Well-known March man Colin Bedford has been coaching badminton for 50 years
A Fenland sports group paid special tribute to their coach this week, marking a career spanning more than five decades.
Colin Bedford has been coaching badminton in March for 50 years and still turns out every Wednesday and Thursday to pass on his playing skills to a group of around 50 players at the age of almost 83.
Players gathered at a training session to make a guard of honour with their rackets as Colin arrived. They also presented him with a special cake.
“It was a total surprise, I knew nothing about it at all,” said Colin, who is still playing – but describes his efforts as ‘”rubbish” these day as being an octogenarian has finally caught up with him!
He started playing the game, which would become a major part of his life, at the age of 11 when he joined the Hereward School in March and he soon became a regular member of the school team.
Colin continued to play even after leaving school and even a two-year stint in the army for National Service failed to stop him.
After training as a military driving instructor Colin found himself posted to Malaysia, where it just so happens badminton is the national sport!
“I was soon put in the army’s team, playing for the 25th Field Artillery Regiment against teams from the local tea and rubber plantations.
“The locals were very good and I soon realised I needed to up my game, it really helped me to improve,” said Colin.
Back home in 1959 and Colin married his childhood sweetheart Margaret, and also joined March Badminton Club. The couple both played and Colin regularly played for the county in both the men’s and mixed doubles with his partner Daphne Pollington and he was still representing Cambridgeshire at the age of 70.
Margaret and Colin passed the love of badminton on to their daughter Suzanne Parrish and then to her two daughters Stacey and Beth and all three had success at county level.
Sadly Margaret died last year, just a few weeks after her 80th birthday, which she spent helping Colin run the training session.
“She was my right-hand woman, she kept me organised – taking the register and the money and making sure everything was run correctly,” said Colin.
The training sessions, which Colin started in April 1969, are now held at the Neale-Wade Academy.
Colin’s time in the army gave him a skill which saw him run his own driving school for many years, teaching hundreds of local people to drive.
He is also well-known for his collection of old cycles and for organising the annual March Vintage and Veteran Cycle Club’s downhill ride.
He concluded: “It was a wonderful surprise to see everyone with their rackets making an arch when I arrived for the training session.
“It was totally unexpected and I think Margaret would have loved it, as she was there beside me at every session, too. It was a proud moment.”