A lot of people have always wondered why Asian countries are so dominant and why western countries, mainly the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada can’t compete with the likes of China at the highest level. There are a few factors in why Western countries generally don’t perform that well which I will talk about in this blog post.
The Skill Level
The most apparent factor why western countries can’t compete at the highest level is because their skill level isn’t as high. You’re better than me so I can’t beat you. But it doesn’t really explain anything. It’s just a fact.
The difference can be seen just by seeing the top countries. Right now, those countries would be China, Indonesia, India, Japan, and the exception of Denmark. Just take a look at the current number one players. Kento Momota, Zheng Si Wei, Huang Ya Qiong, and other players. Also, look at how far the western players get. Most lose in the first round or so and you rarely see western players in top tournaments like World Championships anyway.
However, there are western countries that have seen some great players namely players such as Viktor Axelsen and Peter Gade from Denmark, Carolina Marin from Spain, and others who have played exceptionally well at the highest level. Which is why this topic requires a lot more information.
Badminton is already an expensive sport with court shoes, rackets, shuttles, nets, and gyms. Expensive training makes it even worse for players who do want to play for the highest level.
In Calgary where I live, high-level training can cost from $300 to $600 for just 8 2-3 hour sessions. So basically training once a week every two months. Countries in Asia such as China and Indonesia have much lower costs, and players would train at least two times a week with more extended hours.
The reason training is so expensive in western countries is because coaches and badminton centers are able to hold monopolies simply because of the lack of other training centers. Asian countries also fund badminton while most western countries do not.
The systems between the different countries also contrast in how the players are brought up. Asian countries are generally more strict and have fewer rules about pushing the players to the extreme while western countries just have too many blockades. The size of the population also plays a role in that many of the people who can’t handle the training will eventually be filtered out in Asian countries while western countries have a knack to include everyone for the money they can make which results in less intense exercise.
Popularity of the Sport
A lot of the training factors come from the popularity of the sport. Western countries don’t fund badminton because there just isn’t enough people playing the game whereas badminton is basically the national sport in Indonesia and China.
There’s a reason why sports such as basketball and soccer aren’t dominated by China despite their population, society, and ability to push players. Those sports just aren’t popular enough in those countries.
The popularity of badminton in various countries plays one of the significant roles in the training. Governments and companies like to invest in things that have lots of demand. They wouldn’t put their money into unrelated, obsolete things. So because of the overwhelming popularity of badminton in China and Indonesia and relatively underwhelming support for badminton in the United States, we can see why players can’t compete.
The Growing Up Factor
The popularity of the sport is also a result of another factor; the growing up element.
Things become popular because the younger generation will always inherit a lot from the older generations. A kid who’s been playing badminton since five years old would almost always be better than a kid who starts playing badminton at the age of 15.
Likewise, a kid with parents that play badminton would have better support than a kid with parents that play something like hockey.
Exposure to badminton is one of the biggest reasons western countries can’t perform well. If we take a look at some of the players such as Zhang Beiwan from the United States and Michelle Li from Canada, these are players that had parents who played the sport or at least watched it. They are Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian respectively.
With the exception of Carolina Marin (who seemed to be a random miracle), all the top players were brought up with badminton from a very young age.
Taufik Hidayat (also known as the backhand God) actually told the media that he wanted to play soccer when he was younger, but his dad said to him that he would be more successful playing badminton in Indonesia. And so, that’s what he did.
What We Can Do
Western countries won’t always be bad though, badminton is becoming an increasingly popular sport, and we can certainly do things to help improve the conditions.
Blogs and YouTubers like Get Good At Badminton all help to make it easier for players to start playing badminton and train at a competitive level without paying thousands of dollars per year. Help us spread badminton across the world!