A Dagenham badminton player and coach has been honored on the Queen’s Honors 2021 birthday for his services to community sport in London.
Henry Gaspard, 61, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his work over nearly four decades with badminton club Tottenham Black Arrows, which he founded in 1984.
Known as the Black Arrows, the club was formed to provide the community with the opportunity to play badminton both socially and competitively.
Mr. Gaspard, who lives on Lodge Avenue, said it was “very unexpected and very boring” to be honored with BEM.
“When I first got the email, I thought someone was pulling me in.” He said while laughing.
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“But when I backed off, because I got a phone call with the Cabinet Office, I knew it was real and I was very happy to admit it and a bit sentimental, to be honest.”
Black Arrows started as a large competitive badminton club but over the past two decades the focus has been on junior development.
It currently operates several adult and junior clubs across North and East London and a major development program being offered at schools, colleges and universities, among other partnerships.
Mr Gaspard believes the club will be excited to acknowledge him after a difficult period during the pandemic.
“One of the issues we’re having right now is that because of the lockdown, a lot of the places we use for badminton clubs are still closed due to Covid restrictions,” he said.
“In a lot of our sessions, we haven’t really communicated yet with the members, so I think they’d be pleasantly surprised to hear the news.”
Over the course of the lockdown, Black Arrows has been in touch with members via WhatsApp and coaches through Zoom meetings to keep everyone engaged and connected and to check on their health.
“Only now, in this current semester, have we been able to go back to some schools and start delivering again,” Mr. Gaspard added.
On average, around 450 people participate in sessions run by Black Arrows each week.
To manage the implementation of its expanded program, Black Arrows has also invested in encouraging dozens of volunteers to become qualified Level 1 and Level 2 coaches.