Badminton, that game played with small racquets and a funny looking thing called a shuttlecock (or bird), actually has a long and storied history. The sport first appeared in China around 500 BC. It was called Ti Jian Zi and was played with a shuttlecock and one’s feet.
The sport next surfaced in the 16th century where it was played by the European nobility (hence the sport of Counts) and was known as “jeu de Volant,” which was French for “wheel game.” It consisted of hitting a small ball with the palm of one’s hand.
Call it badminton or call it Poona
The sport as we recognize it today was created by British military officers in India in the mid-18th century. It was particularly popular in the British garrison town of Poona so was known as Poona for a period of time.
Retired British Army officers took the game to England where its rules were developed. It was officially launched in 1873 at the Badminton House, Gloucestershire — hence the name badminton.
Badminton in America
America’s first club was the Badminton Club of New York, which was founded in 1878. Badminton’s popularity took off in the 1930s as YMCAs, schools and hundreds of new badminton clubs offered lessons in the sport. Its popularity was also spurred in the 1930s due to the avid play of such Hollywood stars as James Cagney (the sport of Cagney), Douglas Fairbanks, Boris Karloff, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers and Bette Davis.
How badminton compares with other sports
One of the more interesting things about this game is that it is played with a shuttlecock, a projectile with feathers, which causes it to fly differently from the balls used in other sports. The feathers of a shuttlecock create a much higher drag, so that it decelerates much faster than a ball.
While there have never been definitive studies done comparing badminton with other sports, there is a general agreement that it – especially the singles version – requires more aerobic stamina than tennis while tennis requires greater upper body and core strength.
It is also generally agreed that the sport definitely requires more explosive athleticism than tennis and a somewhat greater explosive athleticism than squash. It also requires significantly faster reaction times than either squash or tennis.
Family fun or cutthroat competition
Another thing that makes this sport unique is that it can be played for fun or as serious competition. If you ever see Olympic badminton, you will know what we mean – it’s incredibly fast paced and requires an amazing athleticism. Yet, you can also spend as little as $19.95, put up a court in your backyard and watch your kids spend hours battling each other for family bragging rights. And that’s certainly something you can’t say about football, basketball or even tennis.