Badminton Study: Decision Making On The Court

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Last Updated on 15/11/2023 by Kriss

Recently, I stumbled upon a study titled: “Naturalistic decision-making in expert badminton players”. The study involved the participation of four top-tier French badminton players, all ranked within the world’s top 23, to investigate their on-court decision-making processes.

We analyzed the study and did some more research to give you a detailed breakdown of the different types of decisions and how pro badminton players think.

Let’s dive right in!

The Details of Badminton Decision-Making

The study by Macquet and Fleurance dives deep into the decision-making processes of professional badminton players. It reveals that these decisions, often made under intense time pressure, are crucial to successful performance. Interestingly, the research found three main types of intentions guiding players during a rally: maintaining the rally, taking advantage, and finishing the point.

The Eight Types of Decisions Made by Players

The authors derived eight decision types from their observations:

  • Ensuring an Action: This involves making decisions to ensure the continuation of the rally, focusing on consistency and control.
  • Observing the Opponent: Decisions based on closely watching the opponent’s position, movements, and potential weaknesses.
  • Putting Pressure on the Opponent: A strategic choice to increase the game’s pace or difficulty, forcing the opponent into a defensive position.
  • Preventing the Opponent’s Recovery: Making decisions aimed at hindering the opponent’s ability to regain balance or position after a shot.
  • Surprising the Opponent: Implementing unexpected moves or tactics to catch the opponent off guard.
  • Creating an Opportunity to Finish the Point: Decisions focused on setting up a scenario where the player can effectively score a point.
  • Avoiding Risk: Choosing safer, more reliable shots or strategies to minimize the chance of errors.
  • Adapting to the Situation: Making adjustments based on the current state of the game, such as changing tactics in response to the opponent’s style or the game’s flow.

Decisions Made in The First Shots

The very first shots of the game are the most important ones. We talked about that in our guide for the serve and returning the serve. Here is a simple breakdown of the results that were shown in the study:

  • During the Serve: The main goal for players was to build an advantage early in the rally. The most frequent tactic involved surprising the opponent, a strategy used more in the second set. Players also focused on reproducing effective actions and influencing the opponent’s decisions.
  • On the Return of Serve: Similar to serving, the objective was to gain an advantage. The predominant strategy was to apply pressure on the opponent, especially in the first set.
  • In the Third or Fourth Shot: Here, players continued their efforts to build an advantage. The most common approach was again applying pressure. This was done by playing into the corners or increasing the pace and limiting the return options for the other player.

Overall – putting pressure on the opponent and therefore forcing errors was the most common decision made by the players. Some might wonder why trying to hit a winning shot early on was not the most popular choice. That is because it also poses a great risk. If your opponent gets the shot back with quality – you might end up under big pressure.

Think about a cross-court smash. A lot of times it is a winning shot, but if your opponent gets it back you need to be very fast to reach the shuttle all the way on the other end of the court. A winning shot is usually played if the opponent is already under pressure, not standing correctly, or gives a weak reply. All of these options are usually a result of putting pressure on the opponent. That is why the pro players chose pressure most of the time.

How to Make Better Decisions

Winning the game ultimately comes down to the decisions you make. A pro with clean technique can lose against a weaker player if his shot choices are poor. We’ve covered the decisions and intentions of the pro players already – but what can we learn from it?

Practice Decision Making

There is no exact drill that develops decision-making. Every single decision you make on the court is very contextual. You cannot give a template to make the correct choices every time, because there are so many factors like technique, fitness, discipline, footwork, conditions, etc…

Badminton player on court
Technique drills are important – but playing real games or variations is just as important.

Instead a very simplistic approach is: Play more games! Of course, it is important to develop the correct footwork, grip, and technique but you also need to practice actual real scenarios.

What also helps a lot is to play variants that have some additional rules that limit your options. You need to think more actively and make different decisions each time. Think of Danish or Korean doubles.

In a real game, players’ choices are made subconsciously. No player has time to actually think about what decision type is best, it is something they do intuitively. The secret key to making better decisions is to understand and evaluate each situation, opponent, and match.

Impacts on Coaching

The findings suggest a need to reconsider coaching practices in badminton. Current coaching methods, which often focus on skill development and regimented routines, may not align well with the dynamic and contextual nature of decision-making in matches.

Players often deviate from set routines to exploit their opponent’s actions and positions, sometimes opting for surprise tactics. Coaches might need to incorporate training that enhances players’ ability to analyze and adapt to opponents’ strategies during a match. This training could include situational awareness, video analysis of opponents, and techniques that promote a deeper understanding of dynamic decision-making.


Badminton is like playing chess at Formula 1 speed. You need to make quick decisions and be able to adapt in the blink of an eye. The insights from Macquet and Fleurance’s study provide a rare glimpse into the tactical minds of the world’s best players. Coaches and players alike might be able to take some facts from the study and implement them in their training regime.

Happy playing!

FAQs in Relation to Badminton Decisions

What is decision-making in badminton?

Decision-making in badminton involves choosing the best move or strategy during a match. This includes anticipating the opponent’s actions, strategizing shots, and maintaining the rally.

What is a badminton strategy?

A badminton strategy refers to game plans players use to gain an advantage over their opponents. It may include shot placement, deceptive movements, or exploiting opponent weaknesses.

What is the most common decision in badminton?

Putting pressure on the opponent is the most common choice made by pro players. Others include maintaining the rally or surprising the opponent.

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