7 insider tips for badminton: lessons from a player’s journey


“You’ve improved!”, he said, followed by a few practical tips for badminton as we walked off court.

These encounters with players from my past remind me of the progress I’ve made as a typical intermediate player, someone who hasn’t dedicated their life to badminton but still strives to improve.

Since playing a tournament earlier this year I’ve wanted to get better despite not being able to prioritize professional coaching due to my job. 

This led me to discover my own ‘secret’ to improvement—the humbling experience of getting my ass kicked by stronger players and the handpicked tips for badminton they shared with me afterward.

During this process, I’ve methodically incorporated them into my practice sessions, often partnering with fellow enthusiasts wanting to improve their skills as well.

It’s the poor man’s coach but an effective way to try things out before committing a lot of money. Although it isn’t as effective, I have noticed meaningful improvements by drilling specific strokes repeatedly. 

In this article, instead of a long list of things you could do, I’ll share the best tips for badminton that more experienced players have given me over the years.

To make this practical, I’ll focus on the ones that have made a substantial impact on my social doubles games while being easy to practice during games or drills.

Let’s dive into insights worth practicing during social games first.

The 3 best tips for badminton you can practice during games

While repetition is everything no matter which badminton skill you dream of mastering, I’ve found that there are certain elements that are easier to practice during games than drills. 

That’s because drills tend to be done in a vacuum where we either make it too easy on ourselves by not adding enough pressure to the situation or because it’s hard to artificially recreate the specific scenario we’re looking to get better at.

Reading the game is one of those examples, so let’s start there.

1. Outsmarting your opponent by reading the game

Covering a single shot is relatively straightforward when you’re positioned right where the shuttle is headed. The challenge comes during subsequent shots, where you have to cover possibilities across the entire court.

It’s useful to be able to anticipate what your opponent will do next. Just look at how older players are able to wipe the floor with younger and fitter guys like me.

Notice the last shot and how perfectly it’s placed on the line

I’ve noticed that game anticipation can be divided into two elements. The first involves real-time analysis during a game, while the second focuses on recognizing patterns that happen over and over again.

Similar to poker or chess, we can decipher the most probable move a player is likely to make and adjust our strategies accordingly. For example, if a player finds themselves deep in their backhand corner, desperately retrieving a late shot that falls to the midcourt, we can anticipate where their opponent is likely to place their next shot. 

Will they exploit the unbalanced and rushed recovery by returning the shot to the same player? Or will they aim to outmaneuver the other player, who now has the challenge of covering the remaining three corners of the court?

tips for badminton

There might be a 70% chance that they’ll hammer a smash back at the first player, but by combining it with reading the body language in real-time, we might realize that they aren’t preparing a big swing and in fact, playing a soft net shot instead.

Naturally, we can’t stop and think during the heat of the battle, but we can practice getting better and better at judging what is most likely to happen on auto-pilot.

There are many tips for badminton on reading the game, but I’ve found it hard to know where to begin. 

A seasoned player once shared a valuable insight with me—beginner and intermediate players often benefit from hitting the shuttle slightly later than they initially think. This approach avoids overexcitement and the tendency to overextend the arm in an attempt to reach the shuttle early. 

Not only does this technique result in a cleaner hit, but the magic is in the extra split second it provides. We can utilize this moment to sense what our opponents are up to so we don’t execute our shot blindly and gamble on the placement.

I’ve found this hard to get used to, but incredibly effective when I’m able to do it.

2. Doubles rotation

Rotation in doubles games is slightly easier to practice during drills than games, but still inconvenient as you’ll need to train with another player plus a feeder. 

It’s tricky if you mostly play casual games, where you switch partners for each game, as some players will be more familiar with rotation than others.

I’ve come across two tips for badminton that are easy to remember and apply even in the midst of intense gameplay.

Firstly, if you serve short, you’ll have to cover the front court on the next shot as you can get there faster than your partner (unless you’ve deliberately placed your partner in front of you as you serve).

Secondly, if you or your partner hit a high shot, such as a lift or clear, it’s essential to rotate and stand side-by-side. This positioning improves your ability to defend against your opponent’s likely attacking shot.

3. The best tip for badminton: the gift of finding value in playing with less skilled players

During social games, we’ll often end up playing with less experienced players. Many find it annoying because it’s harder to get the fun intense rallies going.

But, as someone recently shared with me, it can be a real gift as you can practice your skills in a real-world scenario at a lower game pace. This is among the best and most practical tips for badminton I’ve ever gotten.

It can be especially useful to train your serve, return of serve, or changing grips on flat drive shots instead of just killing your opponent on every rally.

4 tips for badminton if you’ve got time to drill

When you prioritize practice drills, you open yourself up to a wider range of areas to improve in your game. This is exciting.

If we ignore fun for a moment and focus only on effectiveness, it’s handy to figure out where you lose the most points and where you have the greatest potential for gaining them.

You’ll get the most out of recording your own games while taking notes. Combining the insights you get with how long it takes to practice in order to reach a decent level is tricky.

For example, I’ve found that a killer smash often doesn’t provide that many points in doubles games compared to how much practice you need to put in to perform it well. After all, your opponents can avoid lifting or lift you out of position to limit your smash opportunities.

On the other hand, you can barely do anything on court without footwork. You can counter almost any shot provided you are placed right for it, so footwork is usually worth spending energy on.

To kick-start your journey, I’m sharing the four best tips for badminton that I’ve personally received.

4. Quality over speed: timing your landing to increase shot quality

I was told that you don’t always need to be faster, even if it can help in theory. 

Instead, practicing landing just before hitting the shuttle allows you to increase your balance along with the quality of your shots, without drilling the shot itself. 

This is especially effective because it works for almost any shot you play, so you’ll improve several shots at once just by working on this one item.

5. Return of serve

The serve is among the most useful things to practice because you’ll use it all the time and you’ll improve quickly, even if you’re practicing alone.

On the other hand, the return of serve can’t be practiced on your own. Practicing a specific tactical idea of where to hit is useful during games, but you’re better off drilling it in practice.

While it’s boring (and unrealistic) to win all the rallies on the second shot, you’ll find yourself winning a good chunk of points either directly on the return of serve or on the shots following thereafter as your opponents are on the back foot.

After practicing hitting the midcourt on the return of serve, I’ve probably doubled or tripled the number of direct points I win during an average game. It isn’t a lot but it’s often enough to edge out the win in a tight game.

6. Develop one go-to backhand shot

Many of us have a weak backhand and dream of improving it. I’ve found it hard to justify putting in the work when there are so many other things to practice that are used more frequently.

While we should often use an around-the-head shot instead of a backhand shot, it’s useful to have at least one variation that you feel somewhat confident executing if you really have to.

I’ve been suggested to use a drop shot rather than a clear or smash, as it’s easier to learn because you don’t need to generate as much power. I dive deeper into that in this article on the backhand.

7. Drop shot: the most useful attack?

Speaking of drop shots… Another player suggested that I work on my skills in this area because of how effective it can be combined with how quickly you’ll improve as opposed to, say, smashing. 

It’s especially useful in combination with attacking clears because you’ll have an easier time performing it when you’re under pressure and out of balance.

It’s not that drop shots don’t require work, but that you’ll likely find yourself gaining an advantage by using them more often. Once you feel confident with this shot, it’ll easily be one of your go-tos for putting your opponent under pressure and winning points.

That’s been my experience, at least.


  • Some elements of the game are more practical to train during games as opposed to in practice drills as it can be challenging to recreate the real-world game scenario
  • Among the best tips for badminton I’ve ever gotten is finding use in playing with less skilled players in order to practice certain skills and lower speeds
  • Be critical of how long a skill takes to get good at combined with how much you truly use it during games if you’re looking to improve rapidly
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