As we’re nearing the end of summer (as sad as that may be for some), I’ve begun to reflect on all my developments these past few months as a badminton player. One significant change this summer was getting a new badminton coach. I went from mostly self-training to working more closely with a former Chinese national team player and second-best singles player in Canada, Huang Guoxing.
Coach Huang is the best badminton coach I’ve had so far. His game sense and ideas about technique are unlike what any other coach has told me, but they are spot on. Just making a couple of tiny adjustments has allowed me to use my physical strength more effectively.
Here are five lessons from my badminton coach this summer that changed my game and will hopefully elevate yours too.
Get To The Shuttle Early
Getting to the shuttle early is an idea that’s pretty common in badminton strategy. Everybody will tell you to try and take the shuttle early because you get more options.
For example, when you’re at the net and take the shuttle up high, you can play a lift, a push, a net shot, drive, and use deceptions depending on your opponent’s position. If your racket is way below the net, however, you can only play a lift or net shot, and it becomes more challenging to play a good shot the lower your racket gets.
Coach Huang had excellent advice for practicing getting to the shuttle early. In one of his demonstrations, he talked about how he isn’t necessarily fitter or faster than most of us but always gets to the shuttle early because of his rhythm. He’s always trying to hit the shuttle early, even if he can get to it by moving slowly.
This is the mindset we all need to implement while we’re training. I know personally that I fell into the trap of taking the shuttle late all the time because I was lazy. In my mind, I thought, “Why move so fast when I can reach the shuttle even if I move more slowly?”
It was the wrong way of thinking, which showed in my tournament performances. I got punished by anyone that took the shuttle early.
When I think about taking the shuttle early, the difference is night and day. I have so many options and can control my opponent much better. Yes, it’s more tiring, but as Huang once said, “You would rather be just a little more tired and win over being tired and lose.”
Watch And Wait Before You Move
When we first start playing badminton, one of the first pieces of advice for footwork is to move back to the middle. As you get more advanced, however, you’ll eventually learn that you shouldn’t always move back to the middle.
Depending on what shot you hit, the quality of the shot, and your position, you can often watch your opponent and wait for them to play a shot before moving. This will reduce the amount of unnecessary movements on the court and make your footwork more efficient.
For example, if you hit an excellent net shot or block, do you really need to move back to the middle? You can wait at the front and be ready for the kill, and even if they lift, it’ll often be a high lift in which you have time to move back and smash. Same thing when you play a good push shot. The only things your opponent can play back are drops, drives, or clears. Why prepare for a smash?
Having someone tell me to wait and watch has also made my gameplay more controlled. It makes me play calmer as I’m not always rushing around the court and have time to react to what my opponent is doing. I hope this piece of advice will help you do the same too.
Generate More Power From Swinging Faster
During this summer, one thing that has significantly improved is my shot power. My smashes and clears have become so much better. Part of this was due to the intense physical training I had been doing, but most of it can be attributed to Coach Huang talking about swinging faster to generate more power.
Many players make the mistake of swinging their racket as hard as possible when trying to generate power and end up hitting smashes that can be classified as drops. Don’t get me wrong, strength does matter, but you need to be able to channel the power precisely.
To generate more power, you need to swing as fast as possible, as close to the shuttle as possible. Most of this work comes from your forearms and your fingers. Keep a relatively relaxed grip, then snap when you hit the shuttle.
Another way to think about this is a boxer’s jab. Hitting powerful shots in badminton should feel like you’re throwing a jab in boxing.
Hit The Shuttle Close To Be More Consistent
On the topic of hitting shuttles, another good point that Coach Huang made was how you’re more likely to play better shots consistently when your swings become very small, and you hit the shuttle right before it touches your racket.
Smaller swings make you less prone to mistakes. With a big swing, so many things can go wrong. If the shuttle drops just a little too much and you hit it a little too late, your steep smash suddenly hits the net.
The smaller your swing is, the less room you give for things to go wrong.
Change Pace To Break Your Opponents
The final lesson in this article that Coach Huang taught me was the need to change pace to win against your opponents. He discussed how most skilled players won’t make mistakes if you play one speed against them. They also won’t get tired even if you play long rallies.
If you can suddenly make the rally slower or faster, you can mess up your opponent’s timing, making them more likely to play bad shots and make mistakes.
This is why Coach Huang is such a big fan of playing deceptions. They’re a great way to change the pace and throw your opponent off rhythm. For example, if you take a lot of shots early and play fast lifts, you can suddenly switch it up by showing that you’re going to play another push shot but end up dropping the racket and playing a net shot.
Another way to change the pace is through your footwork. Instead of moving at the same speed the whole time, suddenly speed up occasionally and force your opponent to match you.
The Lessons That Changed My Form
I hope you enjoyed this article on the five lessons I learned from my badminton coach this summer! These tips have changed the way I move and play significantly. It has helped me channel my strengths more appropriately, and I hope they’ll do the same for you too. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!