Derek does a great job as badminton coach!

Fraser, Bill, Derek and Mandy Hart When Derek Hart learned that he had received the ‘Coach of the Year’ accolade at the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards it came as a total surprise because he didn’t even know he had been nominated by his daughters Jordan, the No 1 ranked lady badminton player in Wales, and Lowri, who at 17 years of age is ranked No 2 behind her big sister at senior level as well as being No 1 in the under 21 category.
Also in on the secret was his wife Mandy, whose involvement in the family’s total commitment to the shuttlecock sport is running all the administrative details that abound for the other much travelled trio, who have trekked all over Europe in their old people carrier in search of suitable competition for two very talented young ladies.
He also remained in the dark about his nomination, which came all the way from Poland, where Jordan is currently training, and he is away from home all week in his job as a long-distance lorry driver. So he doesn’t have time to read anything in the press or social media because he spends every hour possible coaching Lowri or travelling with her and some other young charges to play in competitions!

He was involved in boxing at Pembroke ABC and then looking for a suitable sport for Jordan

Derek HartIn his younger days Derek was involved with Roy Witts, Graham Brockway, Eric Pennington, Bernie Edwards and Frank O’Sullivan at Pembroke Amateur Boxing Club, helping out with youngsters in training as they earned the reputation of being one of the best clubs in Wales.
Popularly known as ‘Menace’ because of a childhood love of ‘The Beano’ comic, where his hero Dennis The Menace caused weekly havoc,  he started out in badminton almost by accident when Jordan was very young and he and Mandy wanted to divert her considerable energy into a sporting activity.
They tried dance but that didn’t work for her – and neither did swimming; but it was when they tried a visit or two to the pool with a similar lack of success that father and daughter noticed a poster advertising badminton lessons.

Like a duckling to water

So he took her in and the rest is history, as they say, because she took to it like a duck to water and when he was taking her to sessions he got involved and eventually took the leaders’ course in Haverfordwest and has been heavily involved ever since.
“I became more and more involved as Jordan improved and eventually met up with Badminton Wales manager Eddie O’Neill, who gave her every encouragement.
“But when she was called into the full Welsh squad it meant that she had to travel to Cardiff every week day and since I was away working it meant Mandy had to drive her there and back – she was brilliant!”

Travel to Milton Keynes – and then off to Poland

“Weekends saw Jordan and I travelling all over Wales and then England in search of competition. I remember once we travelled to Milton Keynes for a top competition and she fell asleep when we were near Carew and was in dreamland when we reached Milton Keynes.
“So I just crept into the back and neither of us woke until the morning – and it must have done us good because Jordan caused something of a stir by beating the best players in her age group to take the trophy!”
Since then Jordan has overcome hurdles on her way to the top, like injury and a lack of funding which certainly put added pressure on mum Mandy’s purse and has been totally committed until at 25 years of age she is ranked No 1 in Wales, No 2 in the UK, plays in a professional league in France and is currently living in Poland, where her coach Steve Butler is now the national coach and can also devote time to her continued development.

Lowri follows in her sister’s footsteps – all over Europe

Then Mandy and Derek’s other daughter Lowri, now 17, began to go to watch Jordan and dad practice and it wasn’t long before she as playing – and starting to show the natural skill that her big sister had.
So Derek began to coach both children and when Jordan went off to Loughborough College to further her education and badminton experience any thoughts that Derek might have had about a slightly quieter life soon disappeared because Lowri showed the same commitment and it wasn’t long before she was not only a success in competitions in her own age group but against much older ages as well.

Busy weekends

That set off a train of practice every weekend as soon as he was back home but regular trips abroad and if you asked him now where they have been he might nominate Lithuania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, France and Germany amongst others – all in their people carrier.
So now when he comes home on Friday he grabs some grub, and then it’s off for some coaching with Lowri and there is more to come on Saturdays and Sundays – and he has acquired a home gym for training in the week, along with regular five-mile runs to maintain her high fitness levels.
He also organises training partners for her during the week so she can be involved in court practice and developing her stroke play as Ben Richards, Craig and David Dutton, Ben Richards, Mark Hubbard and Shaun and Connor Williams help her, sometimes playing in pairs together against her to build up her need to position herself perfectly on court.

And finally . . .

Derek occasionally plays himself against Lowri but knows who will win – and he also has to take painkillers for his dodgy knees alongside inevitable defeat!
It is very obvious that the Hart family are very closely knit and they are hoping for a special meet-up over the Christmas period as Mandy , Derek and Lowri are hoping to travel out to Poland to enjoy the festive season.
Of course there is the probability that the girls will want to play each other, with Derek looking on and offering some advice – but staying totally impartial, of course!
As well as his daughters, it is also important to say that he has coached a number of others in badminton with just one aim – that they achieve their full potential but also get great pleasure out of their involvement.
He has also been readily available to provide transport for them, if possible, and there is no doubt that Derek ‘Menace’ Hart is a worthy winner of the coach of the year for his contribution to badminton, in our county but also much further afield!

Coach of the year Derek Hart