This summer, it’s decided: Rodrigo takes up badminton. “It’s fun, and still more active than pétanque or mölkky (1) ! », he said. A few months ago, the 39-year-old developer from Brazil came across an article about the benefits of racket sports. “A scientific study carried out over twenty-five years has shown that squash and tennis players, but also badminton players, have a longer life expectancy than others”, he sums up. Whether proven or not, the information reinforced his motivation.
As always with good resolutions, his will first came up against an obstacle. “I wanted to join an association, but in the two structures that I visited, I was told that sometimes we spent more time waiting for one’s turn than playing…”, he says. So he ended up buying a “kit” to train in the squares in his neighborhood. Two rackets and three shuttlecocks, all for less than € 10. “Once we have that, there is no need for anything else”, praises the badiste in the making.
Nothing else except a partner, which is often easier to find than for other racquet sports. “Unlike tennis, where you first have to acquire the basics, badminton can be learned very quickly”, likes Rodrigo.
“Anyone can play and, if they wish, become very good”, confirms Florent Chayet, President of the French Badminton Federation (FFBaD). A shuttlecock weighs 5 grams and a racket less than 100 grams, in other words it does not require any particular muscle strength. “In fact, it’s one of the few sports for which there is no defined morphotype, he continues. Look at Pusarla V. Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara, two of the best players in the world: one is a gazelle of 1.79 m, the other is rather beefy and measures 1.56 m. Gender, age, diet, possible disability, political opinion, hairstyle, or whatever, doesn’t matter. “
This diversity partly explains the exponential growth in the membership of the French Badminton Federation in recent decades, from 10,000 affiliates in the 1980s to 190,000 today – 35% of whom are women. Without counting the regular players that the federation did not attract in its nets. “If we look at the sales of equipment, there are around 500,000 to practice all year round. To this, we should also add those who take out snowshoes when the weather is nice, in their garden or in summer, on the beach. “
“Play while talking”
Erika is one of them. A lifelong player, she remembers with joy the family badminton games in Budapest, where she grew up. “My father even built a plot in the garden!, says this young woman of 31 years. Parents and children played together ” to have fun “. And discuss. “ In general, the participants are not very far apart, so that we can play while talking ”, she emphasizes. Now settled in Paris, she converted her companion. “As soon as we go for the weekend, the snowshoes are in the trunk. Unlike soccer or basketball, you can play just about anywhere, on concrete, beach or grass. We don’t disturb anyone, we don’t make noise, and we don’t risk breaking a window! “
If his entry into the Olympic Games in 1992 propelled him into the limelight, the “bad” continues to cause misunderstandings. Popularized in the 1990s thanks to its success in physical education and sports classes, it is still sometimes considered as an activity for “lazy”, even as a simple pastime. Conversely, its status as an Olympic sport may have dissuaded the less valiant from giving it a try. “Before, we thought it was just beach fun, but at a high level it requires exceptional athletic and mental qualities. It’s the fastest racket sport in the world!, insiste Florent Chayet. Today, many are convinced that it is prohibited when one reaches 60 years old, because it is too demanding from a cardiovascular point of view. Either way, it’s completely wrong. “
A little-known story
His name is still subjected to regular outrages: « bagminton », we read here, « badmington » do we hear there … As for its history, it remains unknown, although it is about “One of the oldest and most universal sports” affirms Jean-Yves Guillain in his History of badminton. From shuttlecock to Olympic sport (Publibook), one of the only works – if not the only one – devoted to the adventure of this discipline.
Modern badminton would have been created in the last quarter of the XIXe century, by British officers staying in India. But his story, specifies Jean-Yves Guillain, “Is part of a long social, educational and technical evolution, which certainly brings it back to the ” game of the wheel ”, an English and French recreational practice of which we find many testimonies from the 15th century.e century. “
In Europe, royalty and aristocracy delighted in “cocquantin”, “picandeau”, “battledore & shuttlecock” or even the game of palm, the favorite game of the Duke of Orleans. So many variations that will leave their mark in literature, from Rabelais to Flaubert, from Balzac to Hugo, as well as in painting, notably under Chardin’s brush (The Girl at the Wheel, 1737). If the rules were clarified in the XVIIIe century, the notoriety of the game of shuttlecock was reinforced at the beginning of the following century, when it became “Essential in good conduct guides for children and adolescents”, because of its “Educational and physical virtues”. The game has since been codified, structured; the equipment has grown. But the pleasure remains unchanged. “Hitting a ball – or a shuttlecock – making it reach a specific goal or cross an obstacle, prevent the opponent from returning the ball or on the contrary wanting to multiply the exchanges, all this is an essential gesture of the recreational activity” , estimates Jean-Yves Guillain.
“Cooperation more than competition”
Rodrigo is not looking for anything else, and intends to do it his way, “In fun mode”. No net or counting of points. “I see badminton as cooperation more than competition, he explains. It’s a bit the same state of mind as the frescobol, which is played a lot on the beaches of Rio and Copacabana (2). The challenge is to have as many exchanges as possible, and to have a good time together. “
Florent Chayet, he assures that at 70 years the game always gives him so much pleasure. “Yet I am more and more mediocre. Besides, I’ve never been really good! “, quips this former doctor, more serious when it refers to the sedentarization of the population, especially the youngest. “Kids today have lost 20 to 25% of their physical capacities in forty years, it is a very worrying public health problem.” His advice? Badminton, of course. “It’s very complete, insofar as it develops agility, reflexes, muscle tone, balance. “
If the “real” badminton is played indoors, the good weather pushes the followers to settle in the open air, at the risk that the weather hazards interrupt the game. But while luminescent shuttlecocks now make it possible to play at night, manufacturers are reportedly working on a projectile that is more resistant to winds. According to Florent Chayet, who had a prototype in his hands, it should be in production by the end of the year. And could be available for sale as early as next summer.
The badminton air. This outdoor version of badminton, officially launched last May by the International Badminton Federation, can be played on plastic, sand or grass courts.
Crossminton (or speedminton). It is also practiced outdoors but without a net, with a racquet similar to that of squash and a smaller and heavier shuttlecock (the “speeder”) to resist the wind.
The plumfoot. Very popular in Asia and more and more widespread in Europe, it consists of exchanging a shuttlecock on either side of a net without it falling to the ground, using the whole body, except the arms and hands.
The pilou. Immortalized by Hitchcock in The Hand at the Collet, this game of shuttlecock and juggling, originating in the Nice hinterland, is played with a coin with a hole in which a piece of paper is stuck. We gladly play it in the street, according to rules close to plumfoot but without a net.