The badminton smash is the one thing every beginner wants to do well. So much so that it often blinds them to the rest of the game. While power is important in badminton, placement often gets overshadowed despite the fact it’s just as important. So let’s weigh them up and see if there’s any benefit of prioritising one over the other.
Power & Placement
Power in this context is basically how fast you can hit the shuttle. Placement is how well you are able to hit the shuttle to the intended direction on the court. This doesn’t just mean hitting it straight or cross-court but also how steep or flat you are able to hit the shot.
Having an abundance of power is pointless if you cannot hit the shuttle within the boundaries of the court! Likewise, having good placement is great but if the opponent is able to retrieve it consistently, then it’s not particularly effective
Placement and power are linked intricately. In general, the more power you put in a badminton smash, the less accurate it will be. And the better you want to place the shuttle the less power you might use. So in effect, you get a trade-off between power and placement.
Obviously, there’s a catch here. If you slow down your smash too much, no matter how well you place it, it will be more easily received by the opponent. If you prioritise power, you sacrifice accuracy.
So what’s the answer? Obviously training to minimise this trade-off! Advanced players train very hard to be able to hit with both power and accuracy. When you watch professional players, particularly singles players, they are able to hit the lines with power fairly consistently. Although they have minimized the error percentage you will still see them playing unforced errors when they’ve tried to maximise power over placement in a shot.
So in what situations is placement or power more important? Below I have highlighted some areas in which these are variable.
Level Of Play
As a beginner or low-level player, most have weak defences. Therefore a more powerful smash would often get through defences rather easily. You wouldn’t need much thought process beyond hitting it hard to win points. Placement is almost irrelevant, beyond hitting it into the court.
Now let’s assume that the level of attack and defence improves at the same rate to the intermediate level. Suddenly a smash won’t easily penetrate the opponent’s defences the same way anymore. Whether it’s singles or doubles, the shuttle will be more easily retrieved. Particularly if you are smashing without much thought process. Therefore, placement becomes much more important. Smashing the shuttle accurately into areas of the court that make it difficult for the opponent to retrieve with 70% power is better than using 100% power but the shuttle keeps coming back with ease!
At an advanced level, players are able to leverage both traits to effectively win the point. The defence and coverage of these players are so efficient that strategies need to combine both effectively not just to win points but to create opportunities to win the rally. Like with the intermediate level, a combination of power and placement yields the best results. As mentioned previously, these players have minimised this trade-off that their error percentage is significantly reduced, even when hitting with full power. This is most obvious in the singles discipline.
Of course, power over placement is situational in a rally. For example, if you’re smashing from the mid to front court, you are more likely to prioritise power over placement. Simply because it’s unlikely that a full power smash from this position will be returned (although definitely possible)! This is the case in singles and in doubles.
If you’re smashing from further back, particularly in singles, you would want to place the shot to create the most difficulty for your opponents, as well as give you the best opportunity to recover or follow up. If you smash hard and straight to them, they will simply make your life more difficult because it’s harder for you to recover.
In doubles, smashing hard right from the back of the court can be just as dangerous. So you might want to smash steeper to place your shuttle closer to the front court. This can be done by using slices and stick smashes and a good example of reducing power to prioritise accuracy and placement. It might also depend on the opponents. For example, if they’re defending with a bias towards their forehand, then smashing across their body is a great option.
Disciplines Of Badminton
Power Vs placement in badminton can also depend on which discipline you are playing. In some disciplines, power is used more strategically to win rallies, whereas others make use of placement much more.
For example, in men’s doubles, and increasingly women’s, more power is primarily used to try and overcome the opponent’s defences at the highest level. Not all smashes, but the majority of them will be hard and fast and directed straight rather than cross court. Placement here is as important but harder to implement as there are two opponents covering the court. So power is used to keep the attacking pair on the attack and create a winning opportunity. Some of the best places to aim in doubles check out this post: Badminton Doubles – Rear Court Shot Choice.
In singles, placement is used more often with power reserved for finishing off rallies or creating a winning chance to kill off the rally. The goal is to pull the player off balance and away from the base position. For this reason, an advanced player will utilise power when they are in perfect balance. If not, recovering for the next shot becomes much harder. There are certain areas on court that are hard for opponents to reach if a smash is directed there. The inner tramlines and the body smash are the most common.
Mixed doubles is the slight exception within the doubles disciplines. At the professional level, it’s similar to level doubles as all four players are very strong. However, because there’s a very obvious beneficial formation, the smash should be played in a way that keeps the pair in this formation. Or in a way that allows them to rotate into that formation. This means that placement plays a relatively more important role in mixed doubles.
Is One More Important Than The Other?
Yes and no. Like we mentioned above, it’s dependent on a number of factors, so it’s impossible to say generally one is better than the other. The most important thing is that both are used effectively to add variety and unpredictability to your attacking play.
What is important however is not to prioritize one over the other in your training. Both have a place in all disciplines of badminton and the better you are able to utilise both these weapons on your arsenal, the better off you will be in your games.
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