Often when new players join a badminton team, class or playing group, they’ll ask common questions like “Hey coach/buddy, I need better rackets/shoes; which brand should I get?/where do I get them?”
I have seen many coaches recommending their own brands without properly educating new players on the importance of selecting quality badminton equipment. Coaches are therefore able to profit from selling their products all the time! Smart move isn’t it?
Thankfully! (for you all), but unfortunately (for the coaches), I’m going to play the bad guy here and share basic guidelines (more content coming soon) on how you should go about equipping yourself well.
First and foremost, I’d like to state some of the more reputable international brands of Badminton equipment (as of 2015) that I have come across. Rest assured, the equipment they manufacture is of quality, the only challenge therefore would be to identify if they’re original.
- Li Ning
A good gauge of an established brand would be to look around in your country or at the world’s strongest national team official sponsors. There are many more good brands out there that I don’t know of too! My advice for starters, is to let your coach suggest which racket will best suit your style. However, I suggest that you opt for low-mid range rackets and invest more heavily on other more important areas.
Where your Attention Should Be
Most beginners focus on what rackets should they get. My honest opinion is that it doesn’t really matter much at the start, as long as it doesn’t break all the time and is not too expensive. Leave that to the coach or store assistant to guide you. Instead, I would prioritize getting quality shoes, socks and racket grips.
Now you’re probably wondering why, badminton is all about hitting shuttles and I hit shuttles with rackets, why do I need to care about getting quality shoes, socks and racket grips?
The reason is simple, that’s where injuries happen.
Injuries result from poor; cushioning, ankle support, traction because people choose to wear running shoes or court shoes instead of badminton shoes. The consequences of choosing a bad shoe on a tight budget could mean months of knee pains, blisters, sprained ankles and constant slipping on court leaving markings that are frowned upon by hall owners.
Getting Shoes with Adequate Cushion
It is essential to get quality shoes because I have seen countless recreational players sustaining long-term knee injuries from cheap court shoes they bought from a general sports shop sale. They then proceed to buy supplements or joint supports like glucosamine or knee guards attempting to treat the injury, failing to solve the root of the problem, the poor choice of shoes.
So to protect yourself properly, you need 3 things
1. Learn basic footwork (from a coach or from YouTube)
2. Choose proper badminton shoes instead of court shoes as they usually will protect your ankle and knee better. Also, get a heel cup/heel gel or insoles with a cushion as a cheaper alternative to buying top-tier shoes with in-built cushion, which works just well.
3. Keep your muscles in good shape (equally important) with pre and post-workout routines like warm-ups and stretching exercises, but I will not dwell into this area in this article.
Thick socks are important in badminton so that you (or your kids) won’t have abrasions or blisters on their foot from training. Many parents that don’t play badminton themselves may be unaware of blisters that their kids sustain. Nothing is usually done because it may not seem like a big deal and kids don’t talk about it. But why suffer when these pains are easily avoidable?
Maintaining Your Racket Grip
Another very important aspect is getting and maintaining a good racket grip. If it’s too bulky you can’t swing properly; too thin and you’re practically holding the wooden shaft which hurts. Grips have a shelf life and do ‘expire’ if you leave your racket in the closet for decades. Maintain your grip by changing into a new grip if you find it peeling badly or becoming very rough to the touch. Also, if you have very sweaty palms, choose towel grip over rubber grip, otherwise your racket may slip off and your partner/friend/child is at risk of your deadly smash (Pun intended).
Recounting an Old Story of My Friend
I’d like to end off with a story of my good friend (shall keep his name anonymous until he approves of me using his name) my dad once told me. He is physically handicapped, and therefore couldn’t pick up badminton as fast as the rest. Soon, he was left out by the pack to sit by the side and watch others play. His solution to join the fun, was to buy expensive, branded rackets to perform better. Ultimately, what happened was that people wanted to borrow his racket, more than they wanted to play with him.
Often seeing him by the side lines, my dad made an extra effort to motivate him to pick up training and had to craft customised programs for him to work on his strengths and sure enough, he’s moved on to be one of the top Paralympic badminton players in Singapore, making much more friends and even fans too! Of course, all without the help from his collection of the latest badminton equipment.
The message I want to bring across through this story, is that while getting expensive, top quality rackets are helpful, skills are what truly matters. A beginner should spend more time finding badminton equipment that gives good protection over the best of rackets/shoes. Lastly, find a good coach or circle of friends to help bring your game to the next level! Good luck smashing your way to the top!
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