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Shuttle 'squaddies' led away to the cells;Sport in Scotland;Badminton

Scotland's most promising young badminton players may face the prospect of being led away to the cells.

Eddy Gibb, chairman of the Scottish Badminton Union's youth development committee, explains: "We don't have coaching squads any more. We are concentrating on cells of two or three people per coach. Ideally if we have 48 players at sessions, we have 24 coaches."

Cells are just one of the radical coaching methods the SBU is studying because of the pressure of what is happening in other countries now that badminton is an Olympic sport. The French team who finished a close second to Scotland (they led 2-0 but eventually went down 3-2) at the recent European junior qualifying event in Portugal had nine officials, including physiotherapists and nutritionists.

"The French are spending pound;1.5 million developing their badminton and have a school of excellence outside Paris," Gibb says.

The top eight players at under-13, under-14, under-15 and under-16 levels are being invited to various centres, including Meadowmill Sports Centre in East Lothian and St George's School in Edinburgh, and preparations are well under way for the Eight Nations under-14 international in Sweden from February 22-25.

One of the problems is that many young players are not fit enough. "Some of the 16-year-olds at our coaching sessions at Largs were shaking at the prospect of the work they would have to do," Gibb says. "We need to develop a programme to get kids ready to play an acceptable level of badminton and introduce conditioning so that by the age of 15 they are ready to play well two or three nights a week."

But if pupils are less than fully fit, the state of schools badminton is reasonably healthy. "We have 400 schools affiliated and if you take an average of 20 playing in each then that's 8,000 kids," Gibb says. "Facilities and money are the future. If someone gave us pound;10 million from the National Lottery for a centre we could fill it 24 hours a day and seven days a week."

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