All original content copyright © Mike Hopley
Footwork is about movement skills. While it’s obvious that racket skills are important in badminton, many players underestimate the importance of good movement skills.
Badminton is a fast game; you have little time to respond after each shot. A second’s delay often turns a winning situation into a losing one.
Good footwork will help you to reach the shuttlecock early. This is desirable in all situations.
You should play your shots from the highest point you can. Don’t allow the shuttlecock to drop! Playing the shuttlecock from the highest point gives you options to hit downwards. You don’t necessarily have to use those options every time, but the mere threat of downwards shots gives your opponents a lot more to worry about.
At the front of the court, taking the shuttlecock early has an especially dramatic effect. If you reach it early, you can often play a net kill and end the rally at once; but if you delay even a second, then you will lose the option to play a net kill, as the shuttlecock drops below net height. You can still play a net shot, but that’s not as good as a kill.
At the back of the court, you want to hit the shuttlecock overhead at full relaxed reach. Reach upwards! Allowing the shuttlecock to drop here is fatal! You will be forced to play a weak shot; when the shuttlecock is below net height, most players struggle to play a good-length clear, and obviously a smash is impossible.
It’s also much better to get behind the shuttlecock at the back of the court. This gives you a more threatening smash, and makes all your overhead shots easier. If you are slow to move backwards, then you may be forced to hit the shuttlecock from behind your body. It’s still possible to play smashes, clears, and drops; but it’s much more difficult, and your smashes will be less powerful.
Good footwork helps you remain balanced while you hit the shuttlecock. Staying balanced affords you the best control of your shot, because you do not need to correct for body movement.
If you are unbalanced, then it’s much harder to control your hitting action. You have to compensate for your body motion; the greater your body motion, the harder it is to compensate.
Think about it like this: if you were playing golf, would you rather play in a hurricane or on a calm day? It’s possible to correct for wind, but strong winds make it much harder to control your shot. Body movement is like wind: it’s a distraction from your precise control of the shuttlecock.
It’s not much good retrieving only one shot. You need to get ready for the next one.
Good footwork will help you recover into a position to cover the next shot. If you are slow to recover, however, then your opponent will inevitably gain an advantage. Even a slight delay can be exploited, because it can be compounded: if your opponent plays intelligently, you will find yourself even farther out of position on the next shot.
Poor footwork often leads to injuries. Many of these can be prevented with only a few minutes’ instruction in safe footwork.
In particular, all players should learn good lunge technique.
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