Badminton tournament tips from my first event (and what I missed)


Before we get into specific badminton tournament tips, let me begin with a brief story. 

I was riding a scooter through the busy streets in the hot morning sun. During my long drive to the venue, I kept thinking that the tournament would be a waste of time.

A player I was friendly with had pointed out that our team had no chance of winning.

With just a year under my belt since my fifteen-year “break” from the courts, I didn’t know what to expect. I desperately hoped my friend had misjudged the situation, but deep down I had a feeling she’d be right on the money.

When I finally got to the badminton hall, things felt poorly organized. Our games got postponed just before match-start, so the preparation I had done was out the window.

Despite plenty of time to get used to the venue, I didn’t feel as if the courts ever became my friend.

I felt stiff and riddled with nerves when the first match finally began. Just like the rest of my team, my partner and I ended up losing every single game.

It pissed me off.

My frustration had nothing to do with my partner or the other players. It was simple: I sucked!

I played shots directly onto my opponent’s racket instead of putting them under pressure, making life unnecessarily difficult for myself.

… but worst of all: I knew I could do better.

After all, I played better during my weekly games. Heck, I even played better during the warm-up game against another pair from my team.

If you’ve got any competitive genes in you, I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling.

In this article, I’ll reflect on the mistakes I made during my first tournament in a long time and the badminton tournament tips I wish I had known before going in so you have a chance to avoid them.

Badminton tournament tips I tried and the traps I fell into

If you look at badminton discussions online, it won’t be long until you stumble upon posts going something along the lines of “I have a tournament tomorrow… How should I prepare?”

Many of us have a fun tendency to wait until the last minute and then attempt to cram everything as if that would help us remember better.

At the same time, we know mastering strokes and footwork takes lots of work, so what can we realistically expect to improve at the last minute?!

As it turns out, not much.

You see, I had done my research leading up to this local tournament. 

… Or so I thought.

I knew a few of the other players in my category, along with their playing styles. I also knew that there was a high chance that my partner and I wouldn’t meet them due to the number of players in the draw. 

That meant we would almost certainly meet players we didn’t know. Since this was a local tournament, it was virtually impossible to get any footage of them playing and preparing based on that.

I wasn’t familiar with this individual venue, but I found recent pictures and knew that it would be very similar to the venues I play at on a weekly basis. That gave me a chance to get used to the light in advance (it can be blinding to look up into the light mid-rally by accident).

The team and I had also made sure to practice in certain pairs so we felt, at least, mildly familiar with each other. For players like me who are left-handed, that is critical since most players aren’t used to it and often only realize it halfway through the game. 

This is one of the areas where we could’ve done more work as many of our opponents appeared more used to playing with each other. Perhaps they were even training together regularly.

We made sure to play with the tournament-designated shuttles so we were used to their flight. I’m glad we did as it turned out they behaved quite differently in the air. We did a decent job here, but could’ve played more games with them.

These are examples of the bare minimum in terms of preparation work as a casual player who doesn’t have a fixed partner for doubles games.

Individual player preparation

On the day of the tournament itself, I was careful to eat so the energy would kick in according to when my matches were played. I also worked out which meal offered me great and relatively long-lasting energy without making me feel heavy.

But that wasn’t sufficient.

There were still things I hadn’t thought of and planned for. 

For example, I hadn’t anticipated that my games would get postponed so I had to stay at the venue for 6-7 hours to play my four group-stage matches. As you can imagine, my energy during the first match or two was not too bad, but it eventually died out.

Since I couldn’t get a clear sense of when my next game was, and had to be on standby to play within minutes, it was difficult to leave the venue to eat.

It was also tricky to eat a normal-sized meal as it was hard to know if I’d be called on court right after and play while feeling full like a walrus.

badminton tournament tips - walrus eating junk food example

The remaining option was small snacks, like fruits or chocolate, to get a quick boost of energy. These are a trade-off as they either barely offer any meaningful energy or only give you short bursts of energy in exchange for a sudden drop later on.

I also didn’t prepare well enough for the things I did anticipate during the tournament. 

Even though I knew it was likely that my partner and I would get behind on points sooner or later, I neglected to practice how best to stay calm and patient in the heat of the moment. 

That often led to trying things that were “too smart” in order to get a quick point, like playing the perfect shot.

Another thing was finding the right level of tension and focus when the matches began.

The vibe felt so casual during the tournament that it was far too easy not to take things seriously and lose several points in a row. Often right off the bat when the game began.

These were the traps I fell into despite having prepared for the tournament several weeks in advance.

How to prepare for badminton tournament: tips I wish I had known

In an attempt to help you (and myself) prepare to avoid the same mistakes in the future, I wanted to share notes on the badminton tournament tips I wish I had known going into a tournament.

I found that there are so many nuances during your first tournament that it’s hard to set any real expectations.

But the first place to start is considering what you want out of this particular tournament. It’s easy to want to win – we all do – but is it realistic?

What do you want out of the tournament – badminton tournament for beginners

Besides winning, I wish someone had pointed out other examples of what I could learn even if I were to lose all the games I played.

That could be by making sure to record the games in order to rewatch what truly happened once the emotions were gone. Attempting to recall it from memory will almost surely be incorrect and our view of what happened on court is often quite different from that of spectators.

Basically, the idea is to set yourself a goal that you can control and achieve during the tournament. An outcome of a game (such as a win) isn’t something you can control entirely.

Another example is practicing not getting flustered if you end up in a tight game where you’re behind 20-19 and need to keep calm. Playing well in tournaments, when it counts, is a skill in itself.

Different categories of nerves

As odd as this may sound, I noticed a different type of nerves leading up to the tournament compared to when I was playing. It felt like butterflies in your stomach.

On the other hand, when the first game began, the nerves changed. My body felt stiff and like I wore shackles I had to break out of.

It took me a few rallies to shake and I wish I had prepared for how to share it faster once the game got under way.

The shuttle doesn’t care

We will get behind on points or get into close games sooner or later, and it makes most people nervous – even the pros.

It feels like there’s a lot at stake, and a simple mistake can lose the point or even game. In a casual game with nothing at stake except bragging rights, it’s easier to play freely but in a tournament where it’s all or nothing, that changes.

But when you think about it, it’s only relative to what we hope will happen. 

The shuttle doesn’t change. The court doesn’t change. The rules don’t change. Only our made up perception and the points can change. The rally itself will be the same.

There’s no way to just acknowledge this and magically become a strong player under pressure. It requires practice like strokes or footwork.

I wish I had practiced ignoring the points and focusing more on the performance of the rally itself.

I also wish I had thought of how the event could be messed up in terms of play times and prep work, and planned for how to best deal with it if it would happen.

That could be your match times getting changed last minute, messing with your eating schedule, or preparation work to get in the zone. It could also be familiarizing yourself with the drift or how the courts feel to play on.

How much space is there between the court and the walking area behind? Are there items outside the court that can help give you a sense of when the shuttle will pass the backline?

Sometimes those clues are easier to use than looking down at the line and following the trajectory of the shuttle in real time. What if someone from your team stood by the side of the court, on the backline, so you could look at their positioning to better judge if a shot is out?

Since each court and its surface is built differently, this will take some getting used to in order to use it to your advantage.

Getting in the zone

This point is a natural extension of the one above but deserves its own subsection. Preparing to be able to get in the zone at will is a powerful skill, especially when you can’t trust the timeline you’ve been given for your matches.

Besides your physical warm-up, there’s also the mental side of getting ready and focused for your match. If you’re not focused, it’s so easy to lose five points right off the bat when the game starts.

Final badminton tournament tips

I’ve found that simply being aware of these things is a good first step, but it isn’t enough to take advantage of it on command. It’s like having knowledge but not doing anything with it. What good is it then?

To set yourself apart and beat even better players while not dropping any of your existing performance, it’s critical to be able to tab into these items at will. It’s among the things that have made Viktor Axelsen and Lin Dan so phenomenal.

In order to do that, it’s necessary to practice these things like you would your footwork or smash.

Deciding how seriously you want to prepare in advance of the tournament is smart if you want to avoid disappointment when things don’t go your way. If you decide only to prepare lightly in advance, there’s no reason to be negative about a poor result as we indirectly made that deal with yourself at the beginning.


  • When it comes to badminton tournament tips, there are loads of ways we can practice playing well when it matters, but it can be difficult to think of all of them before your first tournament
  • Just knowing that things are important isn’t enough to take advantage of them, we also need to practice them so that they become second nature
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