THERE’S a noise coming out of Ponteland Leisure Centre, and it’s starting to make quite a racket.

For the centre is a hotbed for badminton, and is a place where many of Northumberland’s top young performers are honing their skills.

Over the past 12 years, sports coach Phil Hall has gradually developed the centre’s badminton provision.

He currently presides over 17 county standard junior players, including Tim Bodani and James Dodd, who have both represented Northumberland at U16 doubles.

Bodani and Dodd have been unbeaten all season at county level, and have helped Northumberland gain wins over strong county teams, including Yorkshire and Lancashire. Another youngster to have emerged from the thriving set-up is Lucy Dodd, who is ranked at number three nationally at U13 level, while a team of pupils from Ponteland High School finished eighth in a national schools tournament.

In addition, Ollie Edmondson and Jack Tilbury have represented Northumberland at U15 level.

Phil said: “We have some outstanding badminton players here and it’s a joy to work with them, but it’s not all about pushing for the top.

“We cater for schoolchildren from year 1 to high school level, and adults of all ages. We have some people in their 70s who come along and enjoy it.

“According to Sport England, badminton is the most popular activity in multi-use sports halls, and this is certainly the case at Ponteland.”

In addition to coaching sessions, Phil said a key element to maintaining and generating new interest in the sport is the centre’s ‘no strings’ sessions.

This enables players of all ages to turn up to the midweek sessions whenever they are available, with no need to commit themselves on a weekly basis.

The ‘no strings’ sessions started seven years ago. It has a strong social aspect, and has grown from just two players to over 100, who attend regularly.

Phil added: “I enjoy working with players of all ages and abilities, and helping them to improve. We all want to grow the game of badminton and get more people involved.”

Phil said another key factor at Ponteland is the positioning of the ceiling lights in the sports hall, as they don’t catch the eye of players as they look upwards. Nevertheless, with a new school and community facility due to open in September 2020, Phil is looking forward to even more improvements.