In this post, I’ll go over the top 10 Do’s and Don’ts to help you improve your game. It isn’t about etiquette, if you want to read about that, go see the 7 Unspoken Rules of Badminton Etiquette – which every badminton player should know to keep the badminton community as a fun and welcoming place for everyone.
For this particular post, I’ve elaborated on each item down below but I’ll list out a compact version of it here first. If you would like to go into the details, scroll down to the appropriate section.
- Master your footwork
- Use the correct hitting form
- Practice your serve
- Practice your service return
- Clear and lift far and high
- Do drills
- Communicate with your doubles partner
- Anticipate shots
- Watch badminton videos and read badminton posts!
- Don’t make unforced errors
- Don’t be too tricky
- Don’t rush
- Don’t make excuses
- Don’t collide with your partner
- Don’t be indecisive
- Don’t move before the shuttle is hit
- Don’t take too many steps
- Don’t think the rally is over before it’s over
- Don’t let the shuttle get behind you
Alright, let’s get into the details!
1. Master Your Footwork
Movement, alongside your hitting form, is one of the most important aspects to master before anything else. In order to hit well, you first have to get in position well. By mastering your footwork, you’ll be able to move around efficiently and quickly, being exactly where you need before you strike the shuttle. I would argue that this is the single best thing to practice to improve your game drastically. If you ever saw professionals train, they train their footwork diligently because they know how important it is.
Keep in mind that you should make sure that your footwork is correct, not just fast. Correct footwork is much more important than speed. By focusing on doing the correct footwork, it will allow you to take fewer steps (in other words, be more efficient and use less energy) and be less prone to injuries. Once again, this is the single best thing to work on if you want to get better.
2. Use the Correct Hitting Form
While footwork may be the most important aspect to work on, the second most important is hitting form. It complements footwork and, once mastered alongside footwork, will already bring you to the top 20% of players in your area. Moreover, form is not only good for hitting well, but is also incredibly important for preventing injuries. Hitting shots correctly will allow you to continue playing badminton for many years to come, while hitting them incorrectly will make you prone to injuries and chronic pain. If you can, I highly suggest getting a certified coach to teach you the correct form and you should practice it until it becomes second nature.
On a side note, make sure to get the correct equipment – especially the correct racket – for your play style. You can find our guides to rackets in the below table.
3. Practice Your Serve
The serve is the single shot you have full control over. You get to control exactly where to hit it and when. So make sure to do it well. Nothing is more saddening than to serve into the net or out, especially in close games. It’s like losing a point to an empty court – your opponent didn’t have to do anything!
That being said, mastering a good low serve in doubles actually takes quite a bit of practice since it is quite precise and you’re often under pressure to serve well if you’re against an aggressive opponent. The best advice I can give for serving low against aggressive players is to ignore them. Ignore how intimidating they may seem and just pretend you’re doing a service drill. This will help you concentrate on just doing the best serve you can rather than worrying about if it is too high.
The service is so important in doubles that I wrote an article with even more details on it, which every doubles badminton player should read. You can read it over at The 3 Most Important Shots in Badminton Doubles.
4. Practice Your Service Return
This is more critical in doubles than it is for singles because you can be a lot more aggressive in doubles if you hit the service return well. In both cases though, it is the first shot of the rally that you will hit as the receiver and it can set up the pace and control of the rally. Since the service is the only shot in the game which requires the player to hit to a subsection of the court, you, as the receiver, should be able to predict it with greater accuracy than subsequent shots. This means you should try to anticipate where the serve will be hit to and use that to your advantage – whether that means putting fast pressure, trying to be deceptive, or setting up the next shot.
Since the service return is so important in doubles, I have the next 2 paragraphs dedicated to it. By capitalizing on subpar low serves, anticipating and punishing flick serves (a fast, high serve), and overall being a threat on the service return can outright win you many points – especially in lower to intermediate level play. To become a big threat during the service return, you’ll have to practice 2 simple things.
First, you’ll want to practice standing as close as you’re comfortable with to the service line in order to receive short serves quickly. Try reaching the shuttle as high as you can and you’ll quickly notice that it gives you many more options and it’s easier to make an aggressive shot. If you watch professional badminton matches, the doubles players stand as close to the service line as they can. This allows them to punish any subpar serve easily with a fast downward drive. Even if it’s a good serve, they are able to strike the shuttle as high and as soon as possible, putting pressure on the other team.
Now, the second thing you’ll have to practice is backing up for a flick serve and smashing. Many players will find you too intimidating when you’re near the service line and will likely stop serving low to you. This means you’ll need to be comfortable jumping or moving backwards quickly to punish any flick serves. Professionals are excellent at this and tend to do it in a single fluid jump to the back of the court. The better you are at that, the closer you can stand to the service line.
5. Clear and Lift Far and High
Ok, so this isn’t always the best thing to do in every situation since there will be cases where you want to clear or lift fast, but learning how to clear and lift high and to the back line consistently essentially means you will be capable of choosing which type of shot you want to do. In general, hitting high and far is a great defensive shot because it gives you plenty of time to get ready for the next shot. It also makes the shuttle travel straight down at the end of its flight, which is much more difficult to hit than if it is angled and also more difficult to judge if it will land out. On the flip side, it does give your opponent more time to get in position to hit the shuttle.
6. Do Drills
Practice, practice, practice. You’ve probably heard that many times in the past but it’s true. It’s all about practicing your fundamentals – which include your footwork and form for the 5 basic shots (clear, drive, smash, drop, lift). Only after you have mastered (and continued to practice) these shots should you learn new shots. If you’re looking for new shots to learn, I’ve written a whole post about a variety of shots you can practice in What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
7. Communicate with Your Doubles Partner
Like in any relationship – whether it’s a friendship, a romance, or a badminton partnership – communication is key. Without communication, there will likely be confusion and a mismatch of expectations. This might be ok if you play casually and with many different partners, but you certainly won’t perform optimally. If you have a dedicated doubles partner, you can elevate your level by understanding who should be doing what in common scenarios.
Some of the most common cases for confusion come from shots that are hit in-between you and your partner. Who should hit it? Should a particular player always get it or does it depend on some other factors? That’s a whole other article I can write about but these are the sort of questions you should be asking and clarifying with your partner. It can help you two perform better while also potentially save you from racket clashes.
Another useful topic to communicate with your partner is the service situation. You can discuss which return shots each person should cover and what to do if one of you flick serves. You can even copy the pros, who will give hand signals behind their backs to indicate where and what type of serve they intend to do. This will tell let your partner know what to expect and where they should focus their attention.
Other scenarios you can discuss with your partner are things like what type of set ups you should try for or what your main winning conditions are. For example, maybe you notice that an opponent always hits a not so good block to the front left corner when you smash to their forehand. A win condition may be to set up a smash, smash to the opponent’s forehand, and have your partner anticipate and kill the shot near the front left corner. And this brings me to our next topic – anticipating shots.
8. Anticipate Shots
You should always be anticipating your opponent’s next shot. In other words, you want to at least guess what your opponent will do. Doing so can give you many easy points that you normally wouldn’t win. For example, I have won many points simply by knowing what my opponents’ favorite shots are – making it so I can practically wait for the shuttle there. By anticipating shots, you have a higher likelihood of getting to the shuttle high and early, giving you more options. You shouldn’t already move all the way to the position though since your opponent can still hit somewhere else, but you want to have at least 1 spot where you anticipate the shot to go to which you can get an advantage or end the rally if it is played.
You may think that your opponent can hit to many possible places so it is difficult to anticipate where they will hit. That is indeed true in situations such as when you lift half court to them, as they have many shot options. However, there are also many cases where your opponent’s options are much more limited, which is where you will be able to have the highest chance of anticipating your opponent’s shot. What this means is that you should try to influence the situation with your own shots to get to a state where your opponent’s options are more limited, which will allow you to anticipate their next shot with higher accuracy.
What I suggest to do is take note of a couple of things:
a. What their possible shot options are
Each situation gives a player a certain number of shot options. Of course each player has their own set of capabilities which you should assess, but the key idea is that a player cannot hit any type of shot in any situation. In other words, players have a limited set of options in each situation.
You should identify which shots are possible and which shots are the most probable. The lower the shuttle is and the farther away the shuttle is from the net, the fewer options that are available – allowing you to eliminate more options from your opponent’s possible shots.
b. What their favorite shots are
Everyone has favorite shots that they like to use in situations. These shots are like an automatic response to a familiar situation. For example, many players like to do cross court net drops when they reach the shuttle late or straight clears from their backhand side. If you see players consistently doing the same sort of shots in similar situations, you should make a mental note of it and take advantage of it in future rallies.
c. How hard they can hit
The stronger your opponent can hit, the farther back you have to stand from the net. Just from playing a couple of games, you’ll quickly realize that you can take advantage of a situation if you get them in a position where it is difficult to hit hard by taking a step or two closer to the net.
An important factor you should keep in mind regarding power is that shuttles slow down very quickly. Just take a look at how the shuttle behaves when you hit it. The shuttle is at its absolute fastest when it is struck but then is significantly slower the longer it remains in flight. This is because the air drag on a shuttle is proportional to the square of the shuttle’s velocity as was found in A Study of Shuttlecock’s Trajectory in Badminton. This doesn’t mean that shuttles don’t still fly incredibly fast, but it does mean that every additional inch you can push your opponent back in court makes a bigger difference than you may think. This is why getting good length on your clears and lifts are so important.
The above suggestions can help you anticipate your opponent’s next shot but it’s of course much more difficult to abuse in higher level play because high level players adapt – which is the next point in our list.
Adapting is necessary against players of the same or higher skill level than you. This is what makes badminton so fun and thrilling – because it is dynamic and works your brain in addition to your body. While learning to adapt is crucial for intermediate to advanced players, if you are a beginner, you’ll really just want to focus on your fundamentals first – since you first need the capability to adapt before actually attempting it.
So, what do I mean by adapt? I mean changing your strategy, your shot choices, and your tactics. Play to your opponent’s weaknesses and your own strengths. Find ways to avoid your opponent’s strengths. If you watch professional badminton matches, which you can view on BadmintonWorld.tv’s YouTube channel, you’ll see coaches always talking to players during intervals and telling them what to look out for or what to try out. This is exactly what you should be thinking in your own games.
A good way to start learning to adapt is to ask someone else to give you tips – specifically in terms of strategy rather than execution. Have them watch you play and ask what you can improve on. You should also ask your partner (if you’re playing doubles) or even your opponent after the match. What are your weaknesses? What should you change?
There are many aspects we can discuss in this particular section but it is a bit out of scope of this post. I’ll likely write a post dedicated to it in the future so stay tuned!
10. Watch Badminton Videos and Read Badminton Posts!
The last thing to do (but certainly not least!) is to watch and read about badminton – whether it’s learning more about strategy and tactics, analyzing professional badminton matches, or finding the right badminton products for you. Immersing yourself in the sport is the fastest way to get better.
Here at BadmintonBites, we post lots of different types of articles and videos that can help you get started. Take a look at some of the below items to see what you would be interested in:
- Videos on our Facebook Page
- Products home page to help you find the right equipment for you: Badminton Equipment
- What Type of Shots are in Badminton (With 19 Examples)
- An In-Depth Analysis on the Badminton Scoring System and How to Use it to Your Advantage
- The 3 Most Important Shots in Badminton Doubles
- The 4 Fundamental Types of Badminton Serves
And if you like our material, you can stay up to date by clicking the bell icon in the bottom left corner and following us on our Facebook Page where we post article updates and videos.
1. Don’t Make Unforced Errors
Before you can win, you must first not lose. An unforced error is a mistake that is made without any pressure coming from the opponent. Examples of this include hitting into the net or hitting out when you are already in position and in control of the shuttle. A prime example of this is serving into the net. In other words, unforced errors means simply giving your opponent a point for free.
There isn’t really a concrete definition for unforced errors though since it can be subjective. If your opponent is exceptional at winning points when your shot is subpar, then does it count as an unforced error if you accidentally hit out? By being so good at punishing your shots, your opponent, in a sense, forced you to try to hit a really good shot that is difficult to hit since they would have punished a subpar shot immediately. So whenever a mistake is made, you’ll have to judge for yourself whether you think it was a forced or unforced error.
If you see yourself making many unforced errors in games, you’ll want to do more drills afterwards until you can consistently hit to where you actually want to hit to. During the game though, you may want to give yourself a little more margin for error even if the shot may not be as good. Instead of aiming for the side line, aim for a foot away from it. Instead of trying to clip the net, go an inch or 2 above it.
2. Don’t Be Too Tricky
Some players love to be tricky – it’s fun and there’s no other feeling like leaving your opponent stranded. However, some people do it TOO much while having a low success rate. From my experience, most amateurs have less than a 30% chance of succeeding at a fancy trick shot – essentially instantly losing 70% of the times they attempt it on the spot and would be considered an unforced error. I’m not saying to not incorporate deception into your game, but to understand that they’re usually situational and to know when it is a good time to attempt it rather than doing it all the time.
3. Don’t Rush
Rushing is not the same as being fast and it’s important to understand the distinction between them. In the context of badminton, rushing means hurriedly moving and not having full control of your shot. Being fast, on the other hand, is being quick but also controlled. Rushing often means moving before your opponent has even struck the shuttle while being fast means waiting for the shuttle to be struck and then quickly getting into position.
By rushing, you will have a higher chance of mishitting the shuttle and getting deceived. You also may not be in the ideal position when hitting the shuttle if say you overstep because the shuttle traveled farther in the court than you anticipated.
By being fast instead of rushing, you will have a better judgement as to where the shuttle will land and strike it at the appropriate time. As a result, you will have better control of the shuttle and the pace of the rally.
4. Don’t Make Excuses
Making excuses for yourself will hinder your own improvement. Instead of making excuses, focus on what you can do better. It’s true that there are times where you may lose a game to bad luck or because of your partner’s mistakes (maybe they didn’t read these tips!), so you’ll need to identify what you can actually do differently, if any.
5. Don’t Collide with Your Partner
Some players try to get every shot in doubles – as if they were playing singles. Don’t be one of those people, unless it is communicated and agreed upon with your partner. In doubles, you and your partner are a team and will need to trust each other to execute shots. Fighting for shots is not only unproductive, but detrimental to the team. If you can’t trust others in a game or just like to have full control of the shuttle, play singles.
6. Don’t Be Indecisive
There is a small window of time where you can decide what type of shot you want to make and where you want to hit. Once you’re past this window, your shot options get exponentially limited and usually worse. Be decisive, confident, and assertive with your shots and commit to them.
If you think a shot is really close to the line and may or may not be out, either hit it while it’s still high or let the shuttle land on the ground. Choose an option and follow through with it. If you’re one to change your mind while you watch the shuttle, I would say to err on the side of hitting the shuttle high so you don’t tempt yourself into making a bad decision.
7. Don’t Move Before the Shuttle is Hit
Watch your opponent’s racket to hit the shuttle before moving your feet. Moving before your opponent has hit is a common novice error since better players can change the direction of the shuttle easily if they’ve seen you move. They do this with a standard hold and flick movement where they put their racket near the shuttle, wait and watch their opponent’s positioning and movement, and then strike the shuttle with a quick flick of their wrist.
On the flip side, this means that there is a window of time when you are able to move without being deceived. This period of time is when the shuttle is traveling between the two sides of the court and isn’t close to any opponents yet. You’ll want to move to your desired base location at this time and be in the proper stance by the time your opponent is near the shuttle.
8. Don’t Take Too Many Steps
Some players take many small steps to move around the court while others take very few steps. This can depend on the length of your legs but most of the time it’s because the player has bad footwork. Taking more steps than necessary means being less efficient and therefore using up more energy.
9. Don’t Think the Rally is Over Before it’s Over
A rally isn’t won until the shuttle hits the ground. I learned this lesson many years ago when I confidently executed a kill near the net and my coach returned it past me like it was nothing. I wasn’t ready for the return and so my racket wasn’t up and ready. I was so sure that I would win the point that I didn’t even think about the next shot. Learn from my mistake and don’t think you’ve won before it’s over.
10. Don’t Let the Shuttle Get Behind You
The moment the shuttle gets behind you, it becomes much, MUCH more difficult to generate power to your shots, effectively limiting your options to desperation drop shots. Try to get to your shots early and high. You’ll have more options while also giving your opponent less time to react.
That’s it! Read through these tips again, put it into action, and you’ll be sure to improve quickly!
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