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It's all about work life balance
Catherine Wheller

"My line manager and peers have given me the flexibility to make sure I can train as hard as I can in preparation."

After twenty-five years out of badminton, I picked up a racket again two years ago. I needed a reason to put my laptop away at the end of the day and I thought it would be a great plan to join my local club.

If you play badminton, you’ll know there are plenty of clubs to choose from. However, having recently moved to a new area, I chose my local one for convenience as a way of making new friends. Little did I know that this apparently small and innocuous decision would be extremely important.

One of the players at the club is a member of the Great British Deaf Badminton squad and I was invited to join her on the training sessions as her hearing partner. We had a great first season which culminated for her in the European Deaf Championships in Slovakia.

We talk a lot about work life balance and the importance of flexible working at Mott MacDonald. Since I started training, I can honestly say, the support I’ve received from absolutely everyone has been amazing. Rest assured, I’ve worked my required hours each week, but my line manager and peers have given me the flexibility to make sure I can train as hard as I can in preparation. I pass on a big thank you to them all!

I believe that sometimes things just happen for a reason and in our second season, although I hadn’t initially applied, a shuffle of pairings and partnerships after the selection committee had sat, meant an opportunity had opened in the BWF World Senior Championships in Katowice, Poland. I was asked by Badminton England if I would represent England in the women’s singles and doubles (over 40) at the World Seniors Championships. I was stunned, took a deep breath and said yes. Here in front of me was an opportunity to achieve one of my ultimate goals, to play for England.

Since that fateful day, what’s happened? Well, if I thought my diary was ‘badminton packed’ last year, I can tell you it’s nothing compared to now. A four-month preparation window was under way. My line manager and peers have been hugely supportive. They’ve understood when training sessions have popped up, and have offered me the flexibility to make it to fitness sessions, private coaching, matches or even club nights. The preparation has all been about time on the court – that’s the most beneficial thing for me, so the support from work has been vital. Senior members of staff even ask how my preparation is going. It’s great to have the support and recognition from the top.

My coach’s words are to walk tall and be proud, even if you’re shaking inside as you walk on court, no one else knows that, so don’t show them any weakness. I’ve thought like that in a professional capacity on several occasions, doing the presentation that scares you rigid, or the interview panel you really didn’t want to do but knew you should for your personal or professional development. Only you know your weaknesses, it’s up to you what you decide to show to others. So maybe someday, you need to put your ’tracksuit on’, walk tall, be proud and be confident. Maybe no one will know any different.

Do I expect to come home with a gold medal? Most certainly not, but for me, the challenge I had set myself two years ago, was to earn an England shirt. Through blood, sweat and tears, I have finally got there, even sooner than I expected, all thanks to the support I have received from my team and management at Mott MacDonald. So, set your goals, work hard, have fun and who knows what you could be doing in the future.

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