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Introduction to Badminton Tournaments

Transitioning from casual badminton to competitive badminton can seem a bit daunting. The world of competitive badminton is actually fairly mellow and offers a great way to meet other players. You may be wondering, “How do I register? How long will it take? How good are the other players?” This guide will cover all of these valid questions and more to ease your anxiety about your first tournament.

Finding a Badminton Tournament

This can be a difficult task, because there isn’t a convenient way for first-timers to find local competitions. Although information about local badminton tournaments might be limited on the internet, that should still be the first place to look. Typically, badminton-dedicated gyms will host tournaments a few times a year, so checking a gym’s website is a good bet. Even if you come up empty, you can always contact the gym via email or phone. Beyond that, you should consider heading to local gyms and simply asking around. Employees at recreation centers might not have any quality information. They could, however, find other gyms that you can contact.

Badminton Events

Once you find a tournament, decide what event you want to play. The events are:

  • Men’s singles: Each team is comprised of a single male
  • Women’s singles: Each team is comprised of a single female
  • Men’s doubles: Each team is comprised of two males
  • Women’s doubles: Each team is comprised of two females
  • Mixed doubles: Each team is comprised of one male and one female

If you wish to play in a doubles event, but you’re without a partner, there is a chance you still may be able to play. Most tournaments will have players being added or dropped on the day of the tournament, so there will be a few people stranded without a teammate. You shouldn’t rely on finding a partner at the tournament, but it’s always a last-minute option. Aside from each event, there are four flights of difficulty in which you can compete. The flights are:

  • A Flight: The highest level of play with skill levels ranging from highly competitive players to professional players. There is typically a cash prize for all events in this flight.
  • B Flight: This is just a step below A Flight, because you’ll find semi-professional and highly experienced players in this flight.
  • C Flight: This flight features younger players who have been training hard, and more experienced players who play competitively only sparingly. Normally, C players will have one to two years of competitive experience.
  • D Flight: Here you’ll find an even greater range of players, from beginners to semi-retired. Although it’s the largest of the flights, you should start here for your first tournament.

In most tournaments, you’ll be able to sign up for two flights, but they’ll have to be neighboring flights. Additionally, if you’re playing more than one event, you cannot play different flights for each event. For example, if you’re playing C and D men’s singles, you cannot play B and C men’s doubles. The trouble here is playing a B flight in one event and skipping a flight to play D in another event. This helps prevent players from competing in flights lower than their skill level, which is otherwise known as “sandbagging.”

Badminton Tournament Formats

There are three distinct styles of tournament formats for badminton. The style is solely up to the tournament director, but will not be changed when the tournament is in progress. The three styles are:

  • Consolation: The most popular of the three, consolation style guarantees players at least two games before being eliminated. There will be a main bracket and a consolation bracket. Initially, all players or teams will start in the main bracket, with the consolation bracket being completely empty. After the first round of matches, any team that loses will immediately enter the consolation bracket. A loss in the second round of the main bracket or first round of the consolation bracket will eliminate a team from the tournament. As such, a team is guaranteed at least two matches, regardless of record.
  • Single-elimination: Some tournaments will adopt this style when faced with time or court-space constraints. Single-elimination tournaments have almost half the amount of matches as consolation tournaments, so it is ideal for smaller gyms. Single-elimination is straight forward in that a team will continue to play until it loses.
  • Round-robin: Very rarely will a tournament use this format, because it’s so time-consuming. Round-robin has each team play every other team in the same flight and event. For example, if there are five women’s singles teams, each team will play four times, once against each of the other teams. Tournaments will adopt this format only if a certain flight in an event has five teams or less.

Checklist for a Badminton Tournament

The night before a tournament can make any player a bit anxious, so knowing that you have everything you’ll need should ease your nerves a bit. The things provided to you by a tournament will vary, so it’s safest to just assume that nothing will be provided. This means you should have the following items:

  • Rackets: If you have the money, it’s smart to bring an extra racket or two in case your favorite racket or its strings break.
  • Shuttlecocks: Tournaments will always require feather shuttlecocks for matches, so you should definitely get your own. One tube of a dozen feather shuttlecocks should be sufficient since your opponents and your partner should also offer up their shuttlecocks for use.
  • Shoes: Having a pair of badminton shoes will help you move around the court a bit easier, but it’s not an absolute must.
  • Racket Grip: This is only necessary if you feel like your racket grip is wearing thin.
  • Money: Make sure to bring cash with you to pay for your tournament fees. Oftentimes, a vendor will be present at the tournament and you can purchase any badminton equipment you may need.
  • Food and drinks: Playing in a tournament can be an exhausting affair. Bring lots of drinks for hydration and light snacks to replenish your energy.
  • Clothing and accessories: The lack of circulation for indoor sports can make players sweat excessively. Bring extra clothes and a towel to stave off the slickness. Also don’t forget to bring any braces or hair ties that you may need.

Match Schedule & Format

Tournaments typically start in the morning and last all day. Specific times should be listed on the tournament website or relayed to you via email. When you arrive at the tournament, there will be a sign-in desk where you pay your entry fee and sign a waiver form. The brackets should be set up along a wall along with a schedule for approximate match times. If you’d like to warm-up before the tournament, the hour before it starts is usually reserved for that purpose. Also, it’s typical to see long delays between your matches. Stay warm and game-ready by hitting around on an open court.

The standard structure of matches will be 21-point games in a best-of-three-games format. The only exception occurs when matches are played in the consolation bracket. Normally, a consolation match will only consist of one game to 21 points. This can vary among tournaments, so it’s best to check with the tournament staff.

It’s Still Badminton

Playing in tournaments and maintaining your energy throughout a long day can be stressful, but always remind yourself that you’re still playing the game of badminton. The sooner you become comfortable playing the matches, the easier the games will become. Competition will be more intense than the usual pick-up games, but it’s still important to enjoy yourself. Having a good first experience will drive you to become an even better player and hopefully reinforce your love of the game.

If you're looking to get into competitive badminton, but aren't sure how, read this guide to find out everything you need to know about badminton tournaments.
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