Badminton was invented long ago; its origins date back at least two thousand years to the game of battledore and shuttlecock played in ancient Greece, India, and China. Badminton took its name from Badminton House in Gloucestershire, the home of the Duke of Beaufort, where the sport was played in the last century. By coincidence, Gloucestershire is now the base for the International Badminton Federation (IBF).
Badminton has a rich history in the United States. The first badminton club in this country, the Badminton Club of New York, was formed in 1878 and became a weekend meeting place for New York’s society leaders. Badminton’s popularity boomed in the 1930s as educational institutions, YMCAs, and hundreds of newly formed clubs offered badminton instruction. Also spurring the sport’s popularity in the 1930s was the avid play by several Hollywood personalities including James Cagney, Bette Davis, Boris Karloff, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, and Douglas Fairbanks.
The American Badminton Association was organized in 1936 (changed to USBA in 1978), when Donald Wilbur, Robert McMillan, and twins Donald and Phillip Richardson, all of Brookline, Massachusetts, decided to unite the nation’s various badminton groups. Programs from New York, Massachusetts, Chicago, and the West Coast came together to form one voice and standardize rules and regulations of the game. The ABA held its first National Championships in 1937, and became a member of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) in 1938.
The year 1949 brought the United States its first world champions as David Freeman of Pasadena, California, won men’s singles at the prestigious All-England Championships (considered the unofficial world championships until 1977 when World Championships were instituted). Americans Clinton and Patsy Stevens won the All-England mixed doubles title the same year.
The United States’ international success continued. Between 1949 and 1967, the United States won 23 world individual championships (one men’s singles, 12 women’s singles, one men’s doubles, eight women’s doubles, and one mixed doubles) and three women’s world team championships. The U.S. men’s team was also world runner-up during this period. Sports Illustrated acknowledged the United States’ badminton success by featuring top male player Joe Alston on the cover of its March 7, 1955 issue.
The number of U.S. clubs declined slightly in the 1970s; however, high school and collegiate play expanded.
Nearly 2,700 members belong to the USBA (as of September 1995). The USBA estimates there are thousands more recreational badminton players in the United States. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) reports in its 1993 study that 300,000 people play badminton weekly in the United States, and 760,000 people call badminton their favorite sport.
The USBA in 1991 moved its National Office from Papillion, Nebraska, to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Currently the USBA has six staff members, including two national coaches. The USBA's mission is to serve as the national governing body of the sport, to increase participation in the sport, to provide the highest possible quality of service to its members, and to achieve outstanding performance in international competition.
The USBA solidified its commitment to improve international performance by forming the Olympic Player Development Committee in 1993. The USBA High Performance Plan, drafted in April 1994, is a detailed, comprehensive plan to achieve Olympic medals by the 2004 Games. Integral parts of that plan include establishing a resident training program at the Olympic Training Center and acquiring a fulltime internationally recognized National Coach -- both of which the USBA accomplished in 1994.
In accordance with this mission, the USBA sends players to the World Championships, Sudirman Cup (world mixed team championship), Thomas Cup and Uber Cup (world men's and women's team championships, respectively), World Junior Championships, and Pan American Games. Major U.S. competitions conducted by the USBA include the annual U.S. National Championships, U.S. Junior National Championships, and U.S. Senior National Championships, and the U.S. Open.
The USBA’s goals leading up to 1996 and beyond reflect its commitment to supporting U.S. badminton athletes in their quest for increased international success.