Although it's the Asian states like China, South Korea and Indonesia that dominate international badminton competitions, this sport has been recently gaining popularity as a recreational activity in the Czech Republic as well.
There are several reasons why more and more Czechs are becoming addicted to this sport – you get a great workout for a reasonable price and basically anyone can play it. What's more, badminton can be a lot of fun.
The roots of badminton
What may surprise you is that the origins of badminton go back as far as ancient Greece, where an early form of the sport was played.
Soldiers of the British Army stationed in India in the 19th century adapted an originally children's game called battledore and shuttlecock, the aim of which was to keep a small feathered shuttlecock in the air as long as possible with small racquets. The new sport was launched in 1873 at the Badminton House in the UK's Gloucestershire, during which time the game was referred to as The Game of Badminton, from which the game got its name, according to Wikipedia.
Winter – an ideal time to start
Although you may know badminton as a casual recreational activity that is played outdoors, it is best to start with playing badminton in a hall, as the direction of the shuttlecock's flight might become quite unpredictable under unfavourable weather conditions. Winter time is therefore an ideal time to start – at least you will not have a feeling that you are closed indoors while the weather is so nice outside.
A few basics
Badminton is a sport which involves hitting a shuttlecock (made from cork and feathers or from synthetic materials) back and forth across a net with a badminton racquet. The object is to hit the shuttlecock over the net dividing the rectangular court into the opponent's half of the court. The shuttlecock must not touch the ground during a rally. A player scores a point whenever they win a rally and the first player that reaches 21 points wins the set. Matches are played to the best of three sets.
Like in tennis, you can play singles or invite some friends and play doubles, which require less fitness but more tactics.
To get an idea what the badminton rules are before you step on the court for the first time, here are the simplified game rules. (For concise rules in Czech, see this link.)
What you will need besides good sneakers and comfortable sportswear is a badminton racquet and a shuttlecock (supposing you play indoors where a net is set on the court). If you do not want to buy a badminton racquet before finding out whether you like the sport or not, you can rent it for a fee of about CZK 50 per hour (plus deposit of some CZK 200). A shuttlecock can be bought for CZK 50 – 60.
There are three varieties of nylon shuttlecocks - green (slow speed), blue (middle), and red (fast). Blue shuttlecocks are ideal for beginners, while more advanced players use feather shuttles.
There are several badminton halls scattered all over Prague. Booking a court online or over the phone is recommended even in the case of the larger badminton halls with ten and more courts and especially during peek weeknight times and weekends.
How to get better
The advantage of badminton is that it can be played by all age groups on all proficiency levels – one does not need any special skills or training, although those with quick response and agility are certainly at advantage.
When the time comes that you feel like your style needs a professional touch, you can hire a coach to help you get better. The majority of facilities listed below offer contacts for badminton coaches. In the meantime, you can make use of some of the series of YouTube videos that contain instructions on how to play badminton step by step.
Have you already found your badminton opponent? What's left now is to make a reservation for a court (see the list of badminton halls below). If you have quick reflexes, rapid hand-eye coordination and you practice hard, one day you might become this good.