The US is well-known for various sports like basketball, athletics, and tennis. Superstars like Lebron James and Serena Williams are role models for many people. They dominate headlines around the world. People play badminton on rectangular courts. It even makes use of rackets. It is the world’s second most popular participatory sport. It shares similarities with tennis. Badminton has struggled to gain similar popularity in the USA.
No American male competitor is among the world’s top hundred male competitors. The lack of superstar badminton players in the US is one reason badminton is not as popular in the USA. Elite badminton players have lower earnings than their counterparts in other sports. No American has ever won an Olympic medal in badminton. If that ever happens, it will be like the time when those four American astronauts landed on the moon. The media sensation around the event itself and the four brave men continues to this day. Star athletes help sustain media focus and engage the interest of young people in a sport.
What Happened To Badminton In America?
There is a backstory to badminton’s unpopular status In the USA. To be clear, badminton is not struggling for recognition. People are aware of the game. Yet, what they think of it is a different ball game. Pardon the pun, but badminton is not a ball game.
Americans were once passionate about badminton. US badminton teams won major competitions between 1949 and 1976. Badminton athletes were even put on the cover of Sports Illustrated. This was when Joe Alston, the FBI agent, won his second US Open singles title. These athletes won accolades and titles. They won world championships and even played badminton on ice. It was also when badminton comedy clubs blossomed all over the country
Then, reality hit as it always does. How much money does America spend in running badminton? American badminton players have hardly defeated Asian opponents. This has been the case for fifty years. The Asian and some European countries have more robust badminton structures. Thus, Americans always come up short!
These are the issues they face:
- the financial support,
- training facilities,
- coaching and scouting systems.
This happens even when that country is poorer than the US itself.
Iris Wang, the Olympian, says America’s badminton players foot their bills.
Current Challenges Facing Badminton In The US
Perception As A Weak Sport
Many think badminton is a weak sport, due to the lanky stature of many male players from Asia. It demands dedication, skills, strength, agility, and stamina. It is as tough as any other physical sport.
Perception As A Backyard Sport
People become professional at anything if it isn’t mere entertainment.
Lack Of Sponsors And Media Support
Promotion is important in sports. This is why football and basketball are more popular than netball. Tennis attracts the media and sponsors more than badminton.
Badminton news is scarce in the US. This is the same situation in many countries. The BBC covers very little of minority sports (like badminton) after the Olympics. This is even an international broadcaster. Viewers only watch these sports during such times.
Limited media coverage means limited room for sponsors. Rewarding endorsements keep stars going.
Limited Talent Pool And Lack Of Structures For Growth
Skilled players are fewer in the US than in China. China wants to maintain its dominance. This is the reason for robust programs to catch players young. These players train for the global stage. They start by competing on the local scene until they are ready to take on the world.
In Asia, players have access to professional courts. Even America’s small talent pool is either stagnant or in decline in most cases. There is also no clear badminton development program to identify talent early.
Lack Of Major Medals
Americans are more drawn to sports in which Americans are excelling. Success ensures media attention. It is easy to desire the achievements of tennis greats, but are there any such examples in badminton?
Lacking Government Support
Government and other stakeholders must do more to put badminton on television. They must also take part and speak about it at events or social media. Another way is to entice the public through educational scholarships, for instance.
Investing in fantasy leagues will do more for US badminton than many realize.
Growing Interest In eSports
More young people are embracing Internet games than regular sports. This makes it even harder for minority sports like badminton. Future badminton stars prefer games consoles to rackets. What often begins as casual gaming ends up becoming a hard-core pastime.
As eSports grow in popularity, there is disruption in the sports industry. More accessible internet connectivity has helped eSports popularity. This growing popularity of eSports has earned eSports mainstream status. The sponsors are taking note. Estimates say that 70 million people will watch an eSports final game by 2020. This figure surpasses the current audience for US soccer, baseball, and hockey finals.
Limited Support From Family
Many people are familiar with badminton because of their family background. They still need a professional badminton player around. Otherwise, their motivation to play the sport will drop. Many people continue along a path if someone close to them is serious about badminton.
The situation is often different if a prospective player’s family takes it as more than a hobby. The support would not be as rousing as expected. Where the individual’s motivation is not resolute, they may end up leaving the game, and their dreams.
Badminton’s Global Recipe For Success
For a badminton team to succeed, they must function as one unit. They need to go to tournaments as a group. They need to train together. Their physical therapy must be taken care of. China takes a masseuse and chefs as part of their squads to tournaments.
People are hungry for the days of neurosurgeon Dave “Pasadena Flash” Freeman. He was the first American to rank as world number one. In his time, he won the world championship in 1949.
Until we fix badminton, it will remain a game reserved for social events and as a fun activity. It should be a sport for fortune and fame.
Realistic Hopes For US Badminton
Subsidies make it easy for promising athletes to attend efficient training programs. They are in great mental shape since they are not without worrying about money. It is almost impossible to focus on the game itself if money is an issue. Paying for courts, coaches, equipment, airfare, and tournament entry fees need money.
Iris Wang believes making badminton as an NCAA sport could help it gain popularity. She expects more high school students will show interest to play.
Badminton can become a staple American sport with a deliberate, integrated approach. The US has the financial wherewithal to make US badminton great again.