If you look up advice on badminton for beginners, you’ll find new players asking for tips and loads of different responses.
“Start with footwork!”
“Learn to clear!”
Or my personal favorite…
“Learn the rules first.”
No shit, Sherlock.
People mean well but as a beginner wanting to figure out how to play badminton, it must be a nightmare with all these conflicting tips. How do we know who to listen to and which advice to take first?
The odd thing about badminton as a sport is that it exists in two worlds. There’s the garden barbecue-styled variation with the family and then there’s the serious version on an indoor court.
In this article, I’ll look at how to elevate your game from the gardens to the courts beginning with popular things you should probably skip when starting out.
I’ll also share a few hacks for you to improve your skills rapidly before we dive into a beginner badminton training program with which skills to learn in what order (and why).
Let’s dive in.
4 tips to make badminton for beginners easier
Sometimes beginner players will be part of our doubles games and through those I’ve noticed certain patterns that keep repeating themselves if they play with someone above their level. For example:
- They often get stuck at the net because they can’t generate enough power for their shot to reach the rear court otherwise
- When their shot has been played, they passively wait until their opponent has played theirs. Unless the next shot comes back to the same corner they won’t reach it in time
These patterns are a natural part of the learning process but make it hard to enjoy a long intense rally beyond just a few strokes. There are a million things you can work on, but most of them will just be confusing and perhaps even overwhelming.
I’ve found that sometimes it’s useful to understand what to avoid at first — the stuff that won’t move the needle and just waste your time. Two things that are often mentioned but you can skip are:
- The rules
- Your smash
On the surface, I know this sounds crazy not to know the rules, but let me explain.
You can see the size of the court so you’ll roughly know when the shuttle is out, and it’ll be easier to remember the rules if you learn them as you go. All you need to know is not to touch the net during a rally, where to serve from and which lines to play within (depending on whether you play singles or doubles).
There are loads of small things that’ll just be a distraction to remember when you’re trying to get a hang of things.
Next, is the smash.
Smashing feels great but when your technique isn’t strong enough to pull off that good-feeling smash every single time, it becomes a gamble with a high chance of hitting the net.
In my experience, there’s an even more fun part of the game that gets players addicted: the intensity of an even rally at high pace.
‘High pace’ doesn’t only mean pro-level play, but rather it’s based on your individual skill level. Badminton for beginners can feel high paced too as long as you’re under pressure but manage to keep the rally going.
It’s a delicate balance.
If you smash everything in the floor or the net, you won’t experience these longer, more intense rallies and it gets boring for everyone else playing. Ironically, when we learn to smash, the first thing we learn is when not to smash, and it’s more often than you think, as it requires us to be in a good position.
Not to mention that a player who spends the amount of time it takes to learn how to smash fairly consistently, will lose any day to the player who spends the same time learning a mix of footwork and easier shots.
The second player can avoid lifting most of the time, in order to limit the opportunities for their opponent to smash, and then win by playing with variety.
Instead, I’ve noticed a few things that’ll help you get off on the right foot.
The best tips for entry level players
You’ll likely find it easier to start by playing doubles as you only have to cover half the court, so there’s less chance of messing up when moving around the court.
You’ll also need some gear but buying your first racket is a bitch.
There are so many similar options that it feels like we have to be a racket engineer in order to understand the difference. The pricing and difficulty level tend to fit each other, so getting one in the $50-$100 range will be good.
The key is that its stiffness is categorized as flexible or ‘hi-flex’ which helps make it easier to hit the shuttle without good technique. Most players at the entry level will also prefer one that helps with extra power. I have examples of good rackets in my article on badminton rackets for beginners.
When you’re playing rallies, there are a few useful things to keep in mind as well.
- Skip the forehand serve you know from the garden and use the low backhand serve to make your life easier
- Work on your defense first – it’ll allow you to play longer rallies, have more fun and get more “reps” in
- Muscle isn’t important to play powerful shots – timing is. Hit the shuttle slightly later than you think
- Call it out – get used to saying ‘you’ or ‘me’ in order to avoid clashing when hitting a shot (i.e. if the shuttle is in the middle of the court)
Badminton for beginners can still be loads of fun even if your technique isn’t amazing. Let’s look at how you might practice your skills to improve your game next.
Beginner badminton training program for rapid improvements: ranking the best badminton for beginner skills
It’s difficult to make a meaningful training program that fits everyone. Instead, let’s dive into one you can start off with if you’re an entry level player wanting to take the sport more seriously.
There are 5 overarching pillars:
- Reading the game
At this first stage, strokes are crucial as we won’t be able to play without them. Some beginner players have pointed out that footwork makes the game fun as it allows you to reach all the different shots your opponent throws at you.
Each of these five items are interconnected and have a number of sub-items within them. Stamina and mindset work are the ones we can skip the easiest, while reading the game is helpful but will be even more useful later on.
Another thing to consider is how convenient something is to practice if you’re looking for rapid results. The biggest challenge with improving your badminton skills tends to be that it’s difficult to practice on your own. Having a feeding machine is handy at this stage as you can practice your strokes even if you can’t find someone else to play with.
But you can get started without one (and without another player) for certain items. Assuming you’re playing doubles, here’s a breakdown of how I’d re-learn everything again if I had to begin from scratch.
It’s based on how quickly you’ll be able to use each skill and have fun by being a meaningful part of the game. You don’t need to perfect each skill before moving on. Rather, feeling fairly confident is good enough for now.
Beginner badminton training program example
- Push shots
- Return of serve tactics
- Net shot
- (Now you can work the front court)
- Doubles rotation
- Smash blocks
- Net kill
- Jumps (i.e. the china jump)
This was a long list and you might not be familiar with all the different shots or footwork moves, so let’s briefly go through the list. I’ve covered most of these topics in-depth in separate articles and I’ll link to them as we go.
We’re starting with the serve as that’s by far the most convenient thing to practice on your own. A poor serve can also make you feel worse at the game than you really are since you might create unnecessary pressure on yourself by inviting a smash.
Most beginners have trouble getting enough power in their shots, meaning that they’ll have an easier time by sticking to the front of the court even if this makes it more difficult for your partner (as you level up, you’ll realize that you can’t only play side-by-side or front-or-back. More on that later.)
At the front court, softer shots are useful as they are easier to execute compared to other shots when you’re starting out. There’s also a higher chance you’ll get your opponent to fumble or put them under pressure.
Next, there’s lunges which is the footwork movement we need in order to cover the front corners of the court effectively.
Once you feel comfortable with a few soft shots and lunging instead of running, you’ll be on your way to play the return of serve at this level.
It’s a crucial part of the game where most players have a habit of playing a lift shot and offer their opponent an attack. If you do that, you’ll have to be good at defending smashes and drop shots so you’re better off with soft shots to build a good habit from the beginning.
If you understand basic tactics of the return of serve, you’ll be able to score a few easy points in each game using the existing shots you’ve learned just by catching your opponents off guard.
Next is the chasse.
It’s the most commonly used step between lunges, if you’re at the front court, and it’s a useful part of recovering back to the middle of the court after hitting the shuttle in order to prepare for the next one.
Next are net shots and lift shots.
These are the two most commonly used shots in the return of serve but require more technique if you want to avoid getting in trouble. The net shot requires control and calmness while the lift shot requires us to play the shot all the way to the backline from the net in order to make smashing more difficult. Lifting to the midcourt without enough power and length is a common way to lose rallies.
These are the skills you’ll need to work the front court in a doubles game effectively. Next is doubles rotation where you figure out how to switch between standing front-and-back and side-by-side.
Basically, when you lift or your partner plays a high shot, you move to stand side-by-side in order to prepare for an attack as they tend to be easier to defend in this formation. On the other hand, when you’re attacking, you’ll move to the net with your partner at the back.
It’s more complex than that, but this simplified version is easier to remember and will make a huge difference to your game.
Next is the midcourt and rearcourt game.
We’ll need to learn how to block smashes when standing side-by-side and attack when our smash block earns us a lift.
I’ve listed the net kill at this stage too. It’s an attacking jump we make to kill the rally at the net. I’ve saved it for this stage because it doesn’t happen that often, so it makes sense to focus your energy on other things you’ll use more often first.
- Don’t go crazy learning the rules before you start playing. I’ve found that learning them in a practical sense as you play makes it much easier to remember
- When you’re first starting out, attempt to extend your rallies as much as possible as it’ll get you more ‘reps’ which will help you learn faster
- You’ll likely find it easier to begin by playing doubles and staying at the front court as you can learn the technique faster, which will make you a bigger part of the game instead of feeling like you’re on the sidelines even if you’re on the court