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Badminton

badminton

Badminton is an Olympic racket sport that has garnered widespread popularity in Asia, Europe, and South America. Originating from the recreational game "Battledore and Shuttlecock" in 16th-century England, it has evolved into a yard favorite among American households and an intensely competitive sport internationally.

Although it has existed in its current form for over a hundred years, badminton only entered the Olympics in 1972, where it was a "demonstration" sport at the Munich Games. It became a fully-fledged sport at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

In 1996, a mixed-doubles event (where each team has one man and one woman) was added to the traditional singles and doubles program, and badminton is the only olympic sport with a mixed doubles event. Since its addition to the Olympic Games, only five countries have ever medaled in badminton: China, Indonesia, Korea, England, and Denmark.


History

badminton history

Badminton's origins date back over 2,000 years to an ancient game called "Battledore and Shuttlecock." A version of Battledore became incredibly popular in upper-class England in the 19th century. In that game, players volleyed a shuttlecock back and forth without a net, and the activity was just a fun lawn game that was not competitive.

Around the same time, British officers serving in then-British India began to add more rules to Battledore to make it more exciting. They added a net and created a system of scoring to make it competitive. They took the sport back to their homes in England, where officers eventually found themselves introducing the game to the Duke of Beaufort in his home of "Badminton," which is where the name comes from.

In 1899, the first All-England Championships took place, and from there the sport took off and spread to the rest of the world, with the International Badminton Federation (IBF) being founded between 1934 and 1936.

Playing Surface

badminton court

Badminton, like tennis, is played on a court. A net spans the width of the court in the middle, and lines on either side form the boundaries. Below is a table that has all of the major parts of the badminton court!

Back Boundary Line(Singles Service Line)This line denotes the backmost boundary of the court in both singles and doubles play. It also serves as the backmost part of the single's service box.
Doubles Service LineThis line lies inside of the back boundary line, and its only purpose is to help define the doubles service box.
Short Service LineThe short service line is the line over which the shuttlecock must pass on the serve to be "in-bounds."
Singles and Doubles SidelinesThese sidelines help determine the court's width. The singles sideline is inside of the doubles, making the singles court narrower.
NetThe net spans the whole middle of the court, and is 5'1" tall on the sides and 5' high in the middle, where it dips slightly.
Center LineThe center line defines left from right service box.
Service BoxThe service box is the area where a serve must land. Each side of the court has a left and right box.

The badminton court is actually two courts in one: a singles court and a doubles court. Below are the dimensions for each court!

Singles' CourtDoubles' Court
Length44 feet44 feet
Width17 feet20 feet
Service Boxes15.5' x 8.5'12' x 8.5'

Equipment

badminton equipment list

The two most important pieces of equipment for badminton are the racket and the shuttlecock.

Rackets come in a variety of sizes, weights, and materials. In general, lightweight rackets are recommended for beginners because they are easier to control and allow for quicker movements with less effort. However, a heavier racket will help provide more power behind your shots. Yonex, Li-Ning, and Adidas are three of the most popular brands of racket. String tension, grip mold, and material are some factors that should weigh into your decision. Because you can't try out a racket if you buy online, it is better for you to head towards your local sporting goods shop before you make a purchase.

The shuttlecock, or birdie, is the second piece of equipment that you really need to play. Shuttlecocks have a rubber cork "head", into which a cone of either feather or plastic is attached to give it an aerodynamic "conical" shape. The shape allows the birdie to move towards its new direction within milliseconds of contact with the racket. Companies like Wilson sell shuttlecocks for less than $2 a piece, and high-quality birdies can be purchased from Li-Ning or Yonex for about $3 each.

Other important pieces of equipment include:

  • Badminton Shoes
  • Badminton Netting
  • Visors
  • Shorts
  • Athletic Polo or T-Shirt
  • Wrist and HeadBands

Gameplay

Badminton Gameplay

The object of badminton is to send a birdie (called the shuttlecock) over a net and have it land in the opponent's court. You can also score by having the opponent hit the birdie into the net or out-of-bounds. The back and forth hitting of the birdie over the net is called a "rally." Badminton uses "rally scoring," which means that a point is scored on each rally and the winner of each point gets to take the next serve.

Badminton can be played as singles (one player per side) or doubles (two players per side, forming teams). The first side to get to 21 points wins a game, and matches consist of best-of-three games.

Positions and Roles

Badminton Positions and Roles

Badminton is played in either singles and doubles, and so positions tend to be more informal than in a large team sport like soccer or baseball. In singles, a player must play both offense and defense at all times, and must cover the whole court on their own.

In doubles, there is a little more nuance to player positioning. When your team is putting pressure on your opponents, you are said to be "attacking." In these cases, one player will be in the back of the court, hitting "smashes" while the other player plays closer to the net to try and take advantage of the opponent's mistakes. When you are being pressured, you're "defending." A defending team will have its players each covering one side of the court, trying to cover the most ground possible to hold its footing and survive the onslaught of the opponents.

Sometimes, neither team has an advantage. In these instances, a team will set up defensively, and as soon as they gain the slightest advantage, one player will rush the net and the other will retreat, and the advantaged team will try to take up an attacking position.

Rules and Regulations

Badminton Rules and Regulations

A game of badminton is played to 21 points, and each match consists of three games. A coin toss decides who gets the first serve. After the first serve, the winner of each point gets to take the next serve.

The serving rules for badminton are a bit complicated. Serves must be conducted underhand, and must land in the service box that lies diagonally across the net from the box in which you are serving. The box from which you serve changes along with your score. Here you can see which box you should serve from, depending on what your score is:

Right Service BoxWhenever you have an even score (including zero). For instance, if you have 8 points, you'll serve from the right box!
Left Service BoxWhenever you have an odd score. For example, if you have 3 points, you'll serve from the left box!

A player can score a point by landing the birdie inside the opponent's court. A player also scores a point if the opponent hits the birdie out of bounds, hits it twice in a row, or hits it into the net.

There are a ton of other minor rules and corner-case scenarios. The entire BWF lawbook is twelve pages long!

Referees and Officials

Badminton Referees and Officials

There are a few different kinds of referees for badminton. They include the head referee, umpires, and line judges.

A referee is in charge of large-scale oversight, and they are the person to whom players can appeal decisions made by lower-level officials. They are responsible for ensuring that the tournament runs smoothly.

The umpires are in charge of individual matches. They oversee the games and watch for any rule-breaking, and are the ultimate decision maker within the matches themselves.

Line and service judges are similar to line judges in other sports. Their main jobs are to watch the boundary lines to ensure that the birdie remains in-bounds, and to make sure that all serves are done with legal motions and to the correct service boxes.

Lingo and Terminology

Badminton Lingo and Terminology

What on earth is a "shuttlecock?" What's a "carry?" Don't worry if you don't know any of the terms that your friends are spitting off when you're playing. We've got you covered! Here are some common terms that may come up often:

  • Shuttlecock: Just another name for the birdie! It's made from rubber cork and plastic or feathers. Its name comes from the back and forth "shuttle" of play, and because it looks like a chicken with all of its feathers coming out.
  • Carry: Catching the birdie and "throwing" it off of the racket. An illegal kind of hit.
  • Clear: Following a series of fast-paced and close-to-the-net shots, a clear is when a player launches a shot to the back of the court, scattering the opponent.
  • Kill: A hard, fast hit that is unreturnable for the opponent.
  • Smash: Similar to a kill, the birdie is projected at a steep angle towards the ground. It is the primary "attacking" shot in badminton.
  • Drop Shot: A shot that rises high into the air before falling quickly just past the net on the opponent's side of the court. An important technical shot!

Coaches

Badminton Coaches

To become a badminton coach, being certified is very often a must, especially if you want to coach international-caliber athletes. USA Badminton offers certification programs for which you're required to take and complete specialized courses and training. Being USAB-certified opens many doors, from coaching young and aspiring players to world-class athletes.

Coaching

Badminton Coaching

Unless you're a world-class athlete, finding a good badminton coach can be tricky business! Most YMCAs and your local multi-sport centers will offer group and individual lessons, so be sure to call and check if they can help you out. Team USA Badminton recommends also looking towards colleges and universities near you, because they tend to have student-led programs that teach badminton at all levels of the game.

Strategy

Badminton Strategy

Strategy in badminton changes drastically depending on if you're playing singles or doubles. For more information on doubles strategy, be sure to check out our "positions and roles" section of this article!

In singles badminton, the most important strategic tool is known as "recovery to central base." Central base position refers to the very middle of the court, which is where the player has the greatest ability to move to any of the parts of the court if needed. After each shot, returning to the central base position gives you the best chance of meeting the next opponent's shot.

Another key strategic device is called movement pressure. This means forcing your opponent to move all over the court, hitting to completely different parts of the court on each of your shots. This will tire out your opponent, and increase your chances of catching them off guard. While you generally want to "hit to the corners", when defending against your opponent's pressure it can be useful to return the birdie to the middle of the court, because that decreases the attacking options of your opponent and limits the angles of attack, giving you more time to recover.

Badminton Drills

Badminton Drills

There are a number of drills that beginners and professionals alike practice to improve their skills. Here's a table with just a few easy drills and each one's benefits:

Shadow PlayShadow Playing is basically badminton without a birdie. You'll need a partner for this one. Stand at the ready as though you were about to return a serve, and your partner will call out areas of the court to which you should turn and sprint. This drill will improve your explosiveness and footwork, and will help you better understand how to manage the court.
Wall RalliesWall rallies can be useful because they don't require a partner; just you, a wall, a racket, and a birdie. Hit your birdie against the wall as many times as you can without it touching the ground. Wall rallies can increase your reflex speed and wrist movements, since the wall will send the birdie back quicker than a live opponent would.
Half-court MatchesPlaying half-court with a partner is great for improving accuracy, stamina, and footwork. The confined space forces you to harness greater control of your shots, and will result in longer rallies that improve your badminton endurance.

Olympic Badminton

olympic-badminton

Although it has existed in its current form for over a hundred years, badminton only entered the Olympics in 1972, where it was a "demonstration" sport at the Munich Games. It became a fully-fledged sport at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

In 1996, a mixed-doubles event (where each team has one man and one woman) was added to the traditional singles and doubles program, and badminton is the only olympic sport with a mixed doubles event. Since its addition to the Olympic Games, only five countries have ever medaled in badminton: China, Indonesia, Korea, England, and Denmark.

Badminton Players

Badminton Players

The top men's badminton player today is Kento Momota, a Japanese superstar that is the two-time defending world champion. In January of 2020, Momota was involved in a terrible car accident that required eye surgery and months of rehabilitation. Momota says that he even considered quitting the sport, but persevered so that he could play in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Chen Long is considered a serious contender for a gold medal in 2021 as well. He is the defending Olympic Champion from the Rio Games, and has won two world championships in his own right. His path to stardom started back in 2007, when he won the World Junior's championships.

The world's best female badminton player right now is Spaniard Carolina Marin. She is the reigning Olympic Champion, has won 3 world championships, and at one point held the World's No. 1 spot for a record 66 weeks.

Some of the top players the world are:

NameDescription
Lin Dan (China)is often regarded as the greatest singles player of all time. He is a time time Olympic champion, 5 time World champion, six time All-England champion.
Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)the only Mayalsian player to hold the top position in the world ranking for over one year.
Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia)has won the Indosesian Open a record of six times won the gold medal for men's single competition in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Badminton Leagues

Badminton League

Badminton is governed internationally by the BWF, the Badminton World Federation. The BWF is responsible for setting international guidelines, organizing world championship events, and ensuring badminton's representation at the Olympic Games.

The biggest professional league is the Premier Badminton League, or PBL, that takes place in India. Formed in 2013, it started as an Indian professional organization but quickly turned its focus internationally after much success in its first season. World-class players like Carolina Marin and Lee Chong Wei are members of the league, and it is considered recently to be the top level of professional badminton.

Badminton Teams

Badminton Teams

A Badminton Club is an organization that brings together groups of players in order to create tournaments, sponsor leagues, and form group practices. In the United States, a player must be part of a sanctioned club if they wish to represent the U.S.A. in international competitions like the Olympics.

There are clubs all over the country and it's likely that there is one near you if you want to play! Many colleges like MIT and Columbia University also sponsor badminton teams to play in inter-collegiate competitions. If you're a college student looking to play, chances are that your university probably already sponsors a team!

Badminton Events

Badminton Events

In most serious badminton play, there are three main events: singles, doubles, and mixed-doubles. While some tournaments only have singles, or doubles or mixed-doubles the Olympics hold programs for each event and several other major tournaments like the World Junior Championships do as well.

In singles play, there is only one player per side, and people compete as individuals. The court is slightly narrower to accommodate the lone players, but otherwise all rules are the same.

In doubles play, two players on teams play on either side of the net. In doubles play, players most often compete for their clubs, teams, and countries. The court is slightly wider than in singles play because there are two players. In traditional doubles, teams are made of either only men or women.

Mixed doubles is the same as doubles, except each team has one man and one woman.

Badminton Tournaments

Badminton Tournaments

There are six major world-wide tournaments held for badminton, with most being held every two years and others being held every single year. They are known as "Grade-one Tournaments," and include:

World Championships (and Para-Badminton Championships)Held every year since 2006 (aside from Olympic years), the winners of this tournament are crowned "World Champions."
World Junior ChampionshipsBWF-Sponsored world championship event for players aged 18 years and under.
BWF World Senior ChampionshipsBWF's Seniors championship tournament. It features only singles contests, with age categories beginning at 35+ and going all the way to a 75+ category.
Thomas CupAlso known as the "Men's Team World Championships," it is held every two years and began in 1948. It does not feature individual events, and does not feature women either.
Uber CupAlso called the "Women's Team World Championships." Like the Thomas Cup, it features only team events, and features only women. It is contested every two years.
Sudirman CupThe Sudirman Cup is the most prestigious mixed team tournament in the world. It takes place every two years, and always at the same venue as the BWF World Championships.

In addition, the Summer Olympic Games holds a badminton program every four years, and are considered on-par with the World Championships as far as prestige is concerned. Winning any of the seven "grade-one" tournaments puts an athlete into the conversation for best in the world at any given time.

Badminton Books

Badminton Books

There are a number of books out there that are great for badminton players. If you want to improve your technique, the following books are top-sellers that outline the basics of the sport:

  1. Badminton, Skills of the Game by Mark Golds
  2. Badminton, Steps to Success by Tony Grice
  3. Badminton by Michael W. Metzler
  4. Dare to Be a Champion by World Champion Lee Chong Wei

Many coaches and top-flight players also recommend books that aren't specifically about badminton, but can offer lessons for aspiring athletes and are valuable reads anyway. Here a few recommended by Liam Walsh, a certified badminton coach from England:

  1. Bounce by Matthew Syed
  2. Thrive by Arianna Huffington
  3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Badminton Websites

Badminton Websites
  • Team USA Badminton: This is the go-to site for information on American badminton. It focuses on American Olympians, fostering badminton within the United States, and has information for playing the sport within the U.S. Other national sporting bodies will have their own badminton webpages as well.
  • BWF Badminton: This website is where you can find ranking, profiles, scores, tournament streams, and photos for top-flight international badminton play. It is the website for badminton's highest governing body, the Badminton World Federation. Here is a link to its homepage.
  • Badminton, Tokyo 2020: Everything that you need to know about badminton in the upcoming Olympics (which have been moved to 2021). From player profiles, to predictions, to a history of the sport at the Olympics, this site is your one-stop-shop for Olympic badminton. You can access the website here.

FAQ

How much money does it cost to play badminton?

It really depends on where and how you're playing! For example, many people like playing badminton as a yard game at family gatherings and picnics. If that's your situation, costs will have to include buying a net and set of rackets and shuttlecocks, which all-together will cost around $100 to 150. However, once you've paid the upfront costs, you'll be able to play completely free as much as you want. On the other hand, playing on an indoor court usually costs money each time, or can require a membership to the club or center, and can be up to $45 per session.

Where can I play badminton if I don't have a partner?

You can usually find open courts at your local swimming pool, YMCA, or sports center. Often, people will already be playing there. Call and see what the options are near you, and remember, you can always recruit a friend to learn the game.

What kind of shuttlecock is best?

While feathered shuttlecocks are considered the "highest quality," they are usually much more expensive than plastic ones, and for most beginners, plastic birdies will do their job just fine.

Where should I go to buy my equipment?

Most sporting goods stores (including Dick's and the sports departments of chains like WalMart and Target) will have what you're looking for. If you want top-of-the-line clothing, shoes, and rackets, and aren't fortunate enough to have a specialty shop nearby, you can go online to the retailers themselves.