Your Obligation as a Badminton Fan

On February 24, 2010, in Instructional, by Emmet Gibney

I think it is fair to say that I am a huge badminton fan.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who loves this game more than I do (maybe Peter).  I am also certain that a great number of you visiting this website, and reading our articles are equally as crazy about this game as I am.

It can be difficult at times being a badminton fan living in North America.  Few people give our sport the respect it deserves, and that frustrates us, am I right?  But what do we do about it?  We complain to our fellow badminton fans that we never get to see badminton on television.  We complain that we don’t have as much funding as other more popular sports.  We complain that our athletes do not put up the big results.  All we do is complain.

The problem is not just in North America of course.  Internationally we suffer from the same inferiority complex.  Players complain that the prize money and sponsorship deals don’t come close to those of tennis.  What does BWF do about this?  They sign with a sports promotions agency.  They change the scoring system.  They partner with pop stars to promote the game.  They change the scoring system back.  They change the scoring system again.  They change the tour structure.  They drop their agency and sign with another. It just keeps going on and on, but there has been zero progress.  In fact adjusted for inflation, I would bet that we have gone backwards on almost every financial metric you can think of (prize money, TV ad deals, etc etc).

China’s economic growth is good for badminton, no doubt about that.  However, if China continues to be such a dominant force abroad it’s not very entertaining.  We need several countries capable of challenging China’s dominance.  I’m not talking about 4 or 5, I’m talking about 20 or so.  Denmark won the European Team Championship again this year.  Absolute domination.  Denmark is a very small country, but they have a lot of badminton players, and the systems they have in place for the sport are fantastic for developing players.  They are far from being perfect, former Danish national coach Steen Pedersen told me that Denmark will fall behind the Asians soon if they don’t start putting more into the sport.  So what is the big underlying problem?

“Badminton is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer in terms of participation.”

I don’t know how many different people, and sources I have heard this from, but I can assure you it is false.  I have mistakenly told people this in the past as well, so don’t feel bad.  Even if it was true, if you removed China from the calculation it would certainly take us out of the running.  Badminton is not suffering from lack of popularity in China.  I’m willing to bet that Lin Dan and the rest of the Chinese national team members are doing just fine for themselves.  Do not quote that stat, it is false, it is wrong, and even if it isn’t it’s just a ridiculous thing to say.  If badminton is so popular then why is there no money in the sport?

Below I have included a little graphic to more clearly demonstrate the sport of badminton’s greatest problem:

badminton_pyramidThe original version of this graphic was actually taken from a food pyramid graphic describing how in order to have a certain number of meat eating predators, you need to have significantly more grass eating prey, and then to support the grass eating prey you need to have A LOT OF GRASS.  Are you seeing where this is headed yet?

Looking at the top of the pyramid you will see Lin Dan.  He is the greatest player in the world today, and of all time.  In order to produce one Lin Dan you need the support of a couple dozen national team players.  These are players who in their own right could be world champions were it not for Lin Dan (ie Chen Jin lost in the final of the 2009 Worlds to Lin Dan, as did Bao Chunlai in 2006).  Then in order to support the top national team there are many many more players who would easily be top 20 players if the rest of the Chinese team wasn’t in their way.  Then if we skip all the way to the bottom, you see a whopping 50,000 provincial level players.  These are people who might even be top 20 players in a country like Canada or the USA, but in China they are nothing special.

Most of the badminton organizations that I am aware of spend the majority of their time and money focusing on that top part of the pyramid.  The same applies to both BWF and the national associations like Badminton Canada.  They spend their time focuses on what they can do at the top level to improve the game, and they wonder why they can’t get any traction, why things never get any better.  It’s like trying to design a better water hose to clean your car with, but you neglect to turn up the water pressure at the tap.

Dear Badminton Canada, stop spending all of your time and energy focusing exclusively on how to qualify athletes for the Olympics.  Stop spending all your energy debating on whether team selection criteria should be more internationally or domestically focused.  These are important things to spend SOME of your energy on.  You should instead spend MOST of your energy on promoting the game at the grassroots level.  This does not mean spend more energy on juniors that are going to World Championships, this does not mean creating a better junior circuit.  Again these are important, but they are not the most important thing to be doing right now.  The number one thing we should be spending our energy on is promoting the sport of badminton to people who do not yet realize how great it is.

I have been a part of countless badminton exhibitions over the years, as a player, and as a videographer recording them.  In every single exhibition I have been involved with people have been amazed at how great our sport is.  The ooohs and aaaahs were limitless, and these kids were ripe for the picking.  They were young and impressionable, and could easily have been converts.  Given a choice between hockey and badminton, some of these kids would have chosen badminton, I guarantee it.  I know kids who made that choice.  Martin Giuffre, the Canadian National Runner Up this year made that choice.  The problem there was nothing in place to try and convert these kids.  Take a look at this promo video from one exhibition tour I was a part of in North Carolina four years ago:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6dUL8SBIWo[/youtube]

As you can see, a lot of these kids were really excited about watching badminton.  No, they didn’t know who the players were.  They may have heard that Tony Gunawan and Howie Bach were World Champions, but I honestly don’t think that mattered much.  What mattered was the game was exciting to watch.  You don’t need world class players to promote the sport.  Even national or provincial level players will impress people who don’t know our sport well.

So why wasn’t this exhibition a huge success?  Why aren’t there more people playing badminton in the USA, or more specifically North Carolina?  A couple reasons:

  1. No follow up
  2. Nowhere to play

Number 2 isn’t really an issue as there is a decent number of people playing at different schools in the Raleigh area.  The real issue is that there was no follow up.  Nobody was identifying who the real keen kids were, and nobody was following up to try and convert them.  This is something that the sport of badminton as a whole has failed to do very well thus far.  The national and regional associations are not doing enough to build databases of badminton fanatics, and the corporations are not doing their part to foster the growth of the sport either.  Companies like Yonex seem more interested in maintaining market share than in growing the market as a whole.

As fans of this sport it is our obligation to promote the sport in whatever way we can.  It is our obligation to organize exhibitions, to be involved, to help introduce our sport to as many people as we can.  If we are not doing our part, we do not deserve to complain anymore.

I want badminton to be more popular than tennis.  Forget that, I want badminton to be more popular than soccer.  I’m doing what I can by starting this project with Peter.  We want to promote this sport the best we can.  I want to offer whatever help I can to bring this game to the level it needs to be at.  If you want to help too, tell your national or regional organization to read this article, and then they can email me at [email protected] and I will do whatever I can to help bring badminton to the next level in your area.

Badminton can be so much bigger than it currently is, we just need to believe it can be done.

50 Responses to Your Obligation as a Badminton Fan

  1. Mel Wyatt says:

    I think it’s fair to say that each countries badminton associations have to struggle with limited budgets. Significant funding often comes from government grants which are often performance based – if you don’t have X players within the top 100 in the world, or don’t deliver Y medals the grant gets cut by Z amount. It’s a crazy system, but it means that efforts have to be focused on achieving results NOW and not tomorrow. But as badminton fans, we know this could be catastrophic for the sport. If there isn’t a large, healthy and competetive pool of up and coming players, then THERE WILL BE NO MEDALS in years to come. If badminton was a business, we would be sacking our federations for not planning for the long term. But I think here is part of the problem: our federations are manned by enthusiasts and ex-players. If we are really serious about taking badminton forward, we need to get the balance right in the badminton ‘Board Room’. Yes, we need enthusiasts, coaches and ex-players involved, but we also need well connected business people to help drive the sport forward and sell it to the media. Without media attention, prize money will never equal that of tennis.
    As you pointed out, exhibitions are great for raising awareness and enthusiasm, but without the follow up all the good work dies.
    If badminton is going to become a real force in the 21st century, we are going to have to come to terms with it being a business venture and treat it that way. Look at the hype surrounding the Superbowl – if we hired professionals to promote badminton in this way, the money would come.
    As for grass roots level, I think it will be down to the badminton fans and volunteers to put the work in behind the scenes. The organisations simply don’t have enough money coming in to divert funds from medal hopefulls to building for the future, because they know they will have their funds cut further if they don’t provide ‘instant’ results.
    On the subject of volunteers, I think we need to be careful to attract the right people: those who can really make an impact, rather than those who volunteer because they like the kudos!

  2. Emmet Gibney says:

    On the issue of the organizations not having enough money because they are spending it on medal hopefuls, this has been the biggest issue for Badminton Canada for years. The thing is, you can grow badminton at the grass roots, and make more revenue as a result. It shouldn’t be a money losing venture.

    Organizations like Badminton Canada are non-profit, which is fine, but that doesn’t mean that they should rely solely on the government for their funding. Develop revenue generating sources that aren’t dependent on the success of a small handful of people, but instead are dependent on how big your player and fan base is.

  3. Mel Wyatt says:

    I agree Emmet: but it is human nature to go after the quick fix of money for results. But this doesn’t really generate lasting growth in badminton, We all know that comes from building a sound and sustainable base. But the sceptic in me says this will not come from organisations in which politics is more important than badminton: your post was titled ‘Your obligation as a badminton fan’- I think true progress will come from mobilising the fans to say we have had enough. This is our sport: it belongs to us, not any ‘organisation’. The true fans have a burning desire to tell the world what a great game badminton is. But until we take back responsibility for the game, our sport’s fate will lie with political animals.

  4. Emmet Gibney says:

    I agree, as I said in the article it is up to the fans. But who mobilizes the fans? The challenge that badminton has is that we are not very organized. Our organizations are weak, and we need to demand better. Everyone is great at coming up with excuses for why this can’t be done, as opposed to opening up their minds to the possibility that our sport can be something so much greater.

    Success honestly is a science, much like the diagram I have included above. Focus on the bottom of that pyramid and results WILL improve at the top. This is universal across the board with very few exceptions. Those exceptions being the few countries where badminton is already huge.

    You are right about the politics too. That is in fact the greatest barrier to success for our sport. Once people stop playing politics, and start focusing on taking action, things will improve. Until then, we’re doing what we can on our own :)

  5. Guan Sheng says:

    Hi Emmet,
    Great post you’ve written. Here is my opinion:
    It is EXTREMELY hard to promote a sport which is not widely known in a country… I’m a Malaysian myself, and I think in US/Canada, sports like basketball, ice hockey, baseball and rugby should be the dominant sports in your country… Am i right?

    I would like to know how have you been promoting badminton in your country? And what’s the effect? Could you see the increase of people playing badminton after putting in your efforts? What is the popularity of this sport in North Carolina? Everyone knows about it?

    How many badminton courts you can find in your region? From your opinion, how many people play badminton in your area?

  6. Emmet Gibney says:

    Hey Guan,

    I’ve been involved in a number of exhibitions in the past, but to be honest back then we didn’t understand a lot of marketing concepts that we do now so we had very little traction with the promotions we did. Hoping to change that in the future though.

    Badminton is not very popular in North America. A lot of people play it at a very recreational level surprisingly enough, but it’s not very visible. Most of the people who play are completely unaware of the competitive level players, even locally.

    I doubt very many people are playing in North Carolina. They have a good little community of badminton fanatics, but it’s far from big.

    As for the number of badminton courts, that’s a difficult one to answer. Dedicated courts vs multi-purpose makes a big difference in the measurement. Dedicated there are 13 in 3 different facilities (in my city), but in Vancouver there are probably 7 or so facilities with 50 or so courts. However, if you include multi-purpose gyms, then there are hundreds of potential schools and other facilities that could house badminton programs if you can get people interested. This is universal across North America.

  7. Guan Sheng says:

    Do you mean there are many badminton courts but very few people get involved in the sport? What are your strategies then to find people who’re interested to start playing badminton?

  8. Mel Wyatt says:

    Emmet: Organisations tend to be staffed by people who want to help out, but don’t necessarily have the skills or the drive to make things happen. That is why they are weak.
    Unfortunately, they also try to control – they don’t like outsiders shaking things up.
    Mobilising the fan base is the hardest thing in the world to do, but the results can be phenomenal.
    Who mobilises the fans?
    Well, the organisations are supposed to do that, but they never seem to be very good at it. So maybe it is down to the fans to start mobilising other fans – but isn’t that part of why you started this website?
    Success IS a science. Totally agree with you. Success can come by accident, but it is a slim chance. But by planning and getting the right people involved early on, your chances of success improve dramatically. And by strengthening the grass roots, the success is sustainable – look at Denmark for proof of that!
    I think that was also what Guan was suggesting: we need to do things scientifically – review what has been tried in the past, examine how effective it was, plan our new strategy, involve the right people to carry it out, review the results and feed that back in to the plan. It’s what good businesses have been doing for years; but then we are back to what we said about our organisations not necessarily being good businesses!
    You have learnt from the previous exhibition series you put on – the next series I KNOW will have much more effect on the grass roots. But I think we need to make things happen globally. SOMEHOW we have got to get good people galvanised and trying to make a difference.
    Guan: you were asking what strategies Emmet had identified to get people playing – had you got something in mind when you asked this? Have you or the Malaysian Badminton Association come up with some effective strategies that you can share with us?

  9. Russell Clarke says:

    Hi, interesting discussion.
    I would agree that more is needed at grass roots level.
    Communication is a constant problem though.
    Here in England we have the EEC to thank for that in part due to the data protection laws which prevent or hamper dissemination of information.
    At a local level county associations have problems in communicating with member clubs members.
    At performance centre level, they are not allowed to contact interested children’s parents – instead they have to rely on the child giving the parents a slip of paper and then hope in vain that the child’s parents will get back in touch with them.
    There are real barriers out there which need to be overcome!
    Russell F

  10. Raj Gade says:

    Emmet,

    First, congratulation on the website and the learning videos.

    I’m from Durham, NC. So, I’m well aware of the North Carolina tour you guys are talking about. I think I’m one of those fanatic fans you’re talking about…

    From my perspective, there are about 100 players in our club and about 200-300 players in North Carolina…We regularly conduct Open tournaments [Charlotte Open, Duke Open, Southern Open, etc] and the same players pretty much show up!

    Asian [background - specifically chinese and indian] players constitute about 80% of these players. This is the case here and in most of the cities across USA except California…

    Like you said, there was no follow-up on the exhibitions as most of us have full-time jobs and most of the evenings and weekends go to play badminton! But maybe, right after the exhibition in that particular school, organizers should have done a survey and picked up interested kids and run a pilot program training them and sponsoring them if they showed promise to some junior tournaments.

    Till you somehow make the non-asian kids pickup the badminton I don’t see big future for Badminton [california being exception] in USA. It might be different in Canada as it is one of the core sports that people play/watch unlike in USA Tennis/basketball/baseball and football are the core sports…

    I’ve taken upon myself to train/coach my kid, Soumya Gade [No relation to Peter Gade:)] and she’s doing good winning most of the junior tournaments on the east coast of USA. I’ve burning desire to see her climb to the top…my point in bringing this up is that luckily since both me and my wife work full time, her current sponsors are us. we attend most of the tournaments all over the US and sometimes it feels expensive and make us wonder if it’s worth since even if she become one of top players – not much money in the sport and can she turn pro in this kind of environment?

    but the thought that it’s an excellent game to play and we play bcause we madly love it keeps us going :)

  11. Toby says:

    Sure, it always becomes a problem between high performance and grass roots. They are at each end of the model and if usually depends if you go top-down, or bottom-up. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty bad situation when people don’t agree which model is best for the given situation. Either way should work; they’re essentially the same model but you would need total unison and commitment from everyone. I’m sure this happens with many sports in many countries.

    Let’s review Badminton BC (Province in Canada that is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics at the moment). They tried to do a major change to their high performance program in order to improve the quality of badminton players coming from the province. They had ideas and brain-stormed on new ways to follow it. It basically came down to following Canada’s LTAD (Long-Term Athlete Development… which should be debated in another article IMHO). After long arguments of the infamous high-performance vs. grassroots debate, they realized they were indeed making a HIGH PERFORMANCE plan and followed through. In the end, they ended up discriminating against the current top players in the province and their whole tournament system fell apart because of their new changes, and even led to the cancellation of a couple of regular tournaments. Now they’re just struggling to recover for the year. True story.

    It seems difficult for Canada to be at a high performance level that is competitive with the rest of the world. However, if we should just give up and focus on the grassroots, Sport Canada will immediately yank all funding to the sport. How will we get funding again if we have no high performance program? Do you think a player will magically come from the grassroots and accidentally win a Super Series? With no high performance plan in place, there will be no funding for potential athletes. We have already lost 50% of our funding from Sport Canada since last year.

    Badminton in North America is totally different. The prize money earned by people in different countries will also be totally different. The same amount of prize money will be worth more for someone in, let’s say Indonesia vs. someone in the United States. Looking at the average wages of people around the world, the prize money may look pretty low for some countries, but for others, it may seem significantly higher. Some countries have associations that get a cut of that prize money as well, but it is because they fund their athletes to get there (i.e. Korea Badminton Association). For the association to receive a cut is normal and expected. For let’s say, Badminton Canada to demand a cut of prize money should a Canadian athlete make enough money, then the athlete may ask what the prize money reduction is for, since there was no money given by the National Association in the first place. Then we get a law-suit and ruin everything for everyone.

    In every system, there seems to be a lot of internal conflict. Perhaps it is best to unite the goals of each little individual part, before trying jump to the unity of all International badminton. There are lots of ideas out there, but perhaps the obligation as a badminton fan is to take action in their immediate area and level of play. So whether your obligation is to continue playing rec badminton, playing your local tournaments, putting your kids into the sport, attending your sport organizations AGM, training and competing nationally or internationally, coaching, umpiring, or whatnot, I think the badminton fan should just do what they can in what they do best to help the sport grow… slowly, but surely.

  12. Emmet Gibney says:

    I do not think that we need to let our current top players flounder. I’ll use a business analogy to explain my perspective, because I am looking at it from a business person’s perspective frankly.

    Using the same model as I demonstrated in the diagram above, let’s substitute the lowest level players for prospects (prospective customers). The next level up are people who buy small ticket items from you. In any business you should be spending at least 30% of your time, energy, and money on recruiting new prospects and customers.

    As we move up the pyramid the customer is more and more loyal, and spend more and more money on your business every year. This model is very apparent in the music business. Someone pays a few bucks for a CD or downloads some music online. Another person, who’s a much bigger fan not only buys the CD, but also get a poster, a tshirt, and a concert video. Another person, who’s a bigger fan still, not only buys all of the above, but also travels to Coachella to see them in concert.

    I’m not saying let’s focus on grassroots development from a athlete development perspective (although that should be taken into account), I’m saying focus on grassroots development from a customer prospecting perspective. The more little kids who know who our top players are, and the more weekend warriors we have who love badminton, the more money the sport has to funnel to the top players. Sure we want our grassroots to have good quality instruction, athlete development etc, but in the beginning they should be viewed as customers.

    Another concept we need to understand is the lifetime value of each of these prospective customers/players. Over the course of my lifetime the amount of money I have spent on rackets, clothes, shoes, shuttle, travel etc is sickening. Surely I have spent over $100,000 on badminton in my lifetime. Badminton is a mini-economy, and if we start looking at it this way, we will start to see the sport grow. But if we continue to have this charity/handout mentality where we are dependent on government funding every year, we are going to be stuck forever.

  13. Anca Gaspar says:

    How about developing camps longer than 3 days and exhibits longer than couple of hours for kids? How about bringing you, Stefan and Peter in Ontaio for a summer with the Danish juniors?

    Maybe Blue Mountain or Manitoulin Island. Hey I’m sure we’ll find homes for a couple of kids.I know Ajax would receive you tomorrow if you decided to fly out that day.

    Anca

  14. Emmet Gibney says:

    As for identifying people at these exhibitions, that’s actually not the challenging part. Most of you see that we have a newsletter. If you look on the right hand side of our site you can even see how many people we have signed up. People sign up because they want to get some free badminton tips and I know that on average a certain number of these people will end up buying our instructional video. If they just want the free tips that is also totally fine.

    Now, how does this apply to an offline exhibition? You need to follow up with the people who are interested, so you need to collect their contact information, and ideally email addresses. You run contests giving away prizes provided by sponsors (ie Yonex, Li-Ning, Black Knight, Carlton etc) in return for people to give you there information. The people who are really keen, are the ones who will sign up. Then you follow up with them. Send them information about how to get involved in badminton in their area. Tell them about great results from players in their area, and educate them about how great our sport is.

    If you ran this kind of model all over N.America, the world, building a database of all the raging badminton fans you come in contact with, each one of those names, those email addresses is worth something because those people will end up buying something from you. If it’s Badminton Canada, they’ll end up buying “official team Canada merchandise” or entering tournaments, or buying a membership, or videos from the national championships, or whatever. Yes, some of these people, some of these kids will end up playing, and some of them will end up being good players, BUT the MOST important thing is that they are customers of the sport that will end up supporting the organizations as a whole.

  15. Anca Gaspar says:

    Emmet:

    I am also dumbfounded by the fact we do not have a lot of sponsors in Ontario for badminton. Quebec is different. Europe is so different as well. People understand the need to invest in kids in all sports. Businesses of all kinds will kindly help out in any possible way.

    Sure you will always expect the national sport to have a lot more funds. That’s normal.

    But the mentality in Ontario at least is what’s in it for me. And there we are. We might have achieved success the Pan American Championships, but OBA? Oh we have a lot of work to do.

  16. Mel Wyatt says:

    We have a similar LTAD scheme in England, and it’s great to see that we actually have a plan now!
    But because the sport doesn’t have a high profile, the juniors that get on these schemes are the children of badminton players. Alowing for natural wastage, unless everyone playing badminton has 4 kids that they introduce to badminton, the gene pool will be diminishing!!!
    Of course no one is saying that we should remove funding to send the elite players to tournaments and fund their training, but we HAVE to get more people playing the game. And those who play recreationally are just as important to the sustainability of this sport as the elite players. Without them booking courts to play, we will lose the facilities. One of the clubs I play at is just about to lose half an hour of playing time because the centre can make more money from running circuit training than badminton.
    To get more money for elite players, we need to raise the profile of the sport; to raise the profile of the sport, we need to get more people watching and playing (and spending money!) so that we get more media coverage and it is more lucrative for the sponsors. It is a chicken and egg situation.
    I don’t think real progress will be made by focusing on either the top end of the pyramid or the bottom. We have to have a concerted effort to do what the hell we can to promote the game at every level. Apart form the big badminton nations, there will never be enough money available to national organisations to reach everyone. Whilst we can only do what we can in our own area of influence, we must accept that raising awareness in Badminton BC is not neccessarily going to generate more prize money and media coverage in say, Switzerland. But if awareness of badminton is raised around the world…
    The Internet gives badminton fans a chance to talk and share experiences globally. It makes resources available to people in countries where there is very little information available: I live in England and have bought Peter’s DVD. Without the Internet, this DVD would probably never have been made. Certainly not in english.
    I think there IS a place for dreamers; for the people who believe they can make a difference. If each of us can persuade a few people to take up the game, the game will grow from the grass roots level, and then there will be more money available for the elite players through increased media coverage/sponsorship/funding.

  17. Guan Sheng says:

    Replying To Mel:
    I’m not too sure about how the badminton system works in my country Malaysia since I’m only a badminton fan and enthusiast like you. However, what I can say is that since badminton is our national sport, the government and private organizations have actually invested a lot of money every year to develop more world class players.

    Note that more of these money are actually only invested on players 18 and above who represent country to play internationally and backup players as well …. So how about the kids or any of us who want proper training? Basically there are 2 ways, either we get trainings from our primary or secondary schools who hire coaches to train in a bulk of students who’re found potentially good in playing badminton or … Our parents who like to play badminton hire private coaches for us… (Good coaches are easily found in Malaysia)

    Obviously, if you can get private coaches especially ex national player or even the backup players to train you one to one, your standard can improve much faster. I’ve seen with my own eyes a few kids near my place age around 7 able to play very good backhand return to the back of the court and show very steady performance with proper training. Hence, to become a world class player, these kind of trainings should start very early of the age.

    The competition among the quality players is extremely high in this country… This can be good to improve the quality overall but it can be bad as well. I’ve seen many good players gave up playing badminton for the country to pursue on their studies. One of the important reasons is because you wouldn’t earn good as a badminton player UNLESS you can make it to the world top 10 or 20.. The waging system if I were not wrong, differs quite a lot between seeded players and unseeded players in Malaysia (Lee Chong Wei might get paid RM20-40k/week as long as he can maintain World number 1 but the backup players might be paid around RM2-3k/month which is still ok surviving in this country, however i seriously doubt they get paid alot lower than what I’ve stated… Please correct me any of the Malaysia badminton fans who knows the real waging system if i were wrong), hence, many backup players choose not to spend their time on a future which has high uncertainty… I believe this is also one of the major problems in any other sports in all the countries around the world.

    Here’s what in my mind (These suggestions might not be feasible but I sincerely hope they can help triggering better ideas for you to develop badminton sports in US/Canada):

    1) Firstly, imo, i think you definitely need good coaches in the under 12, 18 and 21 in your country… I understand that this might not be something you can do because job like this should be done by the gov. But my point is- You can actually easily get good coaches from countries like China, Malaysia and Indonesia… If it is like what you said in your post, the government and organization do not fund much on badminton sports, getting coaches from these countries can actually reduce the financial burden because their pay are usually not high.

    If you can find good local coaches in US/Canada who’re willing to receive the same wage, that’s the best then.

    2) Is it so hard to subscribe to a badminton channel or sports channels that broadcast live badminton matches in US/Canada? I watch big badminton tournament live in supersports and espn channel…

    3) I think you can try upload some videos update from youtube about the latest badminton matches. Sometimes, when I missed some important games, I would try looking them there and usually can get those videos after 1-2 weeks. Doing this, you can actually gather more crowds and subscribers over the world… By the way, just came across with a video by Lee yong dae,… He smashed a ball and break a watermelon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnmriKX8STo =)

    P/S: I’ve been following your site for quite some time, keep up the efforts…

  18. edwardgibbon says:

    Regarding growing badminton in North America: Emmet is correct that the grassroots base of badminton players is not large enough.
    It is hard to attract young converts to badminton in a culture that already has dominant sports.

    Yet soccer has somehow built up grass roots in North America. It hasn’t gotten it’s due in the media, nor paid off in the international arena … yet. But you sense that it will in time.

    What is soccer’s secret?

    1) There are many people transplanted from soccer-loving countries who are willing to volunteer their time with the kids; to organize associations and training like they learned to in their own countries.

    2 There are identifiable, attractive international stars to admire and emulate.

    Badminton in Canada does not yet have a critical mass of adults who know how to organize locally for training and growth. Each jurisdiction needs a couple people like this AND a group of willing volunteers to carry out the plans.

    And on the high end of Emmet’s pyramid, it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple charismatic players who would be eye-candy to attract the media and become poster pin-ups for the young and impressionable (a David Beckham and an Anna Kournakova would do nicely).

  19. Mel Wyatt says:

    Hi Guan. I asked because I am interested in how the sport is organised in other countries, as there is always something to learn. In England the sport is organised by Badminton England, who allocate funding (they receive funding based on performance: if we find a Lee Chong Wei, we will get much more funding!). Some of our players play in Denmark in the league there, and some of our players spend time abroad to play with stronger players.
    We now have an LTAD scheme which means funding is available to discover and coach good young players, but this is a reasonably recent innovation in England. We now have an initiative called BISI (Badminton In Schools Initiative) to try and promote the sport amongst young players who may never have considered badminton before. But due to funding it is only the best that move on into the regional/national system and attract the best coaches. Often at this age, it is not necessarily the ones that bloom first who go on to become the best players as they mature. Again, because badminton is not high profile, not all youngsters get noticed and picked up by the clubs that provide coaching for youngsters.
    Badminton is not high profile in England, and we have limited funds to promote it; it is often left to enthusiasts to promote badminton amongst their friends.
    Edward: I very much agree with you about the importance of ‘Stars’ in badminton. To catch media interest and thus the potential players, it is really important to have ‘Interesting’ icons in the sport. Either the Beckham’s or the Kournikova’s, or even the ‘Bad-Boys’ like McEnroe in tennis: they all make the sport more attractive to the media and sponsors. In the absense of a Canadian/North American hero, it is just as valid to have a Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei! The trick is how you manipulate the media and get them interested in covering the sport.
    And you are right about it falling upon the shoulders of enthusiasts and volunteers; there isn’t the funding for much more than this unless it becomes a national sport like in Malaysia. I think that it is important that those appointed to organise in each jurisdiction should be chosen for their ability to perform the job they are entrusted with doing. It sounds obvious, but what often happens is that those who ‘seek’ the job most are the ones who get it, rather than those who can do the best job, but might take a bit longer to identify. The best people are already successful in what they are doing, so don’t necessarily seek other employment. That doen’t mean that if they are an enthusiast they might not be persuaded/interested in working in a sport they love, just that they need to be courted and rewarded adequately for their involvement.
    I think as a sport, we are getting better, but there is still a long way to go.

  20. Dianne O'Brien says:

    I share the same frustration. Here in Australia, you become part of the State Team but you spend for everything – training, court fees, apparels, airfare, accommodation, etc.

    Don’t exactly know where the money is going but defnitely not to support the players.

    Keep doing what you are doing and hopefully someday, badminton will become a respectable sport.

  21. Mel Wyatt says:

    I saw an interview with the Chinese National coach on YouTube where he was extolling the virtues of the Chinese system where EVERYTHING is done for the team: not just expenses paid, the government organises flights, accomodation, meals, tournament entries etc, meaning the players and management ONLY have to worry about winning. If the sport becomes big enough, maybe this will happen elsewhere. Let’s hope so!

  22. Cynthia says:

    I think what u are telling us here is very important. Im an ex national badminton player and now im a coach in charge of the development in my country training the little talents, but one thing i real, nobody knows about the sport here, evedought we are the one who more medalls bring. Its frustraiting thats a reason why here we quit early, we have to manage aour time (as a players= between school, uni, and training, and when we get older, work, so is impossible. We have no sponsors cause the game doesnt sell. And a big company will be happy to give many to a sport if this one sells, goes in national TV etc. On the other part im studing Marketing and Publicity in uni, and i think the only way to make this sport big and know is to treat it like a product. Everybody have to have the chance to play it. Find it enywhere, make badminton a summer sport…make free tasting in unis, schools, everything….make people love this game…so thats im trying to plan here in my country the thing is that we need money to build more places, halls and everything so people can play….

  23. I think the worst thing that has happened to the sport recently has been the change to the 21 point scoring system. With this system matches can fly by in only a half an hour especially in mens doubles which is considered by many to the most exciting event to watch. Compare that with the multi-hour long matches and huge prize money in tennis. Furthermore, with this system it is very hard to come back from a large deficit which takes away drama in the game. I wonder what morons came up with this idea and why they fail to see the logic of these arguments. If given a choice, I will always choose to use the old scoring system. Is there any hope that the scoring system will ever be changed back again?

  24. Ashwin Panemangalore says:

    Nice article I am from India I am 68 and still playing 4 times a week despite a bad knee Thats only to tell you how much I love the game
    I switched from tennis which I took up at 14 to badminton at 32 This is the best switch I ever made in my life
    About badminton in the US I only know the Bay Area in California where I live a few months each year 5 years ago there wasnt a single baddy court Now I reckon there must be over 60 all built in old warehouses by faithful Asian expats You have a Pro shop in Sunnyvale where you can buy the best of stuff

    I say thats good news notwithstanding the fact that the players are predominantly of Asian origin I found a few American borns playing Surely that tribe will grow Tony Gunawan is leading a major effort and is being supported by so many other Asians
    Americans love a game that makes you sweat and makes you compete with fervour Thats my hope Where were they in tennis 30 years ago or for that matter soccer ?

    How many know that badminton had its first beginnings in India ? I am sorry to say that today there are lesser courts in all of India than in the Bay Area The game has declined in popularity as cricket gets all the attention and all the money You wont believe this You might ask where do the Saina Nehwals come from Well thats because of a few dedicated persons like Gopichand in Hyderabad and Prakash in Bangalore who are fully dedicated Sadly their efforts havent spread the game enough and the pyramid remains small and thats because their efforts continue to be isolated with little support .. When Saina hit her ranking of No 5 it did not even make ticker news on TV here but a local cricket match grabs all the headlines

    Grass root development will come when those who lead it get backing and support all around… when you have baddy courts in schools and there are leagues and championships school upwards and parents want their kids to play the game and there are national icons encouraging the kids to do that Then will come all the trappings associated with basketball in the US, soccer in Europe or cricket in India

  25. piyush says:

    i think we should start a league.like indian premiere league is for cricket why not to start a badminton premiere league.there should be 8 tams,players should be auctioned and then they will represent the team by which they have been bought.

  26. Great discussion,
    I just want to share a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYGz0RhY-0c&feature=player_embedded

    Thats a very good video to promote the sport…
    Enjoy and share

  27. Ariel hazan says:

    I need to more things in badminthon and techniques and more strategy on the game

  28. Mel Wyatt says:

    Great video Olivier! Thanks for sharing :-)

  29. T.Lang says:

    Hi Emmet Gibney,

    I know it sounds crazy, but how about doing a movie to promote the sport? In every other sport, there is always a movie that stimulate all people over the world.

    Sometimes, the movie is actually not quite good, but it can give another view about badminton to other people in america.

    For example, football, soccer, hockey, basketball…all of those sports had their movie with top athletes in there. And with all the special effects, it can be great. I used to watch movies like ”Space Jam”, ”Shaolin Soccer” or ”Maurice Richard” and I loved those movies giving my respect for all these sports.

    Sometime, the world do not understand anything about the sport, but because it is popular or funny, everyone still watch it.

    As you have contacts with many great players such as Peter Rassmussen, you should have no problem to find some actors.It would be particularily interesting if we could do a movie about Peter’s story, since he was former #1 and that he is now a doctor.

    Other professional badminton players can also travel to other countries to spend more of their time with their fans with more badminton exhibitions.

    All I can give you is some ideas. But as a badminton fan, I cannot do anything else, but watch the sport evolve, sadly.

  30. victor antsiferov says:

    Hi to all badminton fans ,players and profies.I just came back fm the natonal junior chammp. U-13 and my player Liza Poutrova became the 1st in WD. But to our point. i had reading the post and all the comments.My point of veiw :1/ our badm community has the same m aybe smilar problem in the USA ,Canada or Russia.2/ All we need are right ideas to promote badminton as the multi-purpose occupation suitable as for recreation and leisure and for adrenalin adventure.3/ Do what we can and keep on playing badminton. Good luck for you.Victor

  31. piyush says:

    isn’t anyone taking my idea of starting badminton league taking seriously.
    it is important to promote it.this is the best game i think.starting a league may well promote this game.Emmet please take some action related to it.you have good contacts with people like Peter Rassmussen so please help this game out.

  32. mil says:

    This is a very interesting disucussion and I’m glad that issue was brought up here. I am a Filipino who is also a badminton fanatic and local player of our community. True enough that badminton sport is indeed underrated and to my opinion, politics and media are culprits for lack of others to try this sport. Here in the Philippines, media coverage do always give attention to the most popular and core sports which is basketball and boxing only. In fact, only few people knew the Asuncion twins (our badmintion national players) and Pocal Alcala in badminton arena. Well, what can I expect, media promotion will only takes charge if there’s a profit out of huge advertisements and sponsorships. And to tell you honestly, I am always hoping that someday there will be a regular time slot for badminton in our local television even only for 1 hour during weekend. Youtube and other internet video surfing are my other sorts for viewing badminton actions. On the other hand, our corrupt politicians will only mind sports in bringing to public awareners if and only if this will bring more people (of course out of popularity) thus certainly promote his name to many. Badminton is a very good sport and I think we should unite to do something to promote this sport internationally. By the way, I just like bring this up also that one of the main problems why do grassroots level tend not to play this sport is because of the expensive equipments like rackets and shuttle cocks aside from the unavailability of courts within their area.

  33. Rubina says:

    i totally agree with the article..!!! But being only 15, doesn’t help….So what can I do to promote this game???

  34. legendazdk says:

    Should try to introduce and promote badminton game to kids in Primary school. These kids will support the game when they proceed to high school. Besides, try to organize regular inter-school badminton competition so that these kids has has an objective to aim for.

  35. Michael says:

    I still can not understand why (at least here in the UK) the badminton world championships didn’t get more coverage. Looking at the Eurosport programme over the same period of time; it was covering sports which I would class as ‘far’ less popular: surfing, ice hockey (at least in the UK!), sailing etc. Maybe the reason is that only countries with world leading players get the TV coverage. Alas, I am forced to watch poor Tv recordings on Youtube for now :(

  36. George Cullamat says:

    to all badminton players around the world let us promote badminton. i think the better place to promote badminton is in the school, we will introduce badminton to the children and encourage them to go in badminton court, we have to motivate them and i guarantee, once they tasted it they always find it. but be reminded that don’t be self centered, do not concentrate always on yourself as a player, you have to understand the beginner, just make them enjoy the game because once they enjoy thy well be the one to find ways to improve their skills in badminton.

  37. baddybadders says:

    I dont think badminton can ever eclipse tennis as a more popular sport to watch, simply because tennis is the more entertaining spectator sport to watch, in particualar wimbledon. However as a sport you take part in I can certainly see badminton being at least as popular as tennis if not more so purely as most leisure centres have this facility to play, and its also an easier sport to learn than tennis.(we’re in trouble big time with British players (apart from murray/robson) reaching the top in tennis aswell. Dont think we’ll ever be better than the likes of china and the far east at the very top either.

  38. baddybadders says:

    Also when I was at school in the 80′s there was no badminton whatsover, it was all football and rubgy, and some athletics and rounders/cricket mainly.(I can remember playing tennis once). As a result I pursued football until injury stopped me playing at a high level, and then took up badminton and got good at that later in life

  39. yevgeny says:

    I think that the television is the main problem.
    First you have to be able to pay money to eurosport
    the main chanle to show the badminton as well as tennis.

  40. l l says:

    I think what will help Badminton around the world is the cost of playing badminton. The shuttlecocks get to be an issue especially on 3rd world countries.

    It becomes more expensive to play badminton compared to tennis because of the shuttlecock expenses. Why is Badminton the only sport that uses natural (feather) “ball” unlike other sports that uses synthetic or man made?

    There should be a man made shuttlecock or synthetic shuttlecock that acts and feels like a natural shuttlecock but last 20 times longer.

    Badminton is the best sport around. It should be affordable and offered to all. More power and success to badminton. Peace all!!

  41. Emmet Gibney says:

    I had this conversation with a friend of mine who distributes Victor in Canada, and he informed me that Victor spends over $1milllion annually on R&D surrounding development of synthetic shuttles. Unfortunately they have not had any success so far. Currently plastic shuttles are AWFUL to play with. The process of creating a feather shuttle is very time consuming and expensive, so hopefully they eventually figure it out.

  42. Nelson says:

    Dear Emmet,
    I agree with you and the other badminton enthusiast that we struggle to make it be known world wide. all kinds of sport i believe had been featured in movies but not badminton. If the top badminton players of the world will just help create a movie about badminton, then maybe it will made an impact as a whole. I believe 90% of the population watches movies…

  43. Flahvic says:

    You forgot to mention, Lee Chong Wei. He’s No. 1 ranking

  44. Ts Chan bernard says:

    Pal, would be great if i can become a volunteer in badminton development programme. Anyone can assist please ….Regards

  45. LYN says:

    Very interesting. IMO, badminton doesn’t get a lot of attention because there are not enough professional players to inspire the people. And frankly, the pros are really hard to find. They prefer to stick to players of their standard. Some veterans don’t even bother bringing their kids along for practice sessions let alone watching their parents play. I also noticed that many people love watching the professionals at play. However, they just oohed and ahhhed and that’s it. When the game ended they just simply walked away. Even if the pros manage to inspire others to pick up the sport, the newbies just don’t get enough guidance. They have every bit of potential in becoming professional players and I can vouch for that. Sadly, they just pick up their racquets and play as they like without anybody correcting their mistakes. In the end, most people just think badminton is just some recreational sport and is not taken seriously. They think all you need are cheap racquets and a nylon birdie. As for the location, they think badminton is versatile and you can play anywhere as long as it is safe. I’ve even seen people playing badminton at the road side and windy areas. Many people are bashing the sport too. Maybe it’s due to the fact that they always see a lot of people not playing the sport properly, hence they call badminton a “sissy” sport. As a fan, I am real pissed. I did my own survey in my country and I discovered that many people prefer sports with a lot of team members such as basketball and soccer. They do realise that badminton includes doubles but they just don’t like it. Curious, I watched them play their favourite sport. All they did is pass the ball to a member and tag behind for a quick break and when they are ready, they’ll dive in for the ball. They like this style of play and you can’t find it in badminton. I may be wrong about this but I’m just voicing out my thoughts.

  46. ksso says:

    Hi Emmet,

    I read in your previous post on the grassroot solution. I concur!
    To have more people playing we need to have more facilities that are affordable, and then once we have more entry level players we can have more small tournaments, and from they we expand the selection base.

    The problem I see in my city is that there aren’t many courts available. Memberships to the clubs are either fairly expensive, or else the membership is full already.

    Our city has recently open a rec centre that has 4 full-size ice rinks for hockey, while the badminton court in the gym is only open to less than half capacity (2 out of 9 courts) and you have to play in the middle court while the other people (young and old, play basketball, floor hockey and everything else, sometimes with wee small kids running around (they call it open gym). And that is the only city facility in the are that have decent badminton set up.

    I understand why it is the way it is, because there is no demand for having nice badminton
    facilities. the people who are fans are already hooked; but it is difficult to hook the newbies given the scarcity of venue and resources.

    If we want more people interested in, we will have to create the demand for it so facilities can sustain themselves. so let me propose a 3-prong initial plan:

    1. to use media to make the sport “cool”. May be we can put a short promotion video on TV, featuring the most exciting shots of the stars?
    How about hooking up a company to do their commercial with badminton setting?
    (our city just recently had a campaign for soccer)

    2. partner with community leagues (and/or churches-which has their own gym equipped with badminton courts) and provide resources e.g. free introductory lessons, equipment discounts or exchange, etc.

    3. and create more small tournaments for all levels for players including youth, senior and masters, with single, double categories.

    These are my grassroot thoughts.

    Sylvia
    Edmonton, Canada (where the winter is so long and conducive to indoor sport).

  47. Arun says:

    Hello Emmett and other Baddy’s,
    Here’s what I think. Badminton as we know it is not Badminton as they know it. First of all we have to educate the recreational level player with the cheap equipment and zero enthusiasm. Remember, a lot of these men,women and children are not athletic and would shy away from competitive Badminton anyway. Then there are those who are athletic and competitive, but never been exposed to it the way we have. Once they have,there’s no stopping them,especially after they obtain the good equipment and play good players indoors and discover they have potential.
    These are the ones that I have focused on with some success over the years. Still it is slow progress and I came up with another perspective. I had a manager of some local sporting goods store that carries Yonex, HL and a couple of Wilson mid range rackets actually post a sign, telling them where they can play locally and the web site. This yielded some results and more recently I approached the management at American Sports Centers. This is a new, huge multi-sport complex that has basketball and volleyball courts and soccer fields indoors. It is pretty packed with people (players,parents and kids of all ages). They were fairly receptive to the idea when I explained what my goals were, and I’m hoping we can get enough players to give them a series of exhibition/demo games to generate interest. The place is teeming with people already and we just have to bring the goods to them as opposed to getting them to first come to where we play. Got my fingers and toes crossed….I know once they see exciting rallies they’ll be excited and that would create a demand for our sport! What’s your feeling on this? Anxiously waiting for feedback from you. Thanks. ~Arun

  48. arun.s says:

    Hey Emmet and all you Badminton fanatics. I’ve been an intense ambassador of the sport for as long as I can remember. You’ve all made a lot of very good points,yet all this talk, enthusiasm and conjecture is not doing us any good. Especially here in North America where it is relatively invisible, when compared to other popular sports.
    Here is what I’m thinking. Either we get some media coverage or distribute badminton high quality videos really cheap through a major sports distributor to gain much needed attention. After all more people spend more time now than ever before, in front of a TV set each and every day. This includes athletically endowed sports nuts, not just your average couch potato, beer guzzling,chip gorging bozo fan who has never shaken a leg except for the occasional involuntary twitch.
    Once we’ve been out there for a while,stirring up excitement on TV, stage two of the plan can now effectively be put to work. By this time an outdoor ” competitive badminton” , sport,not game, will have been created using new better equipment, that is playable in the elements. Just indulge me for a minute…even if you think it is not feasible for whatever reason. Envison now all these excitable,motivated people who can now have access to new plentiful spaces to play, and play hard too. All they have to do is obtain affordable better equipment (to replace the cheap disfunctional stuff they can’t even get two shots for a rally…deminishing the time spent…and the enthusiasm) from the same sporting goods store they shopped before.
    A bit radical perhaps, but entirely doable with the right mindset. Look how volleyball, a sport that has a lot in common in many ways with our sport,has successfully spawned competitive beach volleyball. In the process indoor volleyball has grown exponentiaslly, ever since, and still is. Sometimes success comes from that kind of ideology. It is kinda like taking a bad situation, and utilising it to turn it around and making it a blessing!
    Hello are you still there? Given the lack of funding or ways to generate it to build indoor facilities, this might yield the funds we need so desperately. The advantages to this approach can be twofold, if viewed and done properly. I have an outdoor shuttlecock in the works and an interesting name and graphics for it. Just need to get it off the ground and coul use some help. Yes I’m working on the rough edges as of now. Please tell me what you think.

  49. paydari says:

    my wife sabereh kabiri is the member of iran national team.she has gained many champion ships such as west asian cup,islamic countries champion ships.first person in iran league.first person in choosing matches from national team,and many other champion ships.
    she wants to colleague with your club as a coaching or player.
    if you want,ican send her resume for you.
    i will want for your answer.
    your sincerely Paydari.

  50. ricphun says:

    Hello badminton fans, I am from Malaysia where Lee Chong Wei is also from. In Malaysia we have a lot of rubber matted courts, last month also I helped to lay the mats for a 14 courts hall. I myself plays 6 days a week leaving sundays for my wife and wahahahahhaha if not she will ask me to sleep in the courts. Our social badminton skill are actually quite high but then again we can only produce one Lee Chong Wei unlike China, even their social badminton skill may not be high but their competitive skills is much superior. Even our neighbour Indonesia also facing the same delima as most countries. To play badminton or have a badminton league is not difficult, its going through the training to produce world class players is difficult, even after they have attained world class level, the ability to sustain the level also another obstacle like our once world class doubles Tan Boon Heong and Koo Kien Keat. As a badminton freak like myself, I would say so as I string my own racquets and also have laid carpets for courts its too late for me to train to become a proffesional player due to age.

    To create a world class badminton player, most of them have to start young from preschool. And if anyone that have gone through those training, well its not enjoyable like other sports like football, tennis or even golf as the game requires various coordinations. Like II’s blog as above says that the shuttles are expensive and yes its very true thats why I don’t see any Englander will ever win the all England title, when I was there and yes I did find badminton courts in community hall. But they were using plastic shuttles, the pro shops don’t offer restringing service, at that level the comunity could not even get the social level up so the ability to produce world class level is even further away. Just a couple of months ago I assisted my friend who is a coach and spoke to those under his care, a few of them is around 10 years old, I ask why are they taking lessons, a few of them says their parents wants them to so they don’t know how lucky they are wahahahhahaha, to them the lessons are just playing social sessions during the 2 hours.

    To sum up all my gibberish, maybe I have put some to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Training have to start from young and the young must understand why they have to suffer through the training, plenty of $$$$$$$$ investment. Viola!!!!! world class badminton player.

    Well all that have been said, the sport will still go on in Asian countries hopefully the western side apart from Denmark will catch up as its now an Olympics game, but then again alot of restrictions have been imposed.

    cheers

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