Written by Amir Bashir | 26 March 2022
Badminton is one of the hardest sports to play because it requires a significant store of stamina, a great deal of agility to change directions quickly, and flexibility to reach for well-placed shots. An average badminton player runs around 6.4 km per game, twice as fast as an average tennis player, who runs about 3.2 km per match.
This article is going to look into the most frequently asked questions around the difficulty of badminton.
Let’s jump into it.
Can you guess the fastest-moving recorded object in sport?
Hockey puck? No.
A baseball? No.
Golf ball? You’d think so.
Most people won’t believe you when you tell them that a shuttlecock (aka birdie) is the fastest recorded object in sports.
Malaysia’s Tan Boon Hoeng set a world record with a 493 km/hr smash while testing a new racket technology in 2013.
The next fastest moving object in sport, a golf ball, could ‘only’ travel at 339.6 km/hr, a full 153 km/hr slower than a shuttlecock.
Professional badminton players go through 3 shuttles in a 15-minute game.
Such speed leaves virtually little room for error. If you have your attention diverted for even a minute, you’ll end up losing a game. Let me illustrate this with the help of a personal anecdote.
Back in the day when I was at the top of my game, a group of friends arrived courtside to watch me play. As the banter flowed back and forth, and my focus withered, my opponent had a field day. Before I knew it, he was two games up, ready to send me home early.
This experience made me realize how focused you have to be while playing badminton. A mere five-minute ‘off-spell’ might only cost you a few games in a match of tennis. In badminton, it will leave you packing your bags for good.
Let’s compare badminton with tennis to drive this point home.
In tennis, both players are standing far away from the net and each other (23,77 at a maximum). This allows them to see what the other player is about to do from a distance, enabling them to change their stance accordingly.
In badminton, both players are standing a maximum of 13.4 meters from each other. Each of them has to adjust to the opponent’s stance in a matter of seconds, reducing the time to think to almost zero.
Making matters even more difficult is the birdie — it travels at insane speeds, making it almost impossible to predict where the shuttlecock will land next. This forces both players to be on their toes, all the time, every time.
Another thing that makes badminton tiring is the aerobics of the shuttlecock.
Unlike the tennis ball, whose trajectory and speed are predictable, the birdie is versatile and incredibly deceptive. You can smash it at such fast speeds the opponent won’t know what hit them. But you can also caress it over the net in any direction.
All these factors make it challenging to predict the birdie’s correct flight path and trajectory. Badminton players thus have to rely on their instinct and experience to predict where the shuttlecock will land next.
Footwork is arguably the most essential skill in badminton.
It is also one of the hardest to learn.
It took me two months of doing nothing but just running around the court with a racket in my hand to develop the footwork needed to strike the birdie as well as I wanted to.
At the time, I absolutely hated footwork drills. I always thought that I’d get a better return on the money I was paying to the trainer by learning smashes or those killer serve techniques you see when watching professionals.
Luckily for me, my trainer had a different opinion.
Without mastering this skill, you won’t be able to move efficiently around the court, compromising your ability to hit the birdie with the proper balance, technique, as well as timing.
Good footwork also reduces your chances of injuries by improving your landing strategy. You get to know how to land without putting maximum pressure on your knee.
This reduces the number of days you spend away from the court.
Over the years, badminton authorities have tweaked the scoring system to lure new audiences toward the game.
In the original scoring system, the match was decided in a best-of-three 15-point battle (for men’s and doubles) and 11-point game (for women’s singles) matches. In both scenarios, only the person serving could win a point.
That scoring system went out the window in 2006.
Under the new scoring system, both men’s and women’s players had to play three games of 21 points each. Another change was made in the rally point scoring — any player who won the point was awarded it, regardless of who served.
Research has shown that the change in the scoring system has increased the rally time as well as the number of shots per rally. In other words, players have to exert more effort to thrive in the new scoring system.
Not even close.
Not even in the top 25.
According to the panel of experts made up of sports scientists from the US Olympic Committee, the award for the hardest sport goes to boxing. Other members of the esteemed panel included academicians studying the science of muscles and movement and journalists who cover athletes for a living.
The panel reached this conclusion based on a 10-point criterion.
Each sport’s degree of difficulty was measured and rated on the basis of endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, nerve, durability, hand-eye coordination, and analytic aptitude.
Boxing was found to be the toughest sport, followed closely by ice hockey, football, and Basketball. The likes of wrestling, martial arts, and tennis completed the top seven. Badminton, meanwhile, sat a lowly 30th on the list.
To become a professional badminton player in the United States, you should aspire to be in the top five players in your age division (even that number might be too high depending on where you’re based). Only then you’ll be picked to play the game at the regional or national level.
Professional badminton players have to balance their training schedule, competition schedule, and finances. Many players end up doing side jobs because badminton isn’t as good-paying as other sports, say NBA or football.
That is due to the fact that there aren’t many companies supporting badminton athletes in the US. To earn a decent sponsorship, you have to be a top 10 or 20 player internationally, a feat that is easier said than achieved.
Another route is having wealthy parents who can support you as you go about realizing your dream. Even then, there will come a time when you’ll either have to up your game or choose another career to secure your future.
Thus, in simple words, becoming a professional badminton player isn’t easy.
Like any new thing, it can feel difficult in the beginning. That being said, the rules of badminton are easy to learn and follow. You won’t need more than a few minutes to understand the sport’s basics. For instance, familiarity with these rules will enable you to pick up the racket and start playing:
Sure, there are other rules you need to memorize if you want to become a professional badminton player. But these two rules should be enough to let you enjoy a ‘friendly’ game with a mate.
No, basketball is much tougher than badminton.
ESPN puts basketball at 4th place on the list of the toughest sports. Badminton, as stated above, occupies 30th place on the list.
Basketball being tougher shouldn’t come as a surprise. Unlike badminton — which is a non-contact sport — basketball requires athletes to make their way through a fair few opposition players to win a point.
The challenges, scuffles, and fouls involved make it a much more challenging sport of the two.
No, tennis is a much more demanding sport than badminton.
ESPN puts tennis at 7th place on the list of the toughest sports. Badminton, as stated above, occupies 30th place on the list.
Part of the reason why it is this way is the size of respective courts. A standard tennis court is 78ft (23.77m) in length and 27ft (8.23m) wide. A badminton court, meanwhile, is ‘only’ 44ft (13.4m) long and 17ft (5.2m) wide.
Small wonder, then, that the average distance covered by a tennis player can touch the 5-mile mark during a five-set match, whereas a badminton player typically covers a distance of 3.7 miles, even if the match goes on for an hour.
Badminton isn’t hard for beginners unless the players themselves make it too hard for them. Let me explain.
When I started playing this game, I stopped whenever my energy levels went low. Most of my classmates who started playing at the same time did likewise. The absence of any referee meant that we could bend the rules in our favor.
Even when we stuck to the standard point system (the 15-point system was applicable back then), we played the game at our own pace. That was because none of us could afford to return to the classroom with a sweat-soaked, stinking shirt.
Looking back, I realize how important those days were in making me fall in love with the game. If I had tried too hard too early, I’d have picked some other sport that was less physically demanding. So my advice to beginners is to take it easy and enjoy the game. You can always follow the rules later on.
While it is true that badminton is a hard sport to play, anyone who has ever played the sport knows, deep in their hearts, that the challenge is what makes the game enjoyable.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
Do you think badminton is a tough sport to play?
Are you in favor of the old or the new scoring system?
Anything badminton-related you want to share with me?
Feel free to reach out to me in the comments section below, I’d love to answer your questions and hear your feedback. We are also on Instagram @healthyprinciples_.
Amir picked up his first badminton racket at the age of 4 and fell in love with the sport. He joined Healthy Principles to help his fellow badminton enthusiasts get better at the game. In his spare time, you'll find him watching long rallies on YouTube. Learn more about Amir Bashir.