During my travels and discussions with players, I’m amazed at the number of times I’m told stories of major defeats, with the only reason given was that they played on the opponents “home” badminton court.
For most badminton tournaments or league matches there isn’t a huge crowd to cheer the locals to victory. This is what our international players have to play against. So, why should there be such a difference and what can you do to combat home advantage?
Here’s my top 5 tips to help you make a major breakthrough in your away matches
1 Court Dimension
Most court measurements are the same to meet International Badminton regulations. However, you should not take it for granted that they are. Pace your existing court so you know the dimensions. When you get to the away match, a quick check should confirm you’re playing on a court with the same measurements.
Believe it or not, I’ve been caught out by this in the past. I played at an old church hall and the court was short, although the club had painted the lines so it looked fine. As a result, my serves were long and I struggled to keep the shuttle in. On this occasion, I averaged a loss of 7 points per game which turned the eventual result into my opponents favour.
Here’s what you must do…
First of all you need to check which dimensions are incorrect prior to adjusting your game. If it’s just the back line that is shorter then the simple action is to test hitting “short” and asking your partner to allow the shuttle to drop so you can gauge where it’s landing in relation to the line. You can then get a feel for the length you need to hit.
Practice both short and flick serves prior to the commencement of the game to get your eye in.
Ask your partner to short serve and flick serve you so that you can count your steps to the back service line to ensure you are clear when the shuttle is in.
Check you have sufficient room to run around your backhand without crashing into obstacles.
2 Ceiling Height
This is the usual difference and one that catches many players out. Why? Simply, the height of the ceiling can dictate the pace of the game. Teams that play in low ceiling halls tend to play a faster flatter game. They punch clear and try to attack more frequently knowing that a lift from you may hit the ceiling and be called a fault. They also play a faster pace as they are used to the speed of play in their particular hall.
Consequently, teams that play in halls with high ceilings tend to use the height to their advantage and play at a slower pace. They can vary the pace a little more and are not as fast and eager to get on the attack compared to my example above. They know that they can use height to get out of trouble and therefore are prepared to take a few more risks in order to out manoeuvre the opposition.
Here’s what you must do…
If you know ahead of time what your opponent’s home court is like, then create similar conditions whenever you can at your club and play the game to these conditions. This is easier if you play at a club with a high ceiling as you can practice punch clears, playing fast, getting on the attack quickly.
Remember also to practice your serves, both low and flick serves, but especially your low serves. If you can continue to serve well in these conditions, then your opposition is under pressure.
Work with your partner regarding their presence at the net. You need to threaten any net return from the serve from the outset so your opponents are backing off this tactical stronghold. The more you control the serve and restrict your opponent’s returns, the more points you will win. Controlling the net is always a winning tactic.
Sadly, if you play in a hall with a low ceiling, you cannot create the height to practice. However, it is easier to hire a court at such places to get some practice in.
But, if you can copy my recommendations above regarding serving and return of serve, the same tactic will work for you too. By putting pressure on your opponents in this key area may rush them into a pace of game they’re not used to. This could lead to errors and more points for you. They are then playing your normal pace which you should be better equipped to handle.
Continue to keep the shuttle low and try to play to your strengths in terms of pace and shot repertoire rather than succumbing to your opponents pace. Speed the game up at every opportunity and keep attacking.
3 Know Your Back Line
Whenever I visit a badminton club or sports centre, one of the first things I do is get to know my back line. You see, whilst the dimensions on court may be the same, it’s amazing how many times a player can be disorientated by their new surroundings. This means they leave far too many shuttles that land in, costing them dearly. Has this happened to you?
Here’s what to do about it…
Stand at the back line and look up at the ceiling. Make a mental note of any overhangs, girders etc that are there. Now judge whether the shuttle would be out if they past this point or not. Ask your partner to send a few shuttles towards the target area and see what happens. Usually, you can quickly find the spot on or near this target that allows you to make the right decision.
Make sure you do this for both sides of the court! You’d be amazed how many times players forget this and you then don’t have the time to test your target area.
Use this same target to practice your lifts from the net and ask your partner to let the shuttle fall so that you know how close to the back line you’re lifts are getting.
4 Slippery Floor
Some places you’re asked to play are deadly. They have extremely slippery floors, which means that you can hardly move your feet to retrieve the shuttle. But, your opponents seem to be fine and they’re chasing around winning point after point easily.
Here’s what you must do…
Take a spare damp towel with you in your bag. Try wiping your feet on your towel and testing the floor again. Usually, the damp towel trick does the job and suddenly you have grip. If this is the answer for you, then leave the towel by the side of your court and frequently wipe your feet in between points to maintain the best traction on your shoes.
There are sprays you can buy to help you grip. Yonex sell such a spray and I’m sure there are others too. Keep the spray in your bag for such occasions and use sparingly. Too much moisture on your sole can be just as deadly.
5 Shuttle Speeds
This is a subject readers of my blog know I am very passionate about. Players seems to think that they must accept whatever shuttle the opposition gives them as the right one for the game. No!
You already know that playing with incorrect speed shuttles can have a detrimental effect on your game. If they’re too slow , you’re struggling to reach the back line for length, or can’t finish off the point as your smash is ineffective. Or, too fast and you’re hitting shuttles out of the back on serve and wherever you are on court, giving your opponent so many easy points.
Here’s what you must do…
Stand your ground, you are in the right. Test the shuttle as I’ve shown you in an earlier video and article. If the speed does not meet the guidelines, then either change the shuttle or alter the feather until it does. This may mean tipping the feather either outwards to slow it down, or inwards to speed it up.
Never settle for a poor speed feather when you have the capability to do something about it.
No matter what conditions you are met with, there is a way in which you can prepare for them ahead of the match and be ready to face the opposition with a game plan to win.
Many of the elements I have mentioned in this article are external and can be managed if you are prepared. Certainly, there is no reason why you should lose so many points over such things if you are prepared.
These “home advantage” elements can easily dissipate with the right preparation, and instead of losing so many cheap points to your opponent, you could be turning the tables on them and winning the match.
As always, I encourage comments to my articles and if you feel there are other areas I haven’t mentioned, then please let me know. I’ll include them on a future article.
To your success.