Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald [email protected]
The Lethbridge Badminton Club has lobbed its last serve.
After 22 years of coaching the sport that has meant so much to their lives and to helping local youths, Paul and Sharon Fogtmann are taking the club off the court, citing not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the difficulty maintaining the volunteers needed.
“We started the club in 1998 to give kids an opportunity to play badminton at a low cost so all kids could afford to play. Paul and I were always given that opportunity,” said Sharon. “I think what has really changed is COVID and trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe. We’ve actually had two clubs running because we do the Tuesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. We have about 25 kids in that one and then we had about 20 kids Monday night. The Monday night was run by volunteers from the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.”
Paul retired from the Lethbridge Herald as an ad representative about six years ago.
The Fogtmanns kept running the club until stepping back a couple years ago.
Local volunteer coach Marnie Brown ran the Monday night club, while fellow volunteer coach Eric Wong stepped in on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Eric was amazing and took it on in the last couple of years and was wonderful with the kids,” said Sharon. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, that’s three hours a week of volunteering. It’s hard to find volunteers, especially with that many hours a week. So we threw it out to the club to see if anybody would step forward.”
Still, both Paul and Sharon stressed they had some dedicated volunteers over the years.
“Lauren Gallimore has volunteer coached as well as her sister Amanda for many years,” said Sharon, adding the duo were there since nearly the beginning of the club and have both won gold medals at provincials.
Martha Nance was another volunteer on Monday night as was Kent Toone, said Sharon.
“It’s been a huge commitment from all those volunteers and we couldn’t have done it without them.”
The pandemic and all the safety protocols that comes with it created another challenge.
“Speaking with our daughter, who is the president of a swim club in the Crowsnest, she said there is so much protocol you have to go through,” said Sharon. “We just didn’t feel we had the number of volunteers to adhere to those protocols to be able to keep our volunteers safe and the kids safe.”
Sharon began playing competitive badminton when she was 10.
While playing for Lethbridge College, she and partner Robbyn Mintenko won the women’s doubles title at the Four West Championship in 1975.
In 1977 she attended Humber College in Toronto, winning the Ontario Mixed Doubles title.
Back at Lethbridge College in 1979, Sharon won gold in singles at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference as well as a gold medal at the Four West Championship.
That earned her a trip to Montreal where she won another gold in women’s singles, this at the Canadian College Championship, making her the lone competitor from Western Canada to win gold at the national tournament.
Sharon was inducted into the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and in 2017 was inducted into the inaugural Kodiaks Hall of Fame.
Paul began playing competitive badminton when he was eight, winning many tournaments in the B.C. Interior.
“We always had oppor-tunities,” said Sharon. “Paul played in B.C. and it wasn’t at a huge expense. I think that, to us, was our goal, to be able to offer it to all kids. I’m sure we’ve coached hundreds of kids over the years. But we certainly enjoyed it. Badminton is very dear to both our hearts because that’s how we actually met, playing badminton.”
Which made the decision to shut down the club a difficult one.
“It’s hard because we’ve been coaching so many kids and they’re not going to have the same oppor-tunities,” said Sharon. “We always charged the bare minimum so all kids could afford it. That was our whole philosophy, and keeping it fun. So it makes us both very sad we have to shut it down at this point. But I think it was time. Twenty-two years is a long time of volunteering. We were hoping to get someone to take it over, but it’s hard to get volunteers to commit to that. It’s a big commit-ment.”
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Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald