Check out this clip of positions in badminton and try not to laugh.
… But it also presents the most common problem in intermediate doubles games: how do we use positions in badminton effectively and communicate with our partner in the heat of the battle?
Usually, the problem is who should return the shot. Half the time it’ll be near the sideline or in a corner with only one player within reach.. But other times the shuttle goes somewhere between us and our partner, and we’ll have to make an instinctive decision on which of us should go for it.
Some players use this confusion as a tactic to win points and purposely play shots between both opponents to take advantage of bad communication.
The pros have found an effective way to react fast and avoid even an important split second of hesitation. That’s where double positions and rotations come in as they allow us to react fast and intuitively without having to think much in the heat of the moment.
Wanna prepare for the game this weekend? Let’s dive in!
Positions in badminton: who should take this shot?
First things first. Let’s start by looking at the attacking and defensive stance and build from there.
Each stance makes it easier for us to return the shot depending on whether we are attacking or defending as there are certain patterns for each. For example, a defensive stance might be the best response to a steep smash as there won’t be much reaction time whereas an attacking stance is good when preparing for the smash.
Here’s a video illustrating both stances.
In the attacking stance, we are preparing for an attack usually because we anticipate a defensive return from the opponent such as a clear to the back.
- Use this stance for a forehand overhead shot
- Put your racket leg behind and your non-racket leg forward to rotate as you shoot and generate power
- The legs should be at shoulder width
- Raise both arms to be ready to react
We use the defensive stance when we are anticipating the opponent will attack with for example a smash.
- Keep the racket around waist height as you’ll likely be catching them below the net, so this gives you more reaction time
- Use your non-racket arm to generate balance by keeping it in a similar position to your racket arm rather than hanging like a dead limb
Now that we know the stances, you might have realized that asking new teammates whether they prefer to play front-and-back or side-by-side is really asking “should we play defense or attack?”
It’s nearly impossible to play only one or the other as it makes it too easy for the opponent to play on the downsides of that badminton position and take advantage of the confusion to gain easy points.
Blocking a smash is easier if you know how to defend side by side as it’s quicker to take a small step forward than it is to do it sideways. At the same time, rotating you to the net after the smash to follow up on the opponent’s block is an easier way to score the point than having both players be side by side and figuring out who runs to the net for that shot as both will be late.
We are forced to use both and thus we have to figure out a way to communicate effectively in the heat of the moment. That’s where rotations come in as they give us the optimal way to attack AND defend while helping take pressure off your partner or put more pressure on the opponent. Here’s an example.
This video explains all the general ideas and basics we need to know for rotations and positions in badminton.
- Attack = front and back
- Defense = side by side
- Don’t run around like a wild maniac on the court
- There are certain shots from your opponent that each position in the rotation is designed to cover depending on the scenario (examples @ 1.40m)
- The rotation is often triggered by the front player since he can’t look back but the back player can see the front player, so the back player adapts based on the front
Now that you get the gist of doubles rotations and positions in badminton, let’s look at how to communicate with a new teammate so you can win some games this weekend.
Badminton positions: the simple framework for playing with a new partner
While the pros have a fixed partner, the rest of us who play more casually tend to rotate between teammates for each game. That leaves us vulnerable to bad communication and a less fun game. To fix it, I came up with a way-too-simple framework to take advantage of the badminton positions and rotation, and avoid getting stuck on which shot is yours and which one is your teammate’s. It’s that simple because we can’t remember anything on the court so making it easy to use trumps perfection.
The first thing to figure out is if both players have experience with doubles rotation. If they do, you can follow the standard principles from this article and half the work will be done as you both know that the other person follows the same general concept even if there are mistakes here and there.
If not, neither of you will likely remember much in the heat of the moment, so we can boil it down to two simple principles:
- Stand side by side to defend smashes or drops
- Otherwise, the weaker player (in stamina or technical skill) goes to the net while the other plays at the back
This is obviously not a perfect solution but it is simple and easy to remember in the midst of your game this weekend, and you can build upon it once you’ve nailed these two points.
If you’re playing with a weaker partner, here are a few tips as well.
Next, let’s dive deeper into ideas on defending, attacking, and mixed doubles games.
How best to attack and defend using positions in badminton
The goal is to win the match by points, so it makes sense to work backward from whatever will win us more points. It turns out that there are certain scenarios that happen again and again, so planning and recognizing them in real time makes life easier.
There are so many possible scenarios that it’s impossible to cover them all here. For example, a common sequence of shots is: lift → smash → block → net kill. Another is the serve and the return of serve that happen in each rally.
Knowing that these happen often, we can practice drills to prepare for them, for example. But before you do, let’s dive into how to rotate and use it to your advantage specifically when attacking.
Rotating to attack
Former pro player Tobias Wadenka discusses the attack with pro mixed doubles player Gronya Somerville. You’ll find my insights in bullet points below the video.
- We can think of the court as three zones like a traffic light: red at the very back, after the back service line, and before the backline of the court. Yellow is a small box just in front of it and the green box is the rest of the court
- In the red zone, we have to be cautious about attacking with full power, slightly less so in the yellow box, while in the green box we can go all in
- When smashing, look at where the front player is and smash to that side to avoid leaving open space for a direct block of the smash down the line
- Be careful with cross-court smashes from near the net because it often leaves you exposed on the side you smash towards
- Be hesitant to attack straight down the line if you are far in the back
Rotating to defend
First, let’s cover the overarching points of doubles defending. This video is short, so highlights aren’t necessary.
Next, we’ll look at different types of defensive shots and when to use them.
- Don’t play a soft net shot or block if the opponent is ready at the net (use the “fade” instead)
- High lifts with accuracy that are near out can be used to gain more time to prepare the defense and may force the opponent to play building shots. The idea is to spot the gap as the smash comes back and the opponents are rotating since opportunities tend to arise in the frontcourt
The last chapter for this section is all about mixed doubles as there are advantages to playing to both the male and female’s strengths and weaknesses.
Leveraging your strengths in mixed double
Let’s begin with an overview of mixed doubles, when to rotate and where to attack.
- The man often covers the rear court by default as they tend to have a stronger smash and clear whereas the women might be faster at the net
- Don’t smash if you’re off balance or not in a good position
- Take notice of which of the opponents has the weaker defense and attack more on that player
- To avoid getting stuck at the net, be patient, and attempt to anticipate what the opponent is doing so you can time your interception instead of looking back to see what your rear-court partner is up to
- As the front court player: if you don’t move, the player at the back won’t know what to cover
Next, let’s look at serve and return tactics.
- Your position for the service should be based on your preferred formation and to cover your weaknesses. Experiment with different options and pick the one that suits your strengths best
- When serving don’t stand further back than two racket lengths as it gives the opponent extra time to react (but don’t stand too close to the service line either)
Finally, some tips, scenario examples and other do’s and don’ts that didn’t fit in anywhere else.
Tobias Wadenka also spoke with pro mixed doubles player Isabel Lohau to share tips on surprising the opponent.
This was a lot of information on positions in badminton, probably too much.
There is no way we can go through all those tips, internalize everything and dominate the upcoming games this weekend. I’ve especially noticed that when I get tired after a few games, it’s the stuff I already know that stays and the new stuff I’m learning that doesn’t, so if you’re anything like me it’ll go in one ear, and out the other.
All this makes sense when explained but is hard to put into practice without actually being on the court drilling it since there won’t be but a split second to react in matches. In my experience, we get the best result by focusing on just one or two new things at a time.
If you don’t know where to start, rotation tends to be a big win for new doubles players as you can fix most of the communication problems on who should take the shot.
- The different positions, stances, and rotations make it much easier to fluidly play badminton doubles without constantly running into communication issues
- The most common way of breaking the concepts down is by attack and defense, and look at mixed doubles separately as there are some extra benefits in that category
- There is far too much good advice to implement all at once. In order to see the best results, pick one or two items you are excited about and master those before moving on to the next one as there is no time to think on court, so we have to learn each thing well