A Lisburn-based badminton coach working with emerging talent has been recognised at the 2018 Sport NI SportMaker Awards.

Ulster Badminton’s Conor Hickland was named Performance Pathway Coach of the Year at the Awards for his work transitioning talented players in the sport’s U13 and U15 setup from club level into a performance environment.

Over the last year, Conor’s squad of 12 players have enjoyed multiple success, including 10 national and provincial titles and 16 runner-up finishes. Conor coaches Paige Woods, the number one ranked U13 player in Ireland who completed a clean sweep to win all national and provincial titles. Other notable successes came from Rory Comer, who achieved three second place finishes in the U13 boys at national and provincial opens, and Rory’s sister Laura who finished the season as top ranked player in Ireland in the U15 girls doubles following first place finishes in the singles and mixed doubles at the Munster Open.

Sport NI’s SportMaker Awards recognise oustanding achievements by Northern Ireland’s sports coaches, officials and volunteers. The Performance Pathway Coach of the Year title is awarded to coaches, working with emerging and young talent, who have demonstrated innovative, player-centred and successful practice. Conor received his award from Simon Toole, Sport NI Coaching Consultant, at the National Badminton Centre in Lisburn on Tuesday 20th November.

Commenting on his win, Conor said:

“I am absolutely delighted to win the award. To be honest, I was really pleased just to be nominated in the first place so this has come as a total surprise! My passion is coaching the younger players, trying to support them to be the best that they can be and producing good players for Ulster and, hopefully, Ireland too. Some of the players I coach have gone on to become national champions at their own age group which is a real pleasure to see.”

Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown congratulated Conor on his award, adding:

“Every day, our local sports clubs and sports systems in Northern Ireland play a vital role in helping people to get and stay involved in sport – they provide the opportunities and structures that allow people to develop and achieve their sporting ambitions. However, this is only made possible by coaches like Conor whose expertise and commitment are at the heart of making sport happen. Conor has done an incredible job of nurturing and guiding young talent, helping them develop the skills, experiences and resilience necessary for progressing into the high performance side of sport. His young squads have achieved some brilliant results last year, and they should be very proud. However, I’m sure they would join us in paying tribute to Conor’s work and leadership. On behalf of Sport NI, I am delighted to congratulate Conor on his SportMaker award, and wish him and all his athletes continued success ahead.”

Ryan Prentice, Ulster Badminton’s Club & Coaching Officer, who nominated Conor for his award, added:

“Conor is not only an excellent coach but also a role model for the young players he works with. He conducts himself in a professional manner at all times and always requires the highest of standards from his players and himself.”