Badminton Life

Commonwealth Games to Ignite Andy Wood's Badminton Revolution

With an illustrious decade at the top of Britain's badminton coaching structure behind him, Andy Wood exudes experience and professionalism. A calmness in his voice is galvanised by a firmly assured edge, and deservedly so. The 47 year-old from Derby has masterminded consistently successful squads at Olympic and Commonwealth Games over the last ten years, the highlight of which has undoubtedly been the mixed doubles victory that Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms achieved at Melbourne in 2006. But he will not rest on his laurels.

Speaking at a team-building event in the lead-up to next month's Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Wood laid out his expectations with a composed confidence. "We are aiming for at least three medals," he explained, "one of which I'd like to be gold."

In keeping with the manner of the head coach, such a target will compel only the very best from the players selected. Though the results that he has churned out require very little justification, Wood was quick to outline an unwavering faith in those heading to India. "We're strong throughout the team and we'll be looking to repeat our performances at a tournament that, historically, we've done well in."

Though his vast understanding at the helm will certainly aid England's medal campaign, Wood will be glad for the presence of his more travelled players. Despite the quality among the England team, there is no hiding from the fact that it is a largely raw group.

However, in Robertson, defending his mixed title alongside Jenny Wallwork, and Anthony Clarke, Team England have a pair of veterans with 200 caps between them who will compete together in the men's doubles. Such know-how will be invaluable over the fortnight of competition and will benefit the younger contingent, such as the 21 year-old Chris Adcock and Gabby White, who turns 20 the week before the Games. "There is a lot to learn from guys like Anthony and Nathan. Just being around them in the team environment will rub off a lot," Wood predicted.

If the Commonwealth Games are just on the horizon for English badminton, it is the two years afterwards that are really fuelling Wood's undying enthusiasm. 2011 sees London host the World Championship, in what he sees as a perfect rehearsal for the Olympics. "Being staged at Wembley, there is a great chance to dry-run the Olympic environment and it is important to get every edge and advantage to be prepared," he said.

In what he identifies as a transition period for British badminton, the coaching network will have a big role in developing a network of competitors capable of setting the world stage alight, just as Robertson and Emms did four years ago. "Some of our more experienced players like Gail and Donna Kellogg have just retired and Antony and Nathan are coming to the end of their careers," he explained.

Many would be overawed by the challenge of being in charge at such a pivotal point but you get the feeling that such opportunities really inspire Wood. "We hope to unveil a new generation that will take the place of these guys. It's time for them to step up to the mark." With 23 year-old English hopeful Rajiv Ouseph quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in men's singles, having recently been crowned US Open champion, the future is bright.

Continuing to explain the comprehensive support-structure behind each of his player, Wood's thorough attentiveness shone through. Having overseen solid performances across major championships since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where Simon Archer and Jo Goode took bronze, he clearly leaves nothing to chance. The man in charge of an entourage that now includes a performance analyst and a strength and conditioning coach was unerring when outlining the importance of such back up.

"Every player needs a different amount of support from all kinds of scientific services. It is just a case of identifying these needs and then using them. We've got a very good team that deliver badminton-specific knowledge and it's really critical to retain that over the next couple of years."

A revolution in badminton is underway, it seems, and the first stages to Wood's second decade of success are in place. Without taking one step at a time, however, he would not have scaled such heights as a coach and he turned back to Delhi with a renewed poise. "You've always got to be looking for that little catalyst. The first medal for the young players will be massive."

Ever mindful of his players' state of mind, Wood's assured firmness was again palpable. In what will be a "vibrant and colourful games," Wood suggested the abundant possibility of "cultural experience." Driven by the winning determination of their coach, Team England's badminton players will certainly take to the courts with nothing else in mind but medals.

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