Jeff and I have been spending some time providing some free coaching and tips at a popular badminton stadium in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, Altona North Badminton Center.
We found that many of the players that wanted coaching or tips were after ways to improve their backhand. While watching how these players hit their backhands, we found some common errors and misconceptions about this shot as well as general principles that could help all of them improve.
Five Common Errors & Misconceptions
The wrong objective Several players that asked for tips said that they had difficulty playing their overhead backhand when the shuttle is in the rear court. What we found a lot of the time was that these players backhand's weren't as bad as they thought but it was the intention behind the shot that needed change. It appeared that most of these players were actually able to consistently hit a backhand but what they were really asking was, "how do I finish the point or play a very powerful shot when I'm put in that position?".
It goes without saying that the backhand is most player's weakest shot, mine included. While we'd all love to be the next Taufik Hidayat, it's just not the case for most of us (see the video below to see the King of Backhand, Taufik Hidayat in action).
The intention that I have when I play a backhand overhead is dependent on where the opponent is on court but 9/10 times it's not to win the point. The next time you play your backhand, have a think about what the goal is for your shot. Is it to win the point or to keep you in the point without playing to your disadvantage?
Sometimes hitting it in a downward direction is enough :)
Stepping and hitting out of time Another common error that we identified is related to timing and footwork. To time a backhand properly, it is important to take that final step as close to the same time as you hit the shuttle. What we found with some of the players we were helping was that their timing between when they stepped and hit were significantly different.
So how should it be done? The team at Badminton Famly have done a great job at showing you. (If you prefer to read, see below the video)
From the centre of the court facing forwards, backhand footwork typically involve a twist to face the corner you are heading in, a step (or a few) followed by a lunge; you should aim to hit the shuttle at the same time as the lunge. While it seems to occur in a step-wise fashion, it's important to recognise that you want to do this as smoothly as possible.
The next time you play a backhand, have a think about what happens with the timing of your lunge and when you make contact with the shuttle.
Forcing your backhand When some of these players showed us how they hit their backhand, regardless of what shot we asked them to play, the shot action was forced and sudden. This affected their shot consistency and more importantly, their shot quality.
The following video of Kento Momota (one of our favourite players at Volant Wear) provides a very good view of how he plays his backhand and a much easier way to explain how it should be played. Pay close attention to how his shot is never forceful yet still very effective when played.
Failing to get there on time I wont spend much time on this particular point because the footwork itself was covered in point no.2. For some of the players we were coaching, we found that their ability to play a backhand was great when they could get there on time but unfortunately, a lot of them just couldn't quite make it there. This meant that they were so far out of position that it didn't matter how they played the shot, their probability of success was really low.
Imagine trying to play a good shot but you're struggling just to balance. Some of the players we were working with were trying to do this repeatedly until it was actually pointed out. So the next time youplay your backhandand the result isn'tasgoodas you want it to be, ask these questions:
- Was I too slow? - Was I balanced? - Could I have played a forehand instead?
If your answer is yes to any of the questions, the key lies in improving your footwork! Unfortunately, there isn't a quick fix for footwork although making sure you're using the correct footwork is very important (see the video under point no.2 for more)
Please see below for some incredible footwork by Lee Chong Wei
Not taking the shot early when you can The last thing that I saw when I watched these players hit a backhand was that sometimes they wanted to move back, when moving forward would have been a lot easier!
What I mean by this is that you don't have to wait for the shuttle to get to a position where you need to play an overhead backhand. If you're prepared, you can move forward and take the shuttle early without having to generate a big swing; you can guide the shuttle over the net in a gentle downward direction or play a drive instead.
So the next time you see a shuttle heading towards your backhand side, have a think about whether you have to move backwards to hit it or if you can take it earlier by moving forwards.
Do you have any other problems you're facing with your backhand? or do you have other solutions and tips that you'd like to share with everyone?
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Body image source 1: Tenor/Giphy Body image source 2: Altona North badminton Center Video sources: Youtube
Henry is an ex-state badminton player who represented South Australia as well as Melbourne University. He remains an avid badminton player in the social scenes of Melbourne. His passion for all things badminton lead him to be a co-founder of Volant Wear.