I recently received an email from a player asking for my views regarding using plastic shuttles over feather shuttles. The preceding article is basically my response with a few edits and additions…

A few years ago I wrote a number of articles regarding how incorrect shuttle speeds are killing badminton. These articles are still live on this website. So why did I write the articles and does the information and findings still hold true today? I wrote them because I was so appalled at what I saw in club badminton and how standards over the years have fallen. Sadly this is still happening in many clubs around the world, not just UK. It could be happening in your club today – have you checked?

There are too many clubs playing with incorrect shuttle speeds and the worst offenders are those playing with plastic shuttles. The difficulty with plastic shuttles is that you cannot vary the speed because of the construction of the shuttle. With a choice of just three speeds, it really is difficult for clubs to decide on which colour to play with. Generally the correct speed falls between two speeds of shuttle.

The other difficulty is that very few club members actually know how to test a shuttle correctly. I have recorded a video on my website to help club players understand what is considered legal within the laws of the game (see my video links at the end of this article). As a player, you should know the rules and play to them. After all, they are created for best enjoyment of the game.

My argument is that incorrect shuttle speeds de-skill the game. A slow speed means it is easier to control the shuttle, easier to keep the shuttle in and easier to return a good players smash. Making the game easier is in fact kidding yourself. What you are doing is accepting that you do not need the correct level of skill to control the shuttle to keep it in, or to return a good smash. In my opinion this is bad for the game.

And, if we allow this to happen and teach junior players in the same vein, then what hope have we in terms of our future generation of badminton players? Our standards have fallen so much overall that England as a nation is becoming second rate with only the odd glimpse of triumph along the way.

The second concern of mine regarding slow shuttles is that players sub-consciously make changes to their hitting technique to give the shuttle an extra thump with the intention of generating more power to either hit a good length from the rear court with a clear, or to hit a reasonable smash. This in turn leads to injuries. I see more players with arm bands of varying sorts to help with their tennis elbow injuries as a result of poor technique and incorrect speed shuttles.

To take this one stage further, I see a greater percentage of players with these injuries as a result of using plastic shuttles over feathers because of the flight characteristics of a plastic shuttle. As the saying goes, you stroke a feather and thump a plastic.

To throw a further argument in here, it’s also because some players have excessive string tension for the type of shuttle they use, but that’s an argument for another day. However, it’s another cause of injury.

The difficulty for most clubs is the high cost of feather shuttles compared to plastic shuttles. But are you really taking into consideration the real costs? If more players are injured as a result of using plastic shuttles how much are they paying to have treatment at physiotherapists? Who pays for that?

Also, what is the cost of losing key players through injury to the club? Additional phone calls have to be made to gather a team together. Who pays for that? Some players do not recover from these injuries and retire from the game. The worrying factor here is that this generally starts a downward trend in a club which could eventually lead to the demise of the club. Before the club reaches this point, what happens to fees to cover the shortage of members? And, who’s paying for that?

On the plus side, we all agree that plastic shuttles last considerably longer than a feather shuttle and therefore shuttle costs in clubs are relatively low. This can be the deciding factor whether the club continues and we all agree that we need more badminton clubs, not less.

So, why should a club consider changing to feather shuttles, what is the benefit and what should you look for in a good shuttle? 

As I mentioned earlier, with a feather you should be playing badminton as it is meant to be played. Hopefully this will increase skill levels and provide a more enjoyable experience once adjustments have been made. Isn’t this what the game is about…an enjoyable experience? You will also find that shots have to be played correctly rather than allow the shuttle to bounce off your strings…a big difference!

Using feather shuttles could be a massive attraction for other members to join your club. This is turn increases revenues to cover for the additional cost of the shuttles.

What is most important here is to ensure players fully understand and can test a shuttle. Somebody needs to maintain strict records of shuttle usage because this is where the data highlights false economies from buying cheap. Before players use a feather shuttle, the whole tube should be tested for speed and consistency in flight. Cheaper shuttles tend to have a few that wobble or do not fly correctly. Most important, they can also have a variety of speeds rather than consistency so effectively you are paying for less than you are using…a false economy. Statistics will allow the club to buy wisely and therefore get excellent value for money shuttles.

I am not saying we should all buy the top brands and pay top prices – that would be foolish. However, regular readers to my website and forum know that I have tested a huge range of shuttles. I also dissect them to check the make-up of the base. Overall, I have found that you pretty much get what you pay for. Cheaper shuttles generally do not last as long as the more expensive shuttles and this is part of the statistical information which must be kept to make a sound decision over the choice of shuttles.

If your club was using 15-20 shuttles for a match and compared to a more expensive shuttle using say 12 then it is easy to work out the real cost of the shuttles in the match. This simple data makes all the difference between perception and fact, taking into account those that didn’t make the grade because they wobbled or were incorrect speed.

Whilst I have digressed a little, let’s close on this particular article and wait to hear from you…

Personally, when discussing the argument for and against plastic shuttles, it is important to ensure you weigh up all the costs and not just the price of a tube of shuttles. Badminton clubs around the country are struggling and this is due to dwindling numbers. Anything that can be done to attract,  retain or prolong the number of players in a club has to be considered a good move. Anything that can be done to reduce injuries and make the game a more pleasurable one has to be good. Whilst I appreciate budgets are vital to sustainability in a club, I hope the welfare of all players is also taken into consideration, especially all the other things the organisers do which costs money…money the club should be paying and year in, year out, gets away with.

Links to watch my videos:
1) Testing Badminton Shuttle Speeds
2) Manually Adjusting The Speed Of A Badminton Shuttle (Tipping)