Players who shout or grunt when they hit the shuttlecock can gain an unfair advantage. Their shouts can interfere with their opponent’s game, either masking the sound of the shuttlecock being hit by the racquet or distracting their opponent.
At least two studies of grunting have found that players who grunt or shriek gain a few advantages over their quieter opponents:
- They hit harder, without exerting more energy;
- Their opponents are slower to react to their shots;
- Their opponents are more likely to misjudge the direction of their shots
The BWF rules treat distracting shouts or gestures as a fault under part 13.4:
It shall be a fault if, in play, a player deliberately distracts an opponent by any action such as shouting or making gestures
However, the rules seem to be unevenly applied. At a local tournament C grade mixed doubles finals match, one of the guys shouted during and after each point and it visibly affected his partner and annoyed his opponents. They started shouting back and making more unforced errors. Eventually, his opponents lost their tempers. The outcome was that he won, but his opponents refused to shake hands and protested afterwards to the organising committee.
While it might not be directly forbidden, shouting during play is poor form and pisses everyone off. Playing fairly is more than just playing by the rules. Good players don’t have to show bad sportsmanship, and nobody should expect this to ‘just be part of the game’.
If we want to encourage more participation in badminton in Australia, we have to promote good codes of conduct at the tournament level. These codes need to be flexible enough to allow players to legitimately express their fighting spirit yet should curtail excessive behaviour. Tournament administrators can improve participation in the badminton community by creating fair environments. Unsportsmanlike behavior like this brings the sport into disrepute.