Internationally, tennis is a very popular game. However, there’s another game involving doubles, singles, and racquets that also provides a lot of entertainment. This is known as badminton, a relatively simple game that could be both recreational and professional.
This is not to say that badminton is a new sport. In fact, it might be one of the most ancient Indian sports as well as having roots in Greek, Chinese, and other cultures. Even today, we’d find people of all ages playing badminton in parks, schools, and even national or international tournaments. While it might have some similarities with tennis, badminton is a game with its own charm and a rich history.
Since many Americans might not be aware of the game itself, let alone its rules, let’s first take a look at how one plays badminton. We’ll then discuss the interesting history of this game and see if we can incorporate it into our recreational activities.
How Badminton is Played
In order to play badminton, one requires a set of racquets and at least one shuttlecock. The racquets could be made of wood, steel, or aluminum depending on the player’s preferences. The older versions of these racquets were mostly made of wood, providing a heavier and sturdier experience. We now have lighter versions made of metal, which are much easier on the hands but might not give the same level of control. Such racquets might also wear out more easily, especially if they’re not of a high-end make.
Shuttlecocks take the place of the ball in the game of badminton. Instead of a round hard ball like we have in cricket or a softer tennis ball, the shuttlecock is made up of feather and a hard, rounded center. The badminton players hit the shuttlecock back and forth using the racquets, with points scored whenever a player misses a shot. They have to hit the shuttlecock on the round center in order to keep it in the air.
More modern shuttlecocks might also have feathers made of plastic rather than the real thing. For the actual playing, two players or two teams stand opposite each other. For professional playing, the addition of a net between them is necessary. However, many recreational players are quite happy to play without a net or string.
The Origins of Badminton
Badminton has ancient origins, with most experts believing it to date back around 2,000 years. It probably started out as ‘battledore and shuttlecock’, a popular game in several countries. These locations include Greece, China, India, and England as well.
The name of badminton came from Badminton House, which was located in Gloucestershire. The previous century saw this location as a prime spot for badminton games. The Duke of Beaufort was the owner of this place, but Gloucestershire itself is now the International Badminton Federation headquarters.
Certain sources also prove that the badminton game goes back to 500 BCE. It started out as Ti JianZi, which was a game in ancient China. The method of playing was through kicking a shuttlecock-like item, though racquets were not in use. The battledore and shuttlecock game we discussed above eventually evolved out of this ancient version.
Battledore consisted of aiming a bat at a shuttlecock and trying to keep it in the air between two players for as long as possible. The origin of the shuttlecock itself, however, remains unknown for now.
With the advent of the 16th century, badminton became a popular children’s game. It became an entertaining recreational choice for the upper European classes in the 17th century, though they dubbed it ‘jeu de volant’, a French title.
In the middle of the 19th century, a badminton-like game was played in India by the name of ‘Poona’. This was very close to the modern version of the sport we know today. The British Army officers in India at the time soon picked up the game, learned its simple rules, and brought it back to England. The Duke of Beauford then introduced badminton to his social circle at his Gloucestershire estate.
This location might also have been the first one where a string or some sort of partition was hung between the badminton players. They hence not only had to hit the shuttlecock away from the other player but also lob it high enough to go over the net.
The Bath Badminton Club was eventually formed, which gave us the rules we know today. This was also the time when the ‘Poona’ game became official known as badminton. Several badminton clubs soon sprang up, including the IBF.
About the International Badminton Federation
This federation, also known as the IBF, came about in 1934. Its nine original members were Denmark, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, the Netherlands, France, and Canada. The United States also became a member four years after this founding. As the years passed, the members of the federations kept increasing in number. There was a large surge in membership after the game debuted in the Olympics, but we’ll discuss that further on.
In 1948, the first major IBF tournament was held. This was known as the Thomas Cup and was a men’s team championship. From that point, the number of worldwide badminton events has advanced to seven with the Uber Cup giving us a ladies’ championship. The Sudirman Cup has mixed teams, while we also had the World Championships, the World Grand Prix Finals, and the World Cup in this field.
India became part of the IBF in 1936. After the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup, the Munich Olympics in 1972 saw badminton being introduced as a demonstration sport. 1977 saw singles events as well as the first World Badminton Championship. Female athletes were and still are a large part of the badminton game, though the majority of them were Asian.
Badminton in the United States
While many young Americans might be more interested in reading about pro tips for practicing tennis, this doesn’t mean that badminton has no place in the United States. International badminton was present in the US for some time, especially in 1956. This was when America won the initial three events in the Uber Cup. However, interest in badminton saw a decline in interest from the American population after that first surge.
Many still recognize badminton as a familiar game in the United States, but it’s mostly for a fun recreational pastime than a serious endeavor. Since badminton is the fastest racquet sport out there, it might still gain popularity in the eyes of the Americans.
During the Atlanta Olympics, there was an effort to raise the profile of badminton for the US. The efforts were quite successful, as the badminton event sold out. Jimmy Carter, Paul Newman, Princess Anne, and Chelsea Clinton are just a few of the well-known names who attended the event, making it a must-see occurrence.
The Landmark Year
1996 was a very important year for American badminton. In late 1995, the IBF came up with a Californian concept tournament called the Hong Ta Shan Cup. This was a men’s invitation tournament featuring big player names and a lot of prize money. There were also plans for even more prize money as well as an event for women.
After this success, badminton saw an upsurge in popularity. Agreements with television channels, interest from sponsors, and several other positive factors have attracted a lot of spectators and players. While badminton might be a simple game at first glance, it does contain a lot of tactics, angles, and technicalities about touch and reaction that make it quite fascinating.
Badminton at the Olympics
Badminton is still a relatively new addition to the Olympics. As mentioned above, it only started as a demonstration sport in 1972. It officially gained a spot as an Olympic sport in 1992, though this was only for singles and doubles events. Mixed doubles came about in the famous 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Badminton is still one of the very few sports that have mixed doubles events within the Olympics.
Why We Should Know About Badminton
There are several reasons why we should read up on badminton and take an interest in this sport. It might not be as well known as cricket, baseball, or tennis, but it’s definitely not one of these unusual sports you’ve probably never heard of. Here are just a few interesting facts about badminton to pique your interest:
- As mentioned above, badminton is the fast sport involving racquets, with shuttlecocks having a potential speed of 200 plus miles per hour.
- Badminton playing requires several skills at once, including speed endurance, sharp reflexes, power, strength, and agility
- Most Badminton World Federation events (about 70 percent) have winners of Chinese or Indonesian origin
- The longest badminton match was around 124 minutes long, while the shortest was for just six minutes
- Badminton racquets and shuttlecocks need to fall within a specific weight range in order to be acceptable for international performance.
Statistics and research show that badminton is a very popular sport all over the world. It isn’t violent, but it’s an excellent exercise for the body and mind. This might make it an attractive option for many parents looking for a suitable sport for their child. With the right sponsors and media attention, badminton might become an appropriate career option for many budding athletes.