Badminton is believed to be the fastest racket sport, with the shuttle
traveling at speeds close to 200 miles per hour. As you can imagine, players
require quick reflexes to smash the shuttle to their opponent.
Badminton is an indoor racket sport. However, instead of a ball, players
hit a shuttlecock, a cone-shaped gizmo made of goose feathers, or in some
cases, nylon. Real badminton is never played with a plastic shuttle. This
feather-light shuttle, also known as a birdie, can move amazingly fast.
When you return a shuttle to your opponent over a net five feet high, the
hit is known as a smash. The game is played until someone scores 15, which
can last from 40 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the level of the
players, says badminton umpire Jim Greenlees.
Anthony Andrews says unfortunately, most people view badminton as an outdoors
picnic sport, not as an athletic, high-speed indoor sport. True badminton
is competitive, quick and played indoors.
"The reason why you can't really play outdoors is that real goose feather
shuttles are too light and get blown all over the place by any wind that there
is," explains Andrews.
Asian countries are crazy for badminton -- crowds of up to 15,000 are not
uncommon for major tournaments in Malaysia and Indonesia -- and China and
Indonesia win 70 percent of championships.
Only Malaysia, Indonesia, and China have won the Thomas Cup, the men's
world championships, since it began in 1948. The only time the Uber Cup, the
women's world championships, was won outside Asia was by the U.S. in 1957,
1960 and 1963. Other holders are China, Indonesia and Japan.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, says 54-year-old badminton player Cindy Simpson,
their top players are treated like our basketball and hockey players. Besides
Asia, badminton is widely played in Britain, Denmark and Sweden.
The sport was added to the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, when more than
1.1 billion people watched its debut on TV.
In the U.S., badminton is not as popular, although Colorado, Florida and
California seem to have a lot of tournaments, says Greenlees.
The United States Badminton Association estimates that it has nearly 2,700
members and that there are thousands more recreational badminton players in
If you live close to the Kansas City Museum, visit the biggest shuttle
in the world. It is 48 times larger than the real thing, 18 feet tall and
weighs 5,000 pounds.
People who love badminton might consider pursuing a career as a sporting
goods salesperson or a physical education teacher.
If you are interested in playing badminton, you will find yourself in top
condition soon, although you don't have to start out that way. Greenlees says
limbering and stretching exercises improve performance and help prevent injuries.
The sport is extremely aerobic and consists of running, jumping, twisting,
stretching, running backwards, throwing and striking. A badminton player can
cover more than one mile in just one match.
Fitness and fancy footwork are not enough to win a game. Concentration,
quick thinking and versatility to adapt to your opponent's tactics and weaknesses
are essentials. Deceptive moves, when legal, help score points, too.
Like tennis, you can play singles or doubles. The rectangular court is
44 feet by 20 feet for doubles and 44 feet by 17 feet for singles.
Playing doubles requires the ability to be a team player. And just because
you are a doubles player, do not assume you can play singles easily. Each
requires different strategies and skills.
Common injuries are ankle and knee twists and sprains. Some badminton players
like to wear protective eye coverings, but neither Greenlees, who has been
playing for more than 40 years, or Andrews, with over 20 years chalked up,
has injured their eyes. The knee is a different story.
Disabled and handicapped people may still be able to play badminton. There
are special tournaments that take these limitations into account.
The game has no age limits, either. Junior division tournaments have kids
under 12 and in senior tournaments it is not unusual to see 70 and 80 year
olds smashing the birdie, says Greenlees.
Badminton clubs are good places for beginners to start testing their footwork
and jumping and twisting skills. Here, you can chat with players and watch
the game to see if you like it, says Andrews.
Rackets weigh less than 3.5 ounces and the shuttlecock weighs between 4.74
and 5.50 grams. A good racket, which Greenlees recommends for those serious
about the sport, costs $80 to $120. Shuttles cost about $20 for a dozen.
To begin playing badminton, check the links below or write the American
association to get a list of clubs in your area.
One Olympic Plaza
Good links on how to play and FAQs
International Badminton Federation
Information on rankings, statutes, and tournaments