A Reflex Race: Badminton is More Than a Backyard Sport

In the middle of an intense mixed doubles game against a pair from John F. Kennedy High’s team, Catherine Lin (11) quickly moves to receive a drop, a shot in which the opponent aims the bird tight to the net. Sharp reflexes and agility are extremely essential to succeed in this fast and highly intense game.

The sharp skills needed to compete in this sport largely dispel its leisurely reputation

Karen Supandi

Staff Writer

    Before you disagree with me, think about it. Where did you last see a badminton match?

    You’ll probably say on television, filmed as a casual sport played outside somewhere sunny. The manner in which badminton is portrayed in media contributes a whole lot to the prestige of the sport, so it makes sense if you think badminton is meant for the backyard.

    But there’s a reason for that, you say. Badminton isn’t portrayed as a fierce sport because it doesn’t need the physical intensity required of other sports.

    Well, if you think covering as much as four miles in a span of a single match isn’t physically intense, then I guess you’re right.

    Badminton is the fastest racket sport in the world, and in a competitive game, you have to be alert. Always. The shuttlecock, the object that players hit over the net, is pretty small and, according to Canada’s official Olympic team website, it could reach speeds of up to 306 miles per hour (almost one and a half times faster than the speed of a golf ball).

    “It’s a hard game,” American High badminton team captain April Gong (12) said. “You need really good strategy because you always have to predict your opponent’s shots.”

    In fact, in a competitive match, predicting is probably the only way you can even get to the bird early enough to set up a good offense. The goal is to ultimately get the opponent out of position so that he or she will deliver a shot easy for you to kill.

    As a player, though, you also have to keep track of your opponent’s approximate location on the court at any given time. This will determine not only the type of shot you want to execute, but also its direction, whether it be a straight or cross.

    “You don’t want to hit to where your opponent is,” member of the American High badminton team, Catherine Lin (11), said. “You have to make them run, so they won’t have time to smash to you. You’ll also tire them out.”

    This highlights the main challenge of all badminton players, which lies in physical stamina. According to a study from Baylor University, the pulse of badminton players sharply increased from 72 to 125 beats per minute following a three-game match. This means one thing: badminton is highly conditioning and you exert periodic bursts of energy throughout the game. This is primarily why badminton is such an intense sport: a 21-point reflex race between you and your opponent, it’s a sport where both speed and physical endurance are especially essential for you to win.

    Sure, badminton is not as popular here in the United States in comparison to basketball or football. It’s understandable that you memorized every single one of Stephen Curry’s shot percentages but don’t know who Lee Chong Wei is. But never underestimate a badminton player’s physical capacity, for a world-champion in this sport has to be in prime condition to compete well.

    And if you still don’t believe me, it’s okay. I’ll just put you on a court to play a singles match so you can see for yourself.

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