Hope Warner: The struggles of matching up to the best in badminton

By Yashas Mudumbai

“It’s very difficult because at times you can feel like you’re not good enough – or at keeping up with the standard others are producing – and you don’t feel like you fit in for a while.”

Badminton star Hope Warner is currently training with the very best in the country, but she still has her moments of doubt.

The 17-year-old from Leicestershire currently trains at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes and in her short time in the sport has already amassed several notable achievements.

She is the European champion in her age group, has been ranked number one in England and but getting to this stage has been far from an easy journey.

“You can feel like you’re not good enough”

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For Hope, her introduction into the sport she now loves was through her parents, particularly her father, who she used to watch at the local club.

But the teenager was also deeply involved in tennis and that was partly down to her role model.

“I think Serena Williams was the big one for me because she was obviously the one showing that women can be powerful in sport and she’s been number one for quite a while,” she said.

“Especially when I was playing tennis, I wanted to be like her.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Hope used to be more nervous when playing tennis tournaments.

Ultimately, when it came to deciding what sport to focus on, that is what led her down the badminton pathway – she simply enjoyed it more.

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But from that moment the hard work began, and the 17-year-old isn’t afraid to say things as they are.

She found things extremely difficult and admitted she often takes a six-month period to get used to a new training regime or centre.

“It has been quite difficult at times,” she explained.

“I think the main thing I have found hard was there are a lot of times when you are on your way to training, and you do want to turn around and go home, because you’re just not used to the people there or the level of play. 

“So, it’s very difficult because at times you can feel like you’re not good enough, or keeping up with the standard others are producing, and you don’t feel like you fit in for a while.

“But once you get past the difficult period, it is really enjoyable and you definitely improve a lot from it.”

Hope also acknowledged that playing people older than her had helped her to progress much easier over the years.

“I think it’s the key to how far I’ve got at the minute,” she added.

“It really does improve your shot quality, your level of play, you get quicker, faster and stronger.”

“I think being European champion was definitely the highest I’ve ever felt”

Alongside her achievements of being European champion and number one in England, Hope was also named Leicester Mercury Sportswoman of the Year.

But when asked about what stands out for the teenager in her young career, Hope believes her European exploits were something special.

“I think being European champion was definitely the highest I’ve ever felt,” she said.

“The feeling of getting through that tournament, beating so many pairs, being able to keep a level throughout the tournament and keep the mental strength just to win was great.”

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For a youngster, it would be easy to allow these moments to get to your head and allow yourself to bask in your own glory.

But instead Hope uses them as inspiration when she isn’t playing well.

“It’s about not getting caught up too much in the result I guess,” she explained.

“It is helpful to look back those times but also remember that you want to keep improving and keep getting better.”

“I think the key is just communication”

The perception of badminton is that it can be very individual, but the team aspect so many people admire and love is prevalent in the sport.

Hope plays a lot of doubles and travels with teams across Europe to compete in tournaments and she really values the concept of a team.

In fact, before a tournament in 2018, she said she was only focussing on her play with her partner and not at all about her own performance.

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“I think obviously it’s very hard when you’re playing and you’re not happy with your own performances and it’s difficult to not focus on yourself but your partner,” she said.

“But if you want the best out of a game, a set, or a match, then it is vital to support your partner with motivation or even just cheering them up.

“If you have a good off-court relationship, if you trust each other, if there’s good communication and you know that if you’re down your partner will be able to support you, then that is the key really.”

“You have to be prepared to go to very high limits”

For the last year or so, Hope has been training at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes and admitted this is the moment she has been working all her life towards.

She also feels the time spent playing with and against the best in the country is proving to be really challenging but, it is all part of the process she is committed towards.

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“You have to be prepared to go to very high limits throughout your career, not just in getting to say a National Badminton Centre,” she said.

“There has been a lot of things that I’ve learned already.

“In terms of actual on court badminton, with training and matches, it is just really surprising to see the intensity and how high the level of play actually is. 

“Sometimes, it’s completely fine to not feel motivated or aching, but you have to just stick with it because there a lot of people who can help you with the mental confidence.

“All I’m looking for is to just keep working hard and keep motivated.”

Have you listened to the SportSpiel podcast yet? Find all our episodes here.

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