Badminton is a king of sports when it comes to accessibility and availability. It is also relatively cheap to play and has a whole host of health benefits.
Across the country there are hundreds of sports centres, leisure centres and village halls offering badminton to all ages and levels of ability. Many also run coaching sessions for beginners and leagues for the more advanced players.
Badminton is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and 50+ badminton sessions are now springing up in many sports and leisure centres. The fact that it is an indoor sport means that it can be played throughout the year come rain or shine. However, if you just want to knock a shuttlecock around outside with friends or family in the garden or on a campsite it can also be great fun – just avoid windy days!
Preparing to Play Badminton
Probably the best introduction to the sport is to have a go with a friend or family member. You can usually book a court at certain times in the day at most sports centres. Although, it is worth checking on price variations that may operate between daytime and week day evening sessions, as the latter is often more expensive due to demand.
Most sports centres hire out badminton rackets, although you will need to provide your own shuttlecocks, which can be purchased quite cheaply from any sports shop.
It is worth familiarizing yourself with the rules before you play.
It will depend on the competitive nature of yourself and your playing partner as to how many rules you initially adopt. There are also some rules for wheelchair players.
It is essential for any player of whatever level to warm-up properly before playing. This prepares your body for the demands of the game and helps you to avoid injury.
First of all, you need to get your heart rate up. This can be easily done by some jogging or other light activity whose main objective is to warm up your body, to send the first message that something is going to happen.
The basic idea of warm up is to ease joints and increase blood flow into muscles. But a warm up doesn’t only have this function, it can also serve as a way to prepare yourself mentally for playing.
As previously mentioned, warm-up exercises have a preventive capacity. Thanks to warm-ups and stretching you can avoid hamstring injuries, dislocated shoulders and an excessive wear of joints which comes hand in hand with regular sports performance.
Remember that stretching is fully effective only once your body is all warmed up. The main goal here is to prevent injuries so you can play for as long as you like. The stretching should take more or less ten minutes, with about ten to twenty seconds in each position.
Don’t forget to stretch your entire body, so change sides when an exercise is designed to treat only one part of your body. There are two main types of stretching – static and dynamic.
In badminton you should focus on the muscles you use the most, namely those of the neck, shoulder, legs, arms and hands. For these you can use the back and front/side to side neck stretch, the overhead shoulder stretch, the posterior shoulder stretch, the side stretch, the side lunge stretches, the forward lunge stretches, the quadriceps stretch, the wrist flexion and the wrist extension.
Dynamic stretching is basically stretching that happens in motion. You engage in stretching positions and move between every repetition or add a motion to a static stretch such as, for example, a lunge with a twist.
This emphasizes other muscles you use during the activity and warms them up. It can also be beneficial for the overall flexibility and movability. While moving you are also working on balance, and therefore, preparing for the performance in advance, which is a great plus because if you start playing without any stretching at all, it may take some time for your body to get used to the sudden change.
Once you have finished playing the game, you should start with the cool down exercises which are equally important for your body and fitness. They often consist of easy exercises whose aim is to get your body slowly down to the calm state, in which you were before the game.
Tips for Playing Badminton
Once you have booked a court, acquired a racket and shuttlecocks (you will need more than one, as they do get damaged in play), familiarised yourself with the basic rules and completed your warm-ups, you are ready to play!
Keep a central base position on court
It is good advice after playing a shot to return to a central base position. By positioning yourself in the middle of your area of play you are more likely to reach opposing shots.
Be prepared for any outcome
As badminton is a fast-paced, unpredictable game you must be prepared to move in any direction at any given time.
Vary your play
Experiment by trying a variety of shots. Try hitting the shuttlecock different distances from high lobs to the back of the court to gentle drop shots that fall just over the other side of the net. Try hitting the shuttlecock to both your opponent’s forehand and backhand.
Badminton game planning
Just because you are a beginner, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some strategies into your game. So much of badminton is psychological. When starting out with minimal skill, try to understand your opponent’s psychology and use their weakness to your advantage and catch them out.
The game requires constant thinking and planning, but as a novice these things may take a while to develop. So when starting out, the best way to develop these skills is to make sure every shot has a purpose and try to keep an eye on as much of the court as possible at all times. Soon your strategy will fall into place.
Getting Started with Playing Badminton
Having discovered the joys of playing badminton you may well wish to start playing regularly. The next step is to look around for a club to join. The advantage of playing in a club is that you can find equally motivated players of your ability to play with. It is also a cheaper way to play rather than booking courts for yourself.
Most clubs play predominately doubles games in order to maximise the time each member spends on court. This has two further advantages in that it is less exhausting, enabling you to play for longer and it also makes each session much more of a social occasion.
There are many different types of club and it is important to do some research first. You could go and watch a session first to decide if it’s the right one for you. There are some clubs that are “open” or “social” and you can just turn up and pay for the session, while others are run on a termly basis and you are required to pay for the whole term in advance. Some clubs are more serious about their badminton than others and are not suitable for beginners (unless you have a very thick skin!).
As previously mentioned, there are a number of clubs springing up for the over 50s where you can play a relatively gentle game of badminton while discussing the state of your arthritic knee to a sympathetic audience. However, beware the silver fox and ex league player (each club has one) who turns up to crush and impress!
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