner.

“This has undoubtedly resulted in a significant number of people entering and continuing to play the sport of badminton.

“Keith has the ability to bring out the best in those he coaches. He has an engaging manner, makes people feel comfortable with their ability, yet brings out determination in them to increase their ability.

“This is evident as some of the juniors he coached at the start of his coaching career have progressed to qualify as coaches and now coach at his club. His team look up to him, learn from him and are inspired by him.

“Keith has dedicated himself to Abbey Badminton Club for over 14 years. He channels his love of the sport plus his skill, time and effort to coach juniors and adults.

“Keith’s technical expertise helps develop beginners into intermediate players, juniors into county players, and adults into excellent club players.”

With Abbey Badminton Club now delivering over 20 sessions a week to over 200 members, we sat down with Keith and those who nominated him for this award to learn more about him and Abbey Badminton Club.

How would you describe your own coaching philosophy?

My philosophy is to not only help build the players’ skills on court, but to help them believe in themselves, their potential, and their ability.

Setting goals and improving footwork is key but if they still walk onto the court against an opponent and don’t believe in their own ability, they are already a step behind.

What are your aspirations within badminton?

My aspirations are to deliver badminton to our community and fulfil the demand for a club that prioritises fitness, training, and fun.

I believe that sport, especially badminton, has the potential to help everyone in terms of physical fitness, positive mindset, and team spirit. When they get on that court, I want them focus while enjoying the session and to forget anything negative that may be happening in their lives for that hour or two.

Who did you/ do you look up to in coaching & why?

Liz Bateman and Sue Rutson – I owe so much to these two.

The way they help their players grow but have fun is lovely to watch and be part of. They are coaches that help you grow and build you up without you even realising it.

They never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself. I base my own club’s ethos on what these individuals taught me. Thank you!

What do you enjoy most about the coaching role you undertake and why?

For me, there are many aspects to being a coach that I love. The members that win their first medal and are so proud of themselves, that is amazing to watch.

My overall favourite feeling is when a new junior hits that shuttle, holds that rally or wins that point for the first time.

The journey they have taken to get there and that you have been a part of and helped with, their elation when they realise just how much they have progressed and improved, makes this the best job in the world. If I ever win the lottery, I would do it for free.

The other thing that makes a huge difference for me is having my amazing team of coaches supporting me.

Currently, Abbey Badminton Club has three Level 2 coaches and 11 Level 1s. Some of these started as juniors when I first started the club. Their commitment and support to me and the club is invaluable.

What advice would you give to a coach starting out on their coaching journey?

Find a mentor like Liz or Sue, learn as much as you can before you spread your wings and go your own way. Never stop trying to improve yourself as a coach.

Remember, getting it wrong or not knowing is not a failure if you pick yourself up and learn from it. Listen to your players, take feedback on board, and constantly adapt.

Make the sessions fun and engaging, don’t let them become static with the same routine each time. Your players and members are awesome, they attend your sessions because you are awesome too.

What did being nominated and being a winner in the Grassroots Coach of the Year award mean to you?

I am humbled and honoured to receive Grassroots Coach of the Year award. I feel that there are a lot of grassroots coaches out there that deserve this as well.

Sometimes as coaches we forget or do not realise the impact we can have on our members. This award showed me that the job I am doing is helping my members in ways I didn’t realise. The thing is, it goes both ways!