Bounding to the Shuttle
lieber mit einem Weltmeister als immer nur wie ein Weltmeister trainieren
The USA Badminton Coaches Clinic at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center was a huge success with coaches attending from all five regions. Although most of the participants were experienced players already, the national coach (and champion) Steve Butler and assistant coach (and champion) Tom Reidy presented their ideas so clearly that it was useful for instructors of all levels. The main goal of the annual clinic is to establish consistent and correct instruction in all programs, so that the national coach can select players from anywhere and know that they are competent in the basics of footwork, timing, and racket carriage.
The most important topic of the weekend was the "two-footed" movement, which combines quick jumps and shuffles (called "chassé") that are quicker than the smooth, running-style footwork most recently favored by the Europeans. Some western players have adopted this method, including Paul Erik Hoyer, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, and Steve Butler himself, who attributes his international titles in part to this powerful footwork style. The main problem with this footwork is that it is not for everyone, because it requires extraordinary leg strength that must be developed through hours of training on a regular weekly schedule. I find it difficult to demonstrate because I lack the muscles needed for the even the training exercises!
The movement begins by "facing the shuttle" where it is practical to do so. If you serve it high on the even side, for example, your right foot should be slightly ahead of your left, regardless of your "handedness." This puts you in position for all but the front-left corner, which you must "look for." When you must move to a corner, first jump away from that corner with both feet and immediately jump toward the corner snapping your legs instinctively into position. Any further distance must be traversed using a chassé, where you shuffle without crossing your feet. Upon striking the shuttle, jump back once to "set" for your opponent's reply. All sets will have the racket foot leading, except for following the backcourt "jump" forehand, when you land on both feet with your racket foot nearest the corner. After landing, jump back toward the center without changing your foot position. Refer to the diagrams of a right-handed player to see how to move to each corner.
Whenever you hit the shuttle from the backcourt, it is important to include all parts of your body in the shot, especially your abdominals. These large muscles keep the bird in the court and your body in balance. Also, when landing after hitting from the back, your back foot on the landing (racket foot on the forehand and non-racket foot on the around-the-head side) must counter the momentum of your body. So the farther you reach, the farther away your foot must land.
Much of the footwork and the strength to master it can be developed without the shuttle. The best tool is a mirror in a dance studio. Since most people haven't a clue as to what they look like on the court, this is always a shocker. The national coaches run the players through grueling repetitive exercises to loudly bassed synthesized music, because it inspires the athletes to keep up the pace, and the pace can be increased as speed and strength improve.
The other two main topics, racket carriage and timing, are incorporated in the footwork drills, but really need multi-shuttle feeds and play to develop fully. Supposed you can chassé to the net like greased lightning? It won't matter if your racket is drawn back to lift the shot, because that advantage you gained by your speed will be lost when the bird falls below the tape. What if you powerfully twist, chassé, and jump, only to strike the forehand smash at ear level? That means you have no timing, and your shot will not be as effective. The forearm, hand, and wrist must be very strong as well to control the direction of the shot with little effort. Power and quickness of the arm and hand determine the speed of your shot. Furthermore, diferences in the grip, such as switching to a slight panhandle on forehand net put-aways, balancing the racket on the tip of the thumb on backhand re-drops, and sudden pressure from the base of the index finger when smashing, if timed correctly with the footwork, make the shots crisp and accurate.
Where do you hold the racket as you approach the shot? Is it ready to go when your body is ready? Are you hitting the shuttle at the earliest possible moment, or are you waiting for the shuttle to get to you? This is timing. Your timing might be excellent against C-level players, but when you play B-level tournaments, your timing may break down. As a player improves, her timing changes. A player who works on footwork exclusively will overrun the shuttle for a while until her timing catches up.
The synergy of the three skills is what makes a player quicker than his opponent, and the better the three skills blend, the longer the player can last on the court.