Air New Zealand Team badminton team members, Nikki Baker-Hill (front) and Roberta Eraio competing in the Cook Islands Social League. SUPPLIED/21090703.
Badminton has soared in popularity over the last two years in the Cook Islands. The sport has capitalised on the Covid-19 lockdowns and guidelines that restricted the country’s contact sports (rugby and soccer) in early 2020.
Shuttle Time (a grassroots badminton initiative) and player
development remain at the core of Badminton Cook Islands’ operations and
expansion across the country, and most schools include badminton in their
extra-curricular activities and participate in an annual tournament.
In the last two years, adults have taken a significant
liking to the game too.
The initiation of the ‘ladies-only’ sessions, mixed
generation tournaments, 10-week social and elite league challenges have enticed
different demographics to walk onto the court for the first time.
Air New Zealand customer service agent Roberta Eraio and her
team of colleagues have taken on the sport and participated in the 10-week
Not only has it helped to boost team morale, it also
complements Air New Zealand’s internal commitment to employee health and
wellbeing; a factor which is high on many agendas following the global
“None of us have played badminton in the past and we liked
that it was social and fun. Competing in the social league brought so much
humour and laughter among our team, which regularly extended into memorable
team bonding moments after our sessions too.
“Our involvement in badminton has benefited us in a variety
of ways. It motivated us to commit to a healthy and sociable activity once a
week, which is often difficult under normal circumstances as shift workers. We
even started strategising ways to better ourselves in the challenge which aided
the improvement of our physical and mental health,” said Eraio.
“Badminton enhanced the bonding as we did not see each other
as often during the lockdown. Like a driving force it enabled us to stay
connected and positive after our lockdown began to ease and even after the
two-way bubble opened,” she said.
For over 80 days, a ‘bubble’ was in operation between New
Zealand and the Cook Islands, meaning their team eventually faltered due to the
increased demand for tourism.
Nonetheless, the team’s initial participation, reviews and
popularity infiltrated their Head Office as more team members signed to
“We have a big family at Air NZ, so we were still able to
enter another team into the 8-Week Winter Challenge.
“Although we’re still learning to improve our skills, we now
have the added joy of sharing the knowledge with our new players and
reminiscing on how fun it was during the Summer Challenge,” said Eraio, “and we
fully support the efforts of Badminton Cook Islands in our community and
especially the opportunity it offers our youth.”
A study at Coventry University found the exceptional
benefits of badminton in developing children’s’ fundamental motor skills.
Moreover, Steve Griffiths, a senior visiting fellow at the
World Academy of Sport, has built a career on assisting professional teams to
thrive internally and he empathised the importance of using sport as a vehicle
to achieve organisational goals.
“From my experience in leading a high-performance referee
team to world cups and also leading departmental teams, we were always more
successful when everybody in the team bought into the culture, respected each
other’s differences and focussed on agreed objectives”, says Griffiths.
The increased interest from such corporate teams and older
demographics also laid the foundations for the pilot international master’s
(over 35’s) tournament ‘Oceania Masters in Paradise’, which will take place in
Rarotonga in May 2022.
Moreover, the badminton experience is about to become even
more available with the inception of AirBadminton.
Over the last year, Badminton Oceania has assisted member
associations like the Cook Islands to rollout the ‘new outdoor game’ of
With portables nets, equipment and a more durable
shuttlecock, the initiative allows anyone to play badminton outside.
The games is well suited for the Cook Islands, where
residents in Aitutaki and Rarotonga have started to enjoy the game on stunning
beaches and grassy parklands.
Follow the latest updates and development with Badminton
Cook Islands on their Facebook page.