The Backhand Grip in Badminton
Table of Contents
Learning the Different Grips When Not Using the Forehand
Using the correct grip in badminton is important in hitting power shots, improving one’s strokes and controlling the racquet face – which affects the direction of the shuttlecock inside the court. When it comes to the backhand stroke, while some players are able to execute it effectively without switching to a backhand grip, applying the correct backhand grip will prove very useful to most players.
Understanding the Shape of the Racquet Handle
To better appreciate the discussion on grips it is essential to know the shape of the racquet handle. Looking at it from the butt or bottom portion the racquet handle is octagonal in shape. Two sides opposite each other are flat and wide (wide sides), while the other two opposing sides are flat and narrow (narrow sides). The wide and narrow sides are connected to each other by even narrower sides called bevels, because they are slanted or diagonal.
Basic Backhand Grip
In this grip, an outstretched thumb is pressing against one of the wide sides. The other fingers are curled around the other wide side with the finger tips resting on one of the narrow sides. Without the racquet handle, the hand is like in a thumbs-up position except that the four fingers are not curled around and buried on the palm. Also, in this grip, the racquet face is flat toward the net if the racquet is held up in front of the player while facing the net, or flat toward the floor if held down.
Past-body Backhand Grip
This is the term used by Butch Oreta in his book Advanced Badminton Techniques. The racquet is held with the thumb pressing against one of the narrow sides of the handle. The palm is on one of the wide sides and the fingers are curled around the other narrow side (opposite the narrow side where the thumb presses), with the finger tips resting on the other wide side. When held up or down in front of the player while facing the net, the racquet face will be perpendicular to the net or facing the sides of the court.
Depending on the player’s position in relation to the net, the past-body backhand grip varies by moving the thumb to either the right or left bevel near the narrow side where the thumb is pressed. This is done by slightly rotating the racquet handle. The purpose of these variations is positioning of the racquet face that will change the direction of the shuttlecock.
Applications for the Backhand Stroke
The basic backhand grip is used when hitting the shuttlecock in front of the body on the backhand side (left side for right-handed players, or right side for left-handed players). It is also available when a player’s back faces the net as he or she employs a backhand stroke in hitting the shuttle, which is about the right side of the body but slightly to the back.
When the shuttlecock is directly along the side of the body, or has passed the body in its flight from the other side of the court such that it is slightly or way to the front of the player, the past-body backhand grip is the right grip to use. In this case, the player’s back is also facing the net and the shuttlecock is on his or her right side. Failure to switch to the past-body grip in these cases – by sticking with the basic backhand grip – will send the shuttlecock farther to the right and out of the court, because the racquet face will be facing outward to the right. Attempting to correct the racquet face by orienting it straight to the other side of the court, while using the basic backhand grip, will contort the wrist and considerably weaken, if not mess-up, the shot.
For left-handed players the same principles are applied on the opposite side.
It is important for every player to learn how to switch grips easily whenever demanded by the situation. A player must be able to swiftly switch from a forehand grip to a backhand grip or vice versa during a game. From a forehand grip (the hand holds the racquet handle as if shaking someone else’s hand), a switch can be made to the basic backhand grip by twirling the racquet handle counter-clockwise until the thumb rests on one of the wide sides.
The grip can be returned to the forehand position by reversing the process. Switching from the basic backhand grip to the past-body grip should also be practiced by twirling the handle clockwise until the thumb rests on one of the narrow sides.
According to Jake Downey, former Director of Coaching of the Badminton Association of England, in his book Excelling at Badminton, switching from one grip to another became second nature to him by practicing it with his racquet while watching TV. Another way is by walling or hitting the shuttlecock several times against a wall. In walling, the shuttlecock must be hit in such as way as to allow the player to use a backhand and forehand stroke alternately, using of course the forehand and backhand grips.
Proper Way to Hold the Racquet Handle
A player’s ability to easily switch from one grip to another depends on the way he or she holds the racquet. The racquet should be held in a relaxed but firm manner; loose enough to move it, but firm enough to keep it from dropping. Holding it tightly will make it difficult for the player to easily move the racquet handle around and switch to other grips. It will also constrict his or her stroke movements.
But while it is desirable to hold the racquet in a relaxed manner, Oreta advises players to tighten their grips in a vise-like manner when the racquet hits the shuttlecock to avoid the racquet from getting out of position, especially the racquet face, and to impart more force to the shot.