First Steps in Playing Badminton
It starts off rather innocuously. Maybe it was a net in the back yard or at the summer beach house. Maybe it was a story a friend of a friend of a friend had told. In any event, you realize that people actually play badminton indoors and that there’s a club at the MAC on Fridays and Sundays. Imagine that… indoor badminton! So you make your way to the MAC to see what’s really going on… and a badminton player is born.
You start playing a game or two (so that’s how you keep score!). The first couple of games are just hitting the bird back and forth until someone makes a mistake. That’s OK, but it’s not terribly exciting. It slowly dawns on you that if you can hit the bird harder than your opponent, you can drive him back and force him to make a few more mistakes.
Neat! Soon, your opponent catches on and starts to hit it harder as well, driving you back. Something obviously needs to be done… so you think – hey, maybe I’ll try a smash or two.
You smash and you smash and you smash. Kewl. Duh… uhuh, uhuh, uhuh. You strong, You smash. Your opponent trembles with fear. But, he keeps trying and eventually starts to return some of your smashes. Then he starts returning more of your smashes.
What next? Why – a harder smash! You start lifting weights 5 times a week. Your steroid shots start making a breakout. Your smashes get a lot harder, but man, it sure is tiring. To make things worse, no matter how hard you smash, that darned bird just keeps on coming back.
The Placement Shot
Suddenly, it dawns on you. If you don’t smash right to your opponent, he has a harder time returning the shot. Heck, if you hit the bird away from your opponent, he has a hard time returning any of the shots. So you start mixing it up.
The smash to the side. The clear to the backhand. The drop shot – what a concept… a shot which uses very little energy and makes your opponent run! With this revelation, you are reborn as a better player. Your new strategy works for a long time. But, like everything else, your opponent catches on and starts doing the same thing to you.
Survival of the Fittest:
Your games are a lot more exciting now. You’re making your opponent run all over the court; your opponent is making you run all over the place. But that’s all right – you’ve started your running program, so you’re in better shape and can wear your opponent down.
Not only that, but you start observing your opponent and can pretty well predict where he’s going to hit the bird from the way he holds his racket and the way he starts to swing.
Something’s wrong. Your opponent is starting to play tricks on you. He’s toying with your mind. It looks like he’s going to smash but he drops it instead. You think he’s going to hit it to the left but he slices it to the right. What’s going on??? You’re running all over the place.
Well, there’s only one response to all this deception. Pick up the pace of the game – give him less time to do that sneaky stuff. Put him on the defensive. That’s the name of the game.
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe…
You’ve played with most people at the club. You know their quirks and their weaknesses. They know your quirks and your weaknesses. What’s worse, everyone at the club is so darned NICE. You need to vent. You need to give in to the dark side of the force. You need to hit that bird really hard and fast. What are your options? Well, you could:
- Visit another club to play with new players.
- Get a group together and challenge another club.
- Enter a local tournament.
- Enter a regional tournament.
There are a few local clubs you could visit or challenge. These clubs vary in the level of play. Most clubs are a drive away – not very accessible by ‘T’, with the exception of our traditional rivals, MIT.
Tournaments – did anyone mention tournaments? Tournaments can be a great thing: you can learn new tricks from other players, you end up playing better than you thought you could since you end up trying a lot harder than at the club. Finally, there’s the thrill of the road trip
Of course, there are the downsides: waiting around for your games, not winning a single match in the tournament, and then there’s the ever-present thrill of the road trip
How you do in a tournament depends on your level of play and the level of the tournament. Generally, if you go with the attitude that you’ll be competing and playing your best… it doesn’t matter how many games you play, as long as you don’t get blown away and you feel you played well.
But, it sure does suck if you’re blown away and you don’t score more than a few points. How to get around this? Pick your tournament!
For those of you who are playing for the first year or two, you should probably stick to tournaments with a ‘C’ or ‘D’ level.
Although the ranking system around here is still pretty variable, most people who have been playing for at least a year should do reasonably well at the ‘D’ level. But, it does strictly if you’ve only been playing for a few months, entering a tournament at your own risk.
The Grand Plan
So, what lessons do we take away from the Evolution of the Badminton Player?
- Drill: learn to clear the bird to the backcourt.
- Drill: smashing takes strength, and may not always be appropriate.
- Drill: drop shots – takes less energy.
- Drill: smashes can be dangerous since people end up hitting the bird right back to the other person. Hit AWAY:
- Placement! Make people run around. Exploit their backhands.
- Fitness: badminton is an endurance sport – especially singles.
- Deception: it pays to be sneaky, but get the basics down first.
- Serving to Win!
Speaking of the basics – don’t forget the serve! After all, you can’t score a point unless you can serve.
1. Low – barely skimming the net. That way, it can’t be smashed. Mix it up with the occasional high flick serve to keep your opponent guessing.
2. High – it needs to be DEEP or it’ll be smashed. Don’t use it too often if you can’t return the smash. But, use it occasionally if your opponent keeps rushing the net at your low serves.
1. High – very HIGH and DEEP. Right to the back of the court but so high that it drops straight down. That way, it’s more difficult to get smashed on.
2. Low – used occasionally to keep your opponent on his toes.
There, in a nutshell, is what people can do to improve their games.
You may want to read about the progression of badminton.