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The 9 Skills You Need to Play Badminton

Image credit: Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

To be good at any sport you need to master the basics. Mastering the basic techniques and skills allows you to play consistently and improve. Badminton is a very beginner-friendly sport but difficult to master. Anybody can learn and master the basic skills for Badminton.

So what are the basic skills you need to play Badminton? Here are nine basic skills you need to learn to play Badminton:

This list is just the basics and doesn’t cover any advanced skills and tactics. There is a lot to master even with these basic skills. Some of these skills are harder to master than others and some have different levels of mastery. If you want to master these skills then read on.

Knowing how to warm up properly

Warming up is a combination of skill and a bit of know-how. Players of any level should know how to warm up properly before stepping on court for a match. We wrote an in-depth article on warming up properly for Badminton. It’s so important to do a full warm-up before playing to help avoid injuries. It’s also important because you’re ready to go right from the start of the match. You won’t need to get four-five rallies into the game before you feel like you’ve finally got in gear.

Warm-ups don’t have to take that long either. You can perform a solid warm-up in less than five minutes. Here are some simple routines that really get the blood pumping:

  • High speed skipping for five minutes (try to go fast without losing consistency and tripping over the rope)
  • A simple set of jumping jacks, squats, burpees, lunges and knee tucks each for one minute
  • Jog around the hall at a quick pace for five minutes

You get the idea, anything that gets you moving without overstretching. It should get your heart pumping and as my coach used to say; “you should have little beads of sweat from the forehead”.

The basic forehand and backhand grip

Learning the forehand and backhand grip is a fundamental skill. It’s so important to get this right as it’s the building blocks to learning every shot in Badminton. The basic forehand and backhand grip is easy to learn, you can practice getting the hold right sat at home. Practice swapping from forehand to backhand whilst sat on the couch at home.

The forehand grip is much like shaking somebody’s hand. Both in the way you hold the racquet and in how tight you hold it. You want to hold the racquet loosely, gripping the racquet too tight can lead to injuries like tennis elbow. It also makes it very difficult to hit the shot smoothly as you’re tensing up your muscles.

The backhand grip is for some people easier to get right. You simply take the forehand grip and roll the thumb over so it sits flat on the grip rather than along the edge. The use of the thumb makes it easier to stabilize the grip compared to the forehand.

We have a more in-depth guide on how to hold a Badminton racquet which covers forehand and backhand grip as well as some less used ones.

The basic six corners footwork

Footwork is crucial in Badminton. It’s been known that some coaches in China only teach beginners footwork from the beginning. They don’t teach any racquet skills until the player has mastered the basic footwork. They do this because it’s impossible to play good shots if you cannot reach the shuttle. In Badminton, once the shuttlecock touches the floor the rally is over so you need to be able to cover the court in order to play well.

I wouldn’t go as far as they do in principals but I still believe footwork is one of the most important aspects of playing Badminton. Footwork can get very technical and complex but right now we’re just going to cover the basic footwork patterns in short. We have more full and detailed guides coming soon around footwork drills and breakdowns.

If you can master these six pieces of footwork for Badminton then you’re off to a good start. The six pieces of footwork are:

  • Travelling to the forehand side of the net
  • Travelling to the backhand side of the net
  • Covering the forehand mid-court
  • Covering the backhand mid-court
  • Moving to the forehand rear-court
  • Moving to the backhand rear-court

Badminton Exercises channel on YouTube has a great video on covering the six corners of the court. It’s worth watching in full.

The split step/the ready stance

The split step is a technique used to get ready for the next shot. It’s used not only in Badminton but in sports like Tennis as well. It’s the basis of building good footwork and speed around the court. We have a great article detailing everything about the split step, make sure to read it in full.

Let’s summarise why the split step is so important. A good split step is for a Badminton player what a good start out of the blocks is for a runner. If you don’t have a good split step you’ll be playing catch up to your opponent.

So how do you do the split step? It’s simple but can be tricky to master. When you return to your base position on court you want to make a slight jump in the air and land with your feet apart. You want to time the landing of your feet just after your opponent hits the shuttle. That way you can land the split step and immediately push off to the next shot.

The basic shots

There are so many varieties of shots in Badminton. Variants of shots include slicing the shuttle, tumbling the shuttle or hitting it at different angles with different swings. But they all have one original basic shot. For beginners here is a list of basic shots you should master first.

  • The serve (forehand or backhand)
  • The lift (sometimes called a lob)
  • The net shot
  • The block
  • The drop shot
  • The smash
  • The clear

That’s eight shots in total. It’s quite a lot when you’re just starting out and they can all be played backhand and forehand. These seven shots cover the majority of situations you’ll face in a match. Master these and you’ll have a good base in which to build on and start learning more advanced shots and variations.

Hand-eye coordination

It only comes with practice but having good hand-eye coordination is essential for Badminton. You can’t play Badminton if you can’t connect the racquet and shuttle. The best way to improve hand-eye coordination for Badminton is to play lots of Badminton. Who would have thought?!

Seriously though, playing and training will improve your hand-eye coordination significantly but there are exercises you can do at home alone or with another person to improve your hand-eye coordination. Here are some examples.

Playing catch

Playing catch is a simple but effective way to improve hand-eye coordination. All you need is a ball, you could do this with a shuttlecock too. Practice throwing and catching with someone else or bounce the shuttle or ball of a wall at different angles and catch it again.

Catching an object focuses your eyes on a single object travelling. It requires concentration and spatial awareness. It’s so simple but so effective.


So not a skill for those with little patience, juggling is a difficult skill to master but for good reason. Juggling requires incredible hand-eye coordination, even just by learning to juggle you’re improving your hand-eye coordination without having mastered the skill. It’s something you can do anywhere with a couple or more balls or shuttles.

When you master juggling two items then you can move onto three then four etc. Adding more objects or changing the objects improves your hand-eye coordination even more. You have to track each item in the air and feel how you threw the last one. It’s also a great party trick to have in the bag.

Exercising your eyes

Believe it or not but there are specific exercises that you can do to exercise your eyes! They basically help strengthen the muscles in and around your eyes. They mainly help with focusing your vision which in turn will help with your hand-eye coordination. Some examples of eye exercises are.

  • Focus change
  • Near and far focus
  • Figure eight has a great article covering this in-depth. They’re quick and easy to do and if you did them for only five minutes a day you’d see a difference.

Rhythm and timing

If you watch the top players in the world like Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Kento Momota etc, they seem to cover the court so easily. They make every shot look effortless and smooth. They have little to no break in their footwork and look to glide around the court. They have honed their rhythm and timing for playing Badminton over years of training and match play.

Lee Chong Wei has impeccable timing with his footwork and if you watch the video below you can see how rhythmic his movement is.

When you play Badminton, especially singles, getting a natural rhythm while you play is key to developing good footwork and creating consistency in your play. When we dance we use the music as our rhythm and that helps us relax and get into the flow. When playing Badminton you need to be able to find a rhythm of play that suits you. This can only come from playing a lot of purposeful practice and playing matches.

Timing is similar but relates more to hand-eye coordination. Your timing will naturally improve the more Badminton you play. It’s important to have good timing so you can hit shots cleanly, a split-step at the right moment and so you can position yourself to hit the shuttle at the optimal time.

Perception and anticipation

These two skills become much more important the better you get at Badminton. It’s the difference between just getting your opponents shot back and intercepting or countering your opponents next shot. Perception means:

“The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.”

For Badminton, this has lots of meanings. Being able to see where your opponent is in relation to the rest of the court, being able to hear if they’re panting and getting tired, the examples go on and on. It’s about how you perceive the current situation playing out during a match. Being more aware.

Anticipation is a little different. Anticipation means:

“The action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.”

For Badminton, anticipation means reading your opponents’ next move before they play it, to change your stance in preparation for the next shot and to advance your position before the play has been made.

Anticipation is a very important skill in Badminton because if you can read your opponents’ next shot then you can gain the upper hand in the rally, the game, and the match. It’s not easy to learn this skill as everyone plays differently, no two players play the same. One player might play a certain shot when they’re in trouble and someone else might play an entirely different shot.

You see top players Hendra Setiawan and Lin Dan do this very well. Before their opponent has played their shot they’re already anticipating their next move. Watch this video below and watch how Lin Dan changes the positioning of his feet in order to move faster to the next shot. As you can see he doesn’t always get it right but is able to recover and stay in the rally.

Tactical and strategic thinking

There are many ways to win a game of Badminton. Players and coaches use different tactics and strategies to win a match. Tactics are the shots we make, the set plays we try to repeat and the choices we make when backed into a corner. Tactics are the small steps and choices within each rally.

Strategies are the overall plan for playing a match, they’re the long term plan. Strategy in Badminton is creating a plan on how you’ll win. An example strategy for a singles player might be to get their opponent to play a high lift so they can get back and smash. An example strategy for a doubles player might be to get to the front as fast as possible to intercept the shuttle early or kill it. These are basic examples.

The elite players will have multiple strategies for when the opponent starts countering their strategy. I feel it’s always best to keep things simple when it comes to tactics and strategies. If you’re beating your opponent then there is no need to change anything. If you’re losing then you need to change something.

Why is it important to learn about tactics and strategies? Taking a quote from Sun Tzu and the Art of War, a book we recommend for every Badminton payer to read.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

If you plan on how you’re going to win the match or plan how you’re going to cope with your opponents’ big smash then you’re already a step ahead. You need to learn how to harness your best shots to gain the initiative and win points. It’s partly visualization if you can visualize how you can win then you’re more likely to win.

It’s your turn

Use this list, practice and master these skills and your Badminton game will hit the next level.

We love to hear from our readers so share your Badminton journey and progress with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player/coach and creator of BadmintonsBest.

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