It’s a rarity in itself to be ambidextrous. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who is coordinated with both hands. Things like writing and drawing etc people only do it with one hand. Their left or right. Be some gifted people can do them with both hands. So what if those people played a sport like Badminton, Tennis or Squash? Could they play with either hand?
Another question would then be. Can Badminton be played with both hands? Yes, you can! There is no rule for Badminton that says you cannot play with both hands. During my research, I have yet to find a sport of any kind that doesn’t allow switching of hands. Tennis, Table Tennis, Cricket, Baseball and even martial arts allow it.
I can understand why someone would ask the question. It’s completely fair if you can play racquet sports with both hands. It can be a big advantage. Let’s have a look at hand switching more closely.
Hand switching/ambidextrous Badminton
Out of the entire population, only one percent of people are ambidextrous while ten percent are left-handed and the rest are right handed. Being ambidextrous or not comes from the brain. People who are right-handed have left-brain dominance whereas ambidextrous people’s brains are symmetrical. Being truly ambidextrous is being equally adapted at using both the right and left hand.
There are more people who claim to be ambidextrous who are actually not. They are what’s called mixed-handed. They can use both hands for the same task but still have a dominant hand. It’s also quite common for ambidextrous people to start off left-handed but become ambidextrous over time. This happens because a lot of tools we use are designed for right-handed people. Things like scissors, pens and notebooks are all ergonomically designed for being held in the right hand.
So being ambidextrous sounds like a good thing right off the bat right? Let’s outline some advantages it can have in Badminton:
- You don’t have a backhand or a forehand side. If you’re able to switch hands during the rally then you can play forehand, or backhand, on either side! That would really confuse the opponent!
- Play any shot from the net forehand. You won’t need to step across and use your backhand, you can just switch hands and play it with a forehand.
It sounds like reasonable logic right? Most people would prefer to play most shots forehand or backhand. Such as smashing, if you could smash on your forehand side every time it’s more effective. Or playing defence, most people prefer to use the backhand to defend. It sounds logical but can it work in practice? Here are the possible disadvantages.
- Nobody at the top level has ever played switching hands. Throughout my research, I’ve never found a player to play whilst switching hands. A result of this is that nobody would know how to coach someone who would want to play this way.
- Switching hands during a fast rally would be really difficult. Badminton is a fast game, sometimes you have less than seconds to react. Switching hands would require time to see the shuttle and then also to choose whether to switch hands or not.
- Confused coordination. Switching hands constantly might confuse the opponent but is more likely to confuse yourself. Footwork is different for left and right-handed players so coordinating footwork will be difficult.
From analysis and using common sense, there doesn’t look to be much benefit from being able to switch hands. However, with it being so uncommon nobody can say for sure that it couldn’t work.
You see in Tennis that a lot of players, including the elite players, play some shots with a two-handed grip. Is this any use in Badminton? Not really. You mostly see players use two hands to play backhand shots in Tennis. This is to stabilise the racquet more upon hitting the ball. A Tennis racquet and ball is much heavier than a Badminton racquet and shuttlecock.
It’s a lot harder in practice to play a Tennis backhand one handed and still control the ball then if you used one hand. Most players are taught to play two-handed as it’s easier and more common. The same can’t be said for Badminton. The racquets and shuttles are much lighter so the impact of playing shots doesn’t need a lot of bracing behind them
There is more range of motions and strokes in Badminton from both the forehand and backhand sides. You play shots from high, low, wide and in front of you. This requires more reach and flexibility. If you have both hands on the racquet you can’t naturally extend yourself to reach the shuttle. It’s a big disadvantage for no gain.
Can you use two racquets?
This is an interesting question. During my research, I couldn’t find any solid evidence that playing with two racquets at the same time is illegal. Feasibly if you’re truly ambidextrous, or just very confident, you could play with two racquets, one in each hand. There is no explicit law against it.
Tennis has a law that prohibits using two racquets at the same time. Badminton has no such rule. The only caveat I could see is that the rules state racquet, the singular. Anyone could interpret this as only using one racquet, but without an explicit rule, it’s a grey area.
It could be advantageous to have two racquets. Playing with one in each hand means you can play forehand shots from anywhere. You don’t have to worry about switching hands either. Specific strategies can be devised for having two in possession.
There are obvious disadvantages too. Holding two racquets leaves you with no hands-free to balance. You’ll have to carry both which might start to be fatiguing when you have to raise both but only use one. Diving defensive shots would be difficult without possibly injuring yourself. Nobody plays with two racquets again so it’s new ground.
Another example of the disadvantages outweighing any possible advantages of this.
Examples in other sports
If you look at any racquet or batting sports, switching hands is still a rarity but you do see cases of it. Baseball is a sport where being ambidextrous is very advantageous. Either batting or bowling it’s very useful. It’s advantageous for batters because it’s statically better to bat left-handed against a right-handed pitcher and vice versa.
Lacrosse is another sport where hand switching is an advantage. Offensive players who are ambidextrous are harder to defend against being able to lead either right or left.
Table Tennis and Tennis have some great examples of hand switching being an advantage. I’ve managed to find more examples in these sports than most others.
Table Tennis requires a lot of quick reactions and a delicate touch. It’s a fast game much like Badminton in this video you can see how switching hands can work really well. Some points would be over if they had not switched hands!
Last but not least, Tennis. The pace of Tennis can be relentless at the top level. But the time between the shot being played and the ball getting to you is a lot more than Badminton. The long distance the ball needs to travel gives the player more time to react. In this time it’s easy to switch your racquet to your other hand.
Maria Sharapova is probably the most famous player who is known to be ambidextrous. She’s shown on multiple occasions that she can play equally with both hands. She still chooses to be a dominant right handed though. She tends to switch hands only when she’d otherwise struggle to play the shot. The video below is a good collection of footage.
Another example from Tennis but a lesser known player, Cheong-eui Kim solely plays forehand on each side. He switches his racquet on every shot. It looks odd but works very well.
Am I allowed to switch my racquet? You are allowed to switch your racquet in Badminton. If you have broken a string, broken you racquet or for any other reason are unhappy with it, you may change your racquet. As long as you have another to play with.
Can I switch my racquet mid-rally? You can switch your racquet mid-rally. You see it happen quite a lot in world level Badminton. A player breaks a string or clashes with his partners’ racquet making playing on near impossible. They’ll have a racquet out ready by the side of the court for when this happens. They’ll rush off mid-rally and try and get the new racquet so they can carry on and try to win the point.
If you found this article useful or know someone who might find this useful please leave a comment and share. If you feel I’ve missed anything out or have other advice, please leave feedback and share your help with others below. Thanks again for reading.
Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player and creator of BadmintonsBest.
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