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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting Started - Shuttles - Footware

The arrival of the modern day leisure centre has not only increased the number of facilities available to us for badminton, it has also forced the more sensible player and parent Into greater thought regarding the selection of suitable footwear. This is because the majority of new local authority and school venues have floors constructed of concrete, or some other similar substance, and have no give in them whats ever. Consequenlly the wearing of inadequate footwear in a sport where starting, stopping, jumping, landing and lunging figure prominently will atford little protection to the joints, especially the knees and ankles.

If you intend to become a regular player, it is important that the shoes you select provide adequate protection by way of cushioning and good grip. A little care and forethought when purchasing your footwear will reduce the likelihood of injury now, minimize the amount of heartache and pain in the future and even help prolong your playing career.

There are many specialist sports shops that stock purpose made indoor sports footwear. You will need a lightweight shoe with a sole that should have a non-marking, well defined tread to assist with grip. The heel should be rounded to reduce the chance of slipping. The insole should be adequately cushioned and together with the sole of the shoe should act as a shock absorber and reduce the chance of painful shin splints and heel jar. You can also purchase separate rubber inserts for the whole shoe or just the heel.

The uppers should be of a material that permits the feet to breathe, and while the shoe should be substantial it should also be flexible. Some players drag their toes when playing certain shots; if you fall into this category look for shoes that have protective material incorporated into the front.

Do take your time when considering and choosing this most important item, and replace your shoes as soon as they are past their best.

Getting Started - Shuttles - Shuttlecock

Initially you will not appreciate the degree of importance that ought to be applied to the selection of your shuttles. Shuttles are yet another item that have secured the full attention of the market, the inevitable result being that numerous different makes are available to you at varied cost. While numerous manufacturers exist, it is possible to categorize shuttles into only two types - feather and nonfeather. What then is the difference and what factors will effect your choice?

Feather Shuttles

Feather shuttles are used in all top national and International events and in the majority of league clubs up and down the UK. New shuttles will fly perfectly and consistently until the feathers are damaged or brok.en, and on reaching their highest point when hit high and deep to the rearcourt, fall quite steeply towards the floor.

The feathers used in the creation of a shuttle are taken from geese and despite careful construction (mostly by hand) they are fragile, easily damaged and not very durable. As a result of the need to change the shuttle once the flight becomes too poor or its speed is impaired, clubs get through far more feather shuttles than their counterparts who have decided to play with a non-feather equivalent.

Non-feather Shuttles

For the newcomer to the game it is advisable to use non-feather shuttles for reasons of cost. Although nowadays synthetic shuttles are no cheaper to buy than feather shuttles, they are a much more cost-effective purchase because their life is considerably longer. The search for a plastic or synthetic shuttle that matches the flight characteristics of the feathered variety has been going on for years. Poor quality non-feather shuttles tend to have an erratic flight path and on reaching their highest point do not fall towards the floor as steeply as a feather type.

What you should opt for is a shuttle that matches the feather shuttle as far as is technically possible in terms of flight, speed and touch. If you choose a synthetic shuttle with the same cork, leather covered base as a feather shuttle, you will be well on the way to experiencing the same feel, I particularly when playing the more delicate touch shots.

Shuttle Speed

Irrespective of which shuttle you use, its speed is important otherwise the I game can become farcical. Feather shuttles are manufactured in anything , up to tweive different speeds and are categorised by number - 73 (slow) to 85 (fast) or 4.8 (slow) to 5.0 (fast). Synthetic alternatives are often graded slow, medium or fast. Apart from the amount of force applied 10 the shuttle by the players, the speed \I1ey reach Inside the hall depends on many things including air resistance, size of hall, temperature and shuttle condition.

To find out if a shuttle is of the correct speed, it should be struck underarm from above the baseline upwards at about 45 degrees so that it flies parallel to the sideline and lands within gin (23cm) either side of the back doubles service line on the olher side of the net.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 6: Grip Size

Although rackets are manufactured in four sizes it has become customary for them to be purchased by the retailer in only two. The size relates to the circumference of the grip and It is most important to consider this aspect when purchasing your racket. Too small a grip will result in your holding the racket far too tightly and could even cause tennis elbow (a painful inflammation of the tendons). In addition, an incorrect grip size could inhibit the full range of wrist movement and have an adverse effect on the quality of some of your strokes. The two most common grip sizes are 3% and 3%.

Before choosing your grip size remember that racket handles are made of wood. Therefore, while you can easily make the handle of a racket larger by applying purpose made grips made of a towelling or tape material, you would have considerable difficulty reducing the size.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 5: Tension

Good quality pre-strung rackets are usually strung to a tension of between 14 and 19lb but most rackets are capable of withstanding tensions of around 23 to 24lb. When considering what tension is best for you, do not be misled into thinking that more power is produced by tighter strings. If you increase the tension of the strings you create a smaller 'sweet spot' on the racket face and should enjoy more control but less power. Conversely, a reduction in the tension of the strings increases the elasticity of the mesh bed, enlarges the 'sweet spot' and while power is increased a small percentage of control is sacrificed.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 4: Stringing

The majority of rackets come ready strung, giving you no say in the type to be used and the tension applied. You will be amazed at the large range of stringing that is available to you and the lack of advice in terms of string quality and tension. Usually the more expensive the racket the better the quality of the string and the design used to incorporate the string within the frame. You need to make sure that the racket has grommetsplastic guards or sleeves that protrude through the holes in the frame - and where the string sits outside the frame it lies within in a channel or groove that is below the rim of the frame.

Pure gut is more resilient and can withstand greater tension than strings of a synthetic texture, but you will rarely, if ever, see a gut strung racket in a shop. Once again, technology plays its part in the market and any claim regarding the durability of badminton string must be weighed against two very important facts badminton string is of a narrow gauge and no player can guarantee always to hit the shuttle in the centre of the racket face!Synthetic strings are likely to outlast those made of gut and if you keep the mishits to a minimum you will enjoy value for money with any string made of a multi-filament construction. In this process numerous fibres are bonded together within an outer shell to create a tremendously strong product that can be manufactured in a variety of gauges and colours.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 3: Weight and Balance

Many players prefer light, perfectly balanced rackets to increase manoeuvrability and speed of racket recovery after playing a stroke. By comparison others enjoy the feel of a racket that, though light overall, is head heavy because they maintain it enables them to produce more power into their play. It really is a matter of personal preference and you may well have to experiment to find what suits you.

You can establish if a racket is balanced or head heavy by balancing the shaft horizontally on the forefinger. If the distance between the finger and the end of the head of the racket is less than the opposite side, then the racket is head heavy. A light racket will weigh in the region of 80 10 100g.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 2: Durability

When considering durability you will be moving into a world of high technology. Rackets made up of materials such as steel, aluminium, kevlar, boron, and ceramic fibre will be made available to you. You may encounter graphite composite rackets made up of a mixture of more than one material and rackets where the shaft is made of a material that is completely different from that used for the head.

You will be able to compare onepiece rackets against those with a separately constructed head. It is no easy process. You will undoubtedly find yourself caught in the dilemma that the lighter the racket, the better it will feel but the more expensive it will be! You will also find that the lighter and more expensive the racket, the less likely it will be to stand up to a clash with your doubles partner or a bang on the ground.

Schools and institutions, where economy plays a major part in choice, will best be served by rackets made up of metal construction, such as aluminium, but these rackets do weigh a lot more than those produced from Kevlar and boron. Whichever racket you choose, where durability is concerned, look after it, treat it with care but do not expect it to last for ever.

Getting Started - Rackets >> Parts 1: Cost

Your racket is the most important purchase you will make, so the process should not be rushed and is best carried out during the close season after your serious league play has finished. Furthermore it is during out-ot-season times that shops and department stores have their sales and many a bargain can be found. You will need to consider cost, durability, weight and balance, stringing, tension and grip size.


As there are so many different types of racket and prices vary greatly it is difficult to generalize. However, as with other racket sports, you get what you pay for. As badminton strings are of narrow gauge, breakages are far more common than in squash and lennis. For this reason, if your resources permit, it is advisable to have two identical rackets.

Choosing a racket is not easy. The commercial world is one of change and marketing agencies are quick to introduce new ideas and gimmicks to secure your attention. Cheap rackets with poor quality strings may look good and feel fine within the confines of the shop but you may well find that they do not last long during regular play.

The racket you choose must be right for you both physically and mentally. Some suppliers will allow you to try out rackets on court before you finally decide, and if you are fortunate enough to be offered this opportunity you should take it.

Getting Started - Clothing

If you are a newcomer to the game of badminton playing within a leisure or sports complex you can wear whatever clothing you wish. Ideally, though, you should opt for loose fitting items that allow freedom of movement and let the body 'breathe' naturally as you engage in physical activity. Where the game is played indoors, you often sweat and it is advisable to wear clothing made of a material that absorbs perspiration and is easily washed and dried.

This casual approach to clothing is fine for the social player enjoying a game with friends, but once you join an organized club the situation may well change. Here you will encounter your first taste of etiquette and clothing regulations. Until you reach county standard, there are no hard and fast rules but you will find that established league clubs prefer, or even insist on, the wearing of recognized sports clothing. Some clubs stipulate that items must be predominantly white, others do not. If you are in doubt the best advice is to ask the club secretary on joining or visiting for the first time.

Once you join a club or become involved in league play you will, at the very least, need to buy more shirtslBy now you could have progressed from the casual player who enjoyed an hour once or twice a week to the fanatic who tries not to miss a minute of a three hour club night and in addition finds himself in one, two or even more club teams playing in leagues.

Badminton is an explosive game with heavy demands placed on the feet. You owe it to yourselfto feel comfortable, so choose your socks with care. The cheapest are not always the best. If you are prone to blisters do take your time when purchasing and avoid socks with raised and abrasive seams. Remember also that because sports socks are often thicker than normal socks it is advisable to wear your sports socks when choosing your badminton footwear.

Tracksuits are a most useful, almost essential part of your kit and there is a wide variety of choice. These items are worn to and from the sports hall and during the warm up prior to actual play. They are particularly beneficial during intervals between matches as they help to keep the limbs warm and supple.

Unless the hall is especially warm, I you should wear your tracksuit during the pre-match knock up and remove it . before the match commences. Some I club and tournament regulations. I insist that tracksuits are removed for match play. You would be well advised I to select a tracksuit that has a zipped bottom to the legs so that you can slip I out of the trousers easily without having to remove your shoes.

Getting Started

There is every possibility that you already possess suitable clothing and footwear to play badminton and that your only concern lies with the acquisition of a racket and shuttles. Indeed you may even find that these items are also in your possession gathering dust in the attic - following a brief experiment with the game on the beach or in the garden some years ago. If so, you can be playing badminton in no time.

Initially, while you explore the rudiments of the game, you may consider hiring a racket from your local leisure centre or borrowing one from a friend. If you choose to play regularly, however, there is no substitute for being in possession of your own racket, wearing suitable clothing and using footwear that will help you cope with the demands of the game and the surface of the court you play on.