The modern history of badminton began in India with a game known as poona. Poona was a competitive sport that British Army officers learned and brought back to England, but more about that part of badminton’s history in a moment. First, we must answer the question, “So just where did the game of poona come from?”
Poona developed from a children’s game called battledore and shuttlecock. The object of this game was to see how long a group could volley the shuttlecock by hitting it with the battledore, or paddle. This cooperative, non-competitive game was originally played without a net. The shuttlecock is often called a bird because its made out feathers. Today, some models are made of plastic, but competition shuttlecocks consist of 16 real feathers. Experts claim the very best shuttles are made from feathers taken from the left wing of a goose. Who knew?
Even before battledore and shuttlecock evolved, there were similar sports being played throughout the world. In fifth century China, ti jian zi was played by kicking a shuttle into the air. By the 1600s, people in Europe were playing jeu de volant, a game that used a racket rather than feet to volley the shuttle.
By the time British officers stationed in India encountered poona the game was a fast-paced competitive sport. These officers took the equipment for poona back to England in the early 1870s.
It was the Duke of Beaufort who officially introduced the game to England. In 1873, guests at a lawn party on his country estate, Badminton, played a game of poona. The game was a hit and soon became popular among the British elite. People began calling the new party sport “the Badminton game.”
The game was played both indoors and outdoors on a court with an hourglass shape. It has been suggested that this unusual shape developed so the game could be played in Victorian salons, large rooms with doors that opened inward on both sides. In 1901, the official badminton court became rectangular.
Badminton clubs were started throughout England. By 1893, badminton had grown to the point where 14 clubs joined to form the Badminton Association. (Later, when more countries started their own federations, the name was changed to the Badminton Association of England.) This group was instrumental in standardizing the laws of the sport and in starting the earliest and most prestigious badminton tournament, the All-England Badminton Championships.
As badminton spread to more countries, the need for an international governing board became apparent. The International Badminton Federation was created in 1934 and today has its headquarters in Kent, England. These nine countries were the original members of the IBF:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
Today, the IBF has more than 150 member nations. The American Badminton Association was formed in the United States in 1936 and joined the IBF in 1938. In 1978 the ABA changed its name to the U.S. Badminton Association.