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Reading the game

When you play a badminton game, you need to observe the shuttlecock as well as your opponent(s) and their position on the court. You need to see everything. From this glimpse you’ll be able to assess what shot is likely to come back at you, and move accordingly. As soon as the shuttle is struck, this is the moment you start moving. If you anticipate the shot correctly, you’ll be in position more quickly to hit your shot. And if you can recognise the gaps, you know where to hit your shot.

Of course, sometimes your opponent is going to get to the shot early and you can’t read his or her shot. And sometimes they hit a shot so darn good, all you can do is try to reach the shuttle. But most of the time, you’d be amazed how much you can anticipate shots and how much faster you can be in position to hit your own.

In social badminton you can devise strategies based on certain categories of players:

  • the big heavy smasher – these guys are physically big and strong and their backhand clears are stronger than people’s forehand clears. While they may be less agile than their smaller counterparts, they often can power their way out of a difficult situation. Try not to given them an easy overhead shot. Under pressure they will often lift high and deep. The solution is to keep the shuttle low and make them run.
  • the placement master – usually an older player with knee guards and less mobility than their younger counterparts. They’re seasoned, often varying the pace and showing a clear pattern of shot preferences. They seldom use a direct power smash to win but when they do it’s an outright winner. Watch out for their cross court net drops, punch clears and guard the tramlines. Be a clever player.
  • the net hugger – usually women but also men. They’re fast and aggressive at the net, killing any weak smash replies, net shots or drives. The most effective way to play against the front-back formation is to aim for the mid-court tram lines between the two players or aim for the deep corners. Pushing this player deep to the back where they’re less of a threat is another potential strategy but beware of lifting unnecessarily.
  • the lazy couch potato – this includes players with poor fitness, poor footwork, lower limb injuries or lost conditioning. They’re unprepared for the shuttle coming their way and are content to defend by lifting. With lazy footwork they’re seldom in great position. If their opponents have good placement these potatoes will often be seen picking up shuttles off the ground.
  • the joker – typically teens and young adults who may not take the social game seriously. They frequently net drop (straight into the net) and hit backhand clears (to the mid-court area) and laugh at failed attempts. Don’t be fooled into taking it easy, they’re still technically good players. Just keep getting the shuttle back and they’ll eventually self-destruct.
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