Do You Need to Be Tall to Play Badminton?

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One of the best things about badminton is how inclusive it is. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how fit you are; there’s always room for everyone on a badminton court. But do you need to be “vertically endowed” to do well?

You don’t need to be tall to play badminton — Badminton is a sport for tall and short players alike. With that said, however, height confers certain advantages like better angles for drop shots and steep smashes. Luckily, shorter players can strike low-shuttlecocks better without having to dive or change levels much.

In short, being tall is an advantage on the court, but it’s not exactly the key to victory. For proof, all you need to do is look at the average heights of badminton players at the highest levels of the game.

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Does Height Matter in Badminton?

Frank Layden said it best when he said “you can’t train height.” Nobody will disagree. Then again, basketball is a sport that plays to a tall person’s strengths. Badminton is a totally different ball game — or, should I say, racket sport?

Height can matter in badminton, although badminton is a sport for tall and short players alike. Height is a great thing to have, especially if your smash and clear are on point. Height gives a player a higher vantage point to deliver downward shots, causing the shuttlecock to speed downwards at a near-impossible to catch angle.

Height confers a strategic advantage — at least, for those who know how to take advantage of their vertical endowment. One example of a player who has capitalized on height is Mads Pieler Kolding, who stands at a towering 205 cm. Another badminton giant is Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov, who towers over the men’s singles division at 197 cm.

For the most part, however, many of the best players seem to be closer to the average height of a badminton player. So if you’re not endowed with Goliath-esque genetics, how tall (or short) should you be?

How Tall is the Average Badminton Player?

As mentioned earlier, badminton isn’t the most height-dependent sport on the planet. It’s for this reason that many of the best in the sport are closer to the average height of a badminton player.

The average male badminton player stands at about 179.1 cm, with a minimum height of 172.8 cm. At most, the average male player is about 186 cm tall. For women, the average height is about 167.8 cm. The minimum height for an “average” female badminton player is about 163 cm, or 173.1 cm at most. When it comes to the men’s and women’s doubles events, the average heights of players are 179.5 cm and 168.3 cm, respectively. 172.7 cm is the average height of players in the mixed doubles category.

Average Height of Badminton Players
Average Height of Badminton Players

In my article on the average heights of badminton players, I derived these average heights out of a sample from each category. I had a sample size of 124 male players for the men’s event and 122 female players for the women’s event.
The men’s doubles event was represented by a sample size consisting of 50 players. By comparison, the sample size for the women’s event was nearly identical. 24 women and 25 men made up my sample size for the mixed doubles category.
Because of my statistical treatment of average heights, standard deviations also came into play. For this reason, the average heights mentioned represent the midpoint of all heights of players. The standard deviation’s presence allows for some variance in the average heights.

For instance, for the men’s category, I derived a standard deviation of 6.9 cm, so a male badminton player can be 172.8 cm to 186 cm tall.

What are the Strengths of a Tall Badminton Player?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are some advantages to being tall in badminton. So, what are they?

Taller badminton players can perform certain shots at steeper angles, making it difficult for their opponents to get to the birdie. These shots are the clear and the smash. Because of their heights, taller badminton players have an edge in striking shuttlecocks downward and closer to the net. Besides their higher vantage points, taller players will likely have longer limbs. Longer limbs allow tall players to generate more power in their shots. With control, taller players can also perform powerful overhead shots with lesser chances of hitting the net.

Image - Steep Shot
Tall players have an edge in striking shuttlecocks downward and closer to the net.

Here are some examples of height playing well to the advantage of players who possess it. Mads Pieler Kolding is the tallest male player in badminton, standing at 205 cm tall. He has some of the fastest smashes in badminton, and he puts it on full display in this video.

Viktor Axelsen, the winner of the men’s singles category in the 2021 Olympics, towers over much of the competition at 194 cm. As a result, his overhand offensive shots are some of the hardest for most of his opponents to hit. This is due to the power behind them and the angles. Watch this video showcasing the Dane shuttler’s specialty shots to see what I mean.

However, don’t put down your racket with envy if you aren’t 205 cm or even 194 cm tall. For the benefits height brings, it does have some drawbacks.

What are the Weaknesses of a Tall Badminton Player?

I’ve said earlier that height is an advantage, but not the key to victory. This is because of some of the disadvantages that can come with height.

Taller players can lack the agility and mobility that shorter players enjoy on the court. This can make diving after low-flying shuttlecocks at a distance challenging. Also, taller players tend to suffer defensively; shots that are directed straight at taller players can be difficult to return. The wider wingspan and height coupled with the relative lack of agility aren’t conducive to defending against these types of shots.

Image with text - Weakness of Tall Player

In short, with training and skill being equal, movement and defensive ability go the way of the shorter player.

What are the Strengths of a Short Badminton Player?

Shorter badminton players enjoy their share of tactical advantages over their taller counterparts.

Shorter badminton players can chase after shuttlecocks with their agility and speed. Because shorter players will typically weigh less than taller badminton players, shorter players use less energy to move around the badminton court. Not only are they more agile and mobile as a result, but they have more energy at their disposal. Shorter players are also at a closer height to the net, meaning that they can hit horizontal shots like drives with greater accuracy and precision.

Image with text - Strength of a Short Player

To see the strengths of shorter players in action, here is a video of the 2018 Yonex All England doubles match between Indonesia’s Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamulho and Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Kolding. In the video, you’ll see the Indonesian team going against an equally skilled, but taller, Danish pair. Kevin Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon stand at 170 cm and 168 cm respectively, while their opponents, Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding, were 186 cm and 205 cm.

The Indonesian pair put their skills on full display against this formidable Denmark duo. The agility displayed by Gideon and Sukamuljo made this match a David vs Goliath spectacle worth watching!

What are the Weaknesses of a Short Badminton Player?

Shorter players may have it all in terms of agility, speed, and energy-efficiency. Nevertheless, their mobility and endurance come at a cost.

Shorter badminton players lack the height required for delivering effortless and powerful smashes. To effectively perform overhand shots like the smash and the clear, shorter players have to jump higher to generate the height and force necessary. Shorter badminton players also need to use more energy when their opponents hit the shuttlecock far from where they are. Unlike taller players, who don’t need to chase distant shuttlecocks, shorter players need to spring onto a shuttlecock that’s at a distance.

Image - Steep Shot Weakness
Shorter badminton players also need to use more energy when their opponents hit the shuttlecock far from where they are.

Here’s an example of where shorter badminton players can be at a disadvantage: on May 11, 2022, there was a match between Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and Indonesia’s Bilqis Prasista. Akane Yamaguchi is 156 cm. Her opponent, Bilqis Prasista, is about 167 cm.

In their Thomas Uber Cup match, which you can watch here, you’ll notice that Akane Yamaguchi misses the shuttlecock when it lands far from her. She gets the shuttlecock numerous times, but in a match, the energy required to hit a distant shuttlecock adds up to her disadvantage.

Tall or Short, Just Train Hard

Height confers strategic advantages, but these advantages can only come to the fore if you hone your skills. In badminton, skill is the main key to victory. As long as you improve in this area, height will be a minuscule consideration.

No matter how tall or short you are, know that the badminton court is the ultimate equalizer — and that’s precisely what makes this sport so inclusive!

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