Badminton is a type of racquet sport which is played by either two opposing players (known as singles), or two opposing pairs (known as doubles). They each take their positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net. Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquet so that it goes over the net and into the other half of the court. Each side can only strike the shuttlecock once before it passes over the net. A rally ends once the shuttlecock has struck the floor of the court.
The shuttlecock (or shuttle) is a feathered projectile whose unique aerodynamic properties cause it to fly differently than the balls used in most racquet sports; in particular, the feathers create much higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly than a ball. Shuttlecocks have a much higher top speed, when compared to other racquet sports. Because shuttlecock flight is affected by wind, competitive badminton is played indoors. Badminton is also played outdoors as a casual recreational activity, often as a garden or beach game.
Since 1992, badminton has been an Olympic sport with five events: men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles, in which each pair consists of a man and a woman. At high levels of play, especially in singles, the sport demands excellent fitness: players require aerobic stamina, agility, explosive strength, speed and precision. It is also a technical sport, requiring good motor coordination and the development of sophisticated racquet movements
The History of Badminton
The beginnings of Badminton can be traced to mid-18th century British India, where it was created by British military officers stationed there. Early photographs show Englishmen adding a net to the traditional English game of battledore and shuttlecock. Being particularly popular in the British town Poona (modern day Pune), the game also came to be known as Poona. Initially, balls of wool referred as ball badminton were preferred by the upper classes in windy or wet conditions, but ultimately the shuttlecock stuck. This game was taken by retired officers back to England where it developed and rules were set out.
Although it appears clear that Badminton House, Gloucestershire, owned by the Duke of Beaufort, has given its name to the sports, it is unclear when and why the name was adopted. As early as 1860, a London toy dealer named Isaac Spratt published a booklet, Badminton Battledore – a new game. Unfortunately no copy has survived. An 1863 article in The Cornhill Magazine describes badminton as “battledore and shuttlecock played with sides, across a string suspended some five feet from the ground”. This early use has cast doubt on the origin through expatriates in India, though it is known that it was popular there in the 1870s and that the first rules were drawn up in Poonah in 1873.
As early as 1875, veterans returning from India started a club in Folkestone. Until 1887, the sport was played in England under the rules that prevailed in British India. The Bath Badminton Club standardised the rules and made the game applicable to English ideas. J.H.E. Hart drew up revised basic regulations in 1887 and, with Bagnel Wild, again in 1890. In 1893, the Badminton Association of England published the first set of rules according to these regulations, similar to today’s rules, and officially launched badminton in a house called “Dunbar” at 6 Waverley Grove, Portsmouth, England on September the 13th of that year. They also started the All England Open Badminton Championships, the first badminton competition in the world, in 1899.
The International Badminton Federation (IBF) (now known as Badminton World Federation) was established in 1934 with Canada, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales as its founding members. India joined as an affiliate in 1936. The BWF now governs international badminton and develops the sport globally.
While initiated in England, competitive men’s badminton in Europe has traditionally been dominated by Denmark. Asian nations, however, have been the most dominant ones at the world level. Indonesia, South Korea, China, and Malaysia along with Denmark are among the nations that have consistently produced world-class players in the past few decades, with China being the greatest force in both men’s and women’s badminton competition in recent years.
General Badminton Rules
Each game is played to 21 points, with players scoring a point whenever they win a rally regardless of whether they served (this differs from the old system where players could only win a point on their serve and each game was played to 15 points). A match is the best of three games.
At the start of the rally, the server and receiver stand in diagonally opposite service courts (see court dimensions). The server hits the shuttlecock so that it would land in the receiver’s service court. This is similar to tennis, except that a badminton serve must be hit below waist height and with the racquet shaft pointing downwards, the shuttlecock is not allowed to bounce and in badminton, the players stand inside their service courts unlike tennis.
When the serving side loses a rally, the serve immediately passes to their opponent (this differs from the old system where sometimes the serve passes to the doubles partner for what is known as a “second serve”). In singles, the server stands in their right service court when their score is even, and in her/his left service court when her/his score is odd.
In doubles, if the serving side wins a rally, the same player continues to serve, but he/she changes service courts so that she/he serves to a different opponent each time. If the opponents win the rally and their new score is even, the player in the right service court serves; if odd, the player in the left service court serves. The players’ service courts are determined by their positions at the start of the previous rally, not by where they were standing at the end of the rally. A consequence of this system is that each time a side regains the service, the server will be the player who did not serve last time
The BWF organises several international competitions, including the Thomas Cup, the premier men’s international team event first held in 1948–1949, and the Uber Cup, the women’s equivalent first held in1956–1957. The competitions take place once every two years. More than 50 national teams compete in qualifying tournaments within continental confederations for a place in the finals. The final tournament involves 12 teams, following an increase from eight teams in 2004.
The Sudirman Cup, a gender-mixed international team event held once every two years, began in 1989. Teams are divided into seven levels based on the performance of each country. To win the tournament, a country must perform well across all five disciplines (men’s doubles and singles, women’s doubles and singles, and mixed doubles). Like association football (soccer), it features a promotion and relegation system in every level.
Badminton was a demonstration event in the 1972 and 1988 Summer Olympics. It became an official Summer Olympic sport at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and its gold medals now generally rate as the sport’s most coveted prizes for individual players.
In the BWF World Championships, first held in 1977, currently only the highest ranked 64 players in the world, and a maximum of four from each country, can participate in any category. In both the Olympic and BWF World competitions restrictions on the number of participants from any one country have caused some controversy because they sometimes result in excluding elite world level players from the strongest badminton nations. The Thomas, Uber, and Sudirman Cups, the Olympics, and the BWF World (and World Junior Championships), are all categorised as level one tournaments.
At the start of 2007, the BWF introduced a new tournament structure for the highest level tournaments aside from those in level one: the BWF Super Series. This level two tournament series, a tour for the world’s elite players, stages twelve open tournaments around the world with 32 players (half the previous limit). The players collect points that determine whether they can play in Super Series Final held at the year end. Among the tournaments in this series is the venerable All-England Championships, first held in 1900, which was once considered the unofficial world championships of the sport.
Level three tournaments consist of Grand Prix Gold and Grand Prix event. Top players can collect the world ranking points which enable them to play in the BWF Super Series open tournaments. These include the regional competitions in Asia (Badminton Asia Championships) and Europe (European Badminton Championships), which produces the world’s best players.