AirBadminton festival Den Haag © René Lagerwaard
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A specially developed shuttlecock with which you can play badminton even when there is wind, should make the sport more accessible around the world. The Badminton World Federation (WCF) introduced AirBadminton in May this year as a new addition to ‘traditional’ indoor sports. “This is an excellent opportunity for us to increase the visibility of badminton,” says Matthijs Deken, Marketing and Research Manager at Badminton Nederland.

The association organized twelve Badminton Festivals where members and visitors were introduced to AirBadminton. Last weekend was the last festival, held in Nijmegen.

It took the WCF five years in order to develop the shuttlecock. Several European countries tested the shuttlecock along with the game. Aside from the Netherlands, France, Spain and Finland are ‘pilot countries’. Finland organized a beach tournament in August. Based on these experiences, the federation is adapting the shuttlecock and the game so that in time it might become part of more extensive sporting events, such as the Olympic Games,” says Ian Wright, WCF Director of Development.

Better than the plastic version at the campsite

Goose feathers are the ideal material for indoor shuttlecocks. The WCF is researching and testing a suitable replacement for these as well. A shuttlecock made of feathers adds dynamism to the game. You can use effects that turn badminton into a more tactical game. Tests for a replacement for the goose feather version are still ongoing. For AirBadminton, the WCF developed a shuttlecock with a slightly heavier tip so that the weather has less of an impact on the shuttlecock. The AirShuttle’s material is also different. Every single hole in the shuttlecock has been placed at the right dimensions and distances as a result after a lot of testing. Deken: “It is not a replacement for the goose feather version, but rather a huge improvement compared to the usual plastic version we all know from the campsite.”

AirShuttle © Badminton the Netherlands

AirBadminton may have a cooler image because you can play it on the beach or in a park. We want to let badminton be seen,” says Deken. The association, who has seen its membership decline, also sees the potential for the sport. There are more people who play badminton, about 285,000, according to research by the NOC*NSF.  “The Dutch play badminton mainly on the campsite and that’s fine. But with AirBadminton, you could also play on the beach, in the park or on a square.”

People were able to get acquainted with the new sport during the Badminton Festivals. The heavier shuttlecock has been in use since the 10th of May. “Even though the WCF only introduced the shuttlecock to the world at the end of May. So we had a very special time at the first Badminton Festival in Middelburg.” The official AirShuttle and the fields were not yet up and running at that time, says Deken. Wright says that the shuttlecock will be released at the end of this year, after all the pilots and tests have been completed.

Fast-paced sport

Badminton is one of the fastest racquet sports out there, says Dick Breeuwer. He is a fanatic badminton player and, in addition to his job as a facilitator, he also coaches at four different clubs. He was tournament leader during the festivals in Zandvoort and Nieuwegein and arranged the matches. ” It was actually completely full in Nieuwegein.” According to Breeuwer, AirBadminton could “be a thing.” “The speed of indoor badminton is regaining its momentum. People often think that badminton is an easy sport – not much more than hitting a shuttlecock back and forth on a small field. But once you’re busy with it, you notice how fast it is. You really need to be in good shape, you hardly have time to catch your breath.”

Aside from the shuttlecock, there is an important difference between indoor and outdoor badminton. There’s a two meter ‘dead zone’ at the net. No points can be scored there, so you can’t hit the shuttlecock just over the net. Deken: “That’s to keep the speed up.”

At winds higher than force four, AirBadminton isn’t fun to play either, Breeuwer continues. “In any case, when there is more wind, there is more technique involved.” But he thinks it’s a good alternative to indoor badminton. With AirBadminton, indoor badminton players are able to go outdoors and extend their season, says Deken. “Why should you stop during the summer? And new badminton players will be able to keep on playing indoors during the winter.”

Video AirBadminton:

Video Badminton Festival