Badminton Basics

If your conception of badminton is a quiet backyard barbecue game, you've never seen the pros in action. While this team sport is certainly quieter than bowling and less violent than football, players can work up quite a sweat. If it's a good aerobic workout you are looking for, step out onto the badminton court. Faster than a game of tennis, players can burn 600 to 1,000 calories an hour.

We don't hear much about the sport of badminton in the United States, where sports coverage centers on baseball, basketball, football and hockey. But in Europe and Asia, professional badminton players get plenty of attention. In fact, in Indonesia, top badminton players take in the kind of money only players such as LeBron James and Derek Jeter earn here.

In any case, badminton is lots of fun and players with even a moderate amount of skill can jump right in and enjoy not only the social aspects of team play but also the fantastic health benefits of a great cardiovascular workout.
Badminton is played with a shuttlecock, also called a shuttle or bird, which is hit back and forth across a net by players using rackets.

Who can play?

The game of badminton is such a popular backyard party game because most novices find it very easy. You can take up the game as a small child or even well into your senior years because beginners can start with simple volleys back and forth and graduate to faster, more advance games as they refine their skills.

Dressing the part

Badminton players generally think about a few things when dressing for a game. You want to be able to move and lunge quickly, so try loose-fitting comfortable attire. Dressing the part sometimes helps to boost confidence so you may consider going to a sports clothing store where you can check out badminton outfits. If you are playing correctly, you will be perspiring a lot. Protect yourself in all types of weather by making sure your clothing easily absorbs sweat.
Professional badminton rules say that players must wear white, but for your backyard game, you could probably consider making this an option!

Badminton court and equipment

Along with the physical ability to run on the court and swing a racket, there are a few things you will need to play badminton. You need a badminton racket and a shuttlecock, which is a small rounded piece of cork or rubber with a conical crown of feathers or plastic. You'll also need a court and a net. You can play indoors if you want, but you'll need a high ceiling and proper lighting to assure that all players can see the shuttlecock sail through the air.

The court

The game can be played on a court that is any size and shape. (Professional badminton, however, is played on a court that measure 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.) A net or string (if you don't happen to have a net lying around) is placed 5 feet off the ground, spanning the width of the center of the court.

The racket

There are no specific rules governing the type or size of badminton racket that players can use for unofficial use. However, racket manufacturers have devised a standard: a racket of 26 inches in length and weighing 4.5 to 5.5 ounces.

While rackets used to be made of wood, most backyard models are made with metal and nylon.
Many manufacturers make sets that include the net, racket and shuttlecocks so you can grab some teammates and get started.

How do you play badminton?

Similar to tennis, badminton is a racket sport for two or four players. Two people play a singles set while four players take to the court in teams of two for doubles play. The object of the game is to get to 21 points. Points are scored when the shuttlecock is successfully served or hit but not properly returned. The first team to win two matches wins the game.

Here are the basics of badminton play:

  1. The first serve of the game is from the right half court to the half diagonally opposite.
  2. If the receiving side commits a fault, the serving side gets a point and continues to serve.If the serving side commits a fault the receiving side gets a point.
  3. In singles and in doubles  the serve shifts to the opponent when a fault occurs.
  4. In both singles and doubles, the serve is made alternately from the right half and the left half sides of the court.
  5. Opponents change court ends after each game. The winning side serves first. A game consist of best of three,  21 points sets.

Badminton faults

There are three ways a player can cause a fault on the serve in the game of badminton. A fault occurs when the server a) strikes the shuttlecock at a point higher than the waist; b) holds the racket head higher than the hand; or c) fails to serve the shuttlecock in the proper court.

Other faults (loss of point or loss of serve) can occur during the rally. These faults occur when the shuttle: a) passes through or under the net; b) lands out of bounds; c) hits the ceiling or sidewalks; or d) the shuttlecock touches the clothing or body of a player.

Body language

The game of badminton is really a game of body language. The way a player grips the racket, moves around the court and shoots the shuttlecock can be the difference between winning and losing.

Gripping the racket: There are two basic grips from which all badminton shots are hit: the forehand and the backhand. When a player knows the difference between the shots, it's much easier to play and it's much easier to win!

For a right-handed forehand grip, take the racket in your left hand, holding it in front of you by the throat, parallel with the ground and with the strings perpendicular to the ground. Put the flat of your right hand against the strings, slide that hand down to the butt of the handle, and then close the fingers as though you are shaking hands with the handle. Handle and swing the racket as though it's an extension of your arms.

For the best backhand grip, take the correct forehand position with your arm extended. Bend your elbow so that your racket is across your body at the chest level with the strings perpendicular to the ground. Hold the racket firmly with your left hand and rotate your right hand toward your body until the thumb and the first finger "V" is in line with the two central main strings of the racket. Keeping your four fingers in place, move your thumb upward until it is on the handle and in line with those two middle strings.

Fancy footwork: While badminton is mainly an overhead game, a player has to know how to move on the court to get to the shuttlecock. Professional badminton players have what they call a "stance of readiness." From this stance, immediate movement in all directions is possible. The basic stance involves having your feet parallel and even with your shoulders. Point your toes toward the net, bend your knees slightly and keep you racket in your hand with your arm resting across the front of your body.

Badminton players move around the court area in a series of fast moves including pushing off from the stance, a fast bouncing shuffle and a lunge, similar to a familiar fencer's move. From all of these positions, however, the player can easily bounce back into the "stance of readiness."

Striking the shuttle: The game of badminton includes a variety of strokes, some aimed at basic play and others used by advanced players. The main strokes, however, are done in forehand and backhand. If you want to get good at this game, having a flexible wrist and perfecting your forehand and backhand play are essential.

Striking the shuttle consists of three parts: the backswing, the forward swing and hit, and the follow-through. Regardless of which stroke is used, the shuttle should be hit high and early. Once you are able to hit the shuttle using the basic swings, you can start perfecting the basic badminton shots: clear, drop, smash and drive.

  1. Clear: This shot is the most common and can be offensive, moving your opponent back from the net or defensive, gaining time to improve your own position.
  2. Drop: This shot is a slow, gentle shot that falls just over the net into the opponent's forecast.
  3. Smash: This shot is a powerful overhead shot used to put away a shuttle that is above the height of the net.
  4. Drive: This is a line-drive shot that travels parallel to the ground, passing close over the net.

Strategy of badminton

While it is a great game of social and physical conditioning, don't let badminton fool you. It's also quite a workout for the mind. Strategy is key in the game of badminton, and the game requires constant thinking and planning. Each shot of the shuttle has a purpose, and a good player keeps his or her eye on the entire court at all times.

As you perfect your badminton game, your strategy will naturally mature. However, beginners should adopt a basic strategy of alternating clear and drop shots and adding smashes and drives as the opportunity develops. Try to keep your opponent on the defensive, and remember the following simple points:

  1. Always return to the "stance of readiness" position after each shot
  2. Be prepared to move in any direction at all times
  3. In most cases, overhead shots are the best choice
  4. Move the shuttlecock around the court to keep your opponents running
  5. Have a purpose with each shot

And, finally, and perhaps most important in any game of skill and strategy, discover your opponents weaknesses and play to it as much as possible.