This story appeared recently on the SESRA news page. Thank you Erik.
Press release: The Millman Experience and Richard and Pat Millman are joining Scenic City Squash in Chattanooga!!
We are excited to announce that the Millman Experience will be moving to a new home as of February 27th 2017.
Richard Millman will be joining Scenic City Squash in Chattanooga Tenessee as Director of Squash and Pat Millman will be joining him as Assistant Director. The Millman Experience will have its new base of operations at Scenic City Squash.
” I am absolutely delighted to be able to join Scenic City Squash and Mike and Taylor Monen. The Monens are squash crazy and are highly motivated to help grow the game – not just at Scenic City Squash but everywhere. Their passion for our game exactly mirrors the passion that Pat and I have for the people of Squash and for the sport itself,” said Millman, the owner of The Squash Doctor Corp and the originator of The Millman Experience.
Millman’s first priority will be to develop Scenic City Squash’s programs at all levels, whilst simultaneously developing the Chattanooga club as a ‘go-to’ destination for the development of the game both in terms of coaching and tournament play.
Mike Monen, the owner of Scenic City Squash said,
” We are so excited to bring Richard and Pat Millman into our Scenic City Squash Family. It’s seriously a dream come true and I look forward to working with them to make Scenic City Squash the absolute best it can be. I look forward to what the future brings and making a life long friendship with the Millman squash family. ”
Millman will offer The Millman Experience at Scenic City Squash and will welcome students of the game from all over the world to study with him at the Tennessee club. He will also continue to attend major masters events and will take players from Scenic City Squash with him both to tournaments and on tour to the UK and elsewhere.
I am in the process of trying to put together a plan for the World Masters in Johannesburg SA this September.
I need to know if there are players from the USA and Canada that might be interested in an altitude training camp with me in Salt Lake City this September – whether or not you intend to go to Johannesburg.
The program would be 6 days of boot camp including intensive coaching/training with me, plus matchplay against local players.
Please message me right away if you are interested in this camp.
Philosophy, Analysis, Practicality, Strategy and Execution in Squash. A five part series by Richard Millman. Part 2: Analysis
Phlilosophy, analysis, practicality, strategy and execution in Squash.
A five part series, by Richard Millman.
Part 2. Analysis
As I said in the first of this series of five articles, the central pillar and most important priority in the game of Squash, and indeed in the struggle for life itself, is survival.
This powerful and apparently simple principle, is much less than simple to adhere to, however. In the complex application of behaviors that we see in Squash, the essential principle of life and death is often forgotten and is eclipsed by behaviors that should be being used to survive but, for various reasons, are given such focus and attention, that they improperly take on a life of their own and receive undue or misplaced attention – ultimately to the detriment of their original essential purpose.
In order to develop as a Squash player it is essential to clearly analyze and clearly understand the capacities required to survive, without becoming sidetracked.
In the battle for life, ultimate survival is a punishing razor’s edge where complacency or mis-judgement, over-confidence or loss of focus, have only one outcome:
Since time immemorial, human beings have been engaged in the battle for survival against other species and against our own species.
Whichever it was against, two key traits were and are required in order to succeed, overcome and survive. These two traits are as true today as they were a million years ago or however long ago it was that our ancestors first fought to survive.
These two traits work in combination, are as important as each other, are interdependent, but must never be confused or used as substitutes for one another.
The first can be termed ‘Primary focus.’
Primary focus is used to ‘attend’ to a human being’s most immediate and urgent matters at hand (more on the much mistaken concept of attention in a later part of this series).
In primeval times it may have been used to follow the spoor or trail of prey, or to attend to a Grizzly bear that suddenly confronted you, or a hostile member of our own species who was attacking.
On the Squash court Primary Focus is concerned with the ball.
Only the ball.
The second of these essential traits that work in concert for our survival can be termed ‘Peripheral Awareness.’
Peripheral Awareness is used to continuously scan your surroundings and the environment around which a human being’s most immediate and urgent matter at hand is transpiring.
In primeval times it may have been the forest around the trail you were tracking to ensure that you didn’t step on a dry twig and give your presence away or break your ankle stepping into a gopher hole, it may have been detailed awareness of the immediate area in order to escape or trap the Grizzly bear confronting you, it may have been knowledge of the obstacles around you and your attacker as you fought for survival – to ensure that you didn’t lose your footing or have your ability to maneuver thwarted.
On the Squash court Peripheral Awareness is concerned with everything except the ball.
It is what we use to continuously be intimately familiar with the entire court and our place within it.
It is what we use to continuously be aware of our opponent’s position, their options,the angles of possibility of those options and the best location from which to equilaterally defend the court against the specific options of that moment.
It is what we use to continuously be aware of imminent happenings such as the opponent imminently hitting the ball or the ball imminently hitting the nick or ourselves imminently running into a wall or our opponent or their racquet.
It is what we use in the process known as Hand/Eye coordination – a vastly useful tool that humans use in the survival process, not just to strike a moving object, but to judge the intersection of any moving objects – and that with a level of accuracy that is as extraordinary as it is microscopic.
It is what we use in an inextricable partnership with our Primary Focus to attempt to avoid death.
These two then, are the tools of human survival and success.
We use them to manage the commodity of survival.
But what is the commodity of survival?
That which a surfeit of means life and a lack thereof turns us into slaves and even leads to death?
It is non other than Time itself.
That monstrous, slippery, never-ending, fickle, resource.
The dance of life and death wherein human beings have used the two vital perception systems that I have described, Primary Focus and Peripheral Awareness, in order to lethally manage Time, is as old as mankind and as paramount today as it was then and all the days between.
It was and is still the difference between you and the Tiger’s jaws, between you releasing your arrow and the Antelope escaping, between your swerving body and your opponent’s sword tip or your sword tip and their body, and in Squash between you and the ball being struck by your opponent and then bouncing twice and between your opponent and you striking the ball and it bouncing twice.
It is a minuscule amount of time that when marginally increased by stealing it from your opponent or expanding it through management of your actions, can make you feel enormously powerful; conversely that minuscule amount of time can be rapidly lost by loss of focus or poor decisions or by incapacity and suddenly you are the most miserable pauper in the world.
Survival is determined by your capacity to balance time in your favor. But that balancing act is performed on a razors edge and unless you have analyzed just precisely what is required to survive and prepared yourself to be able to practically do so, disaster awaits you.
The tools at your disposal: Primary Focus and Peripheral Awareness.
The task you must perform with those tools: The management of the time between you and the ball being struck and bouncing twice.
The prize: Survival – in the face of the opponent’s efforts to do so.
But how do we practically manage time? What are the necessary assets and skills required to effectively manage these tools that we have carefully analyzed? And what are the pitfalls?
In my next article I will discuss the Practicality of Survival.
Philosophy, Analysis, Practicality, Strategy and Execution in Squash. A five part series by Richard Millman. Part 1: Philosophy
Phlilosophy, analysis, practicality, strategy and execution in Squash.A five part series, by Richard Millman.
Part 1. Philosophy
As I write, that extraordinary railway terminus in New York, Grand Central Station, and more particularly the wonderful Vanderbilt Hall, is once again echoing with the ‘thud,’ ‘thud,’ ‘thud,’ of a rubber ball against glass walls.
For those of us that are lifelong addicts, this is both the source of pride and frustration.
Pride, in that the whole world walks through Grand Central and sees the best that our game has to offer, and frustration in that neither we nor they have the capacity to instantly understand the complexity of what is happening.
To the casual observer, the spectacular ‘cockpit’ enclosing two pretty fit looking athletes is a momentary distraction, perhaps even the subject of a few minutes of novel fascination. But, after a while the number of variables become simply too much to absorb and the passer-by moves on to something that he or she is more familiar with.
If it was an NFL game or and NBA game, observers both casual and expert would have a shared general understanding of roughly what was happening. But in Squash, not only do the casual and expert observers not share a basic understanding of what is happening, the experts themselves are still trying to understand what is going on. Such is the complexity of our sport.
To the lifelong addict such as myself, these games are the source of amazement, as young people and the people around them, wholly dedicated to a pursuit that has limited financial rewards ( and those only at the very top of the game), push themselves past any perceivable limitations in the search for survival and success.
Ultimately those two – survival and success – are interchangeable.
In the same way that the cockerel that survived in the bloody onslaught of the historical cockpit, was successful.
In a fight for life and death between two combatants, survival is success and vice-versa.
That is the simple and pure philosophy of Squash.
Whether you are a passer-by at Grand Central or one of the leading experts in the game, it is imperative that you look at Squash through the ‘lens’ of survival, if you hope to gain an understanding.
But to understand how to survive requires detailed analysis and comprehension of the physical, mental, technical, emotional and strategic aspects of that survival.
And that study is a maelstrom of widely diverging opinion often backed by powerful, charming, charismatic, famous, forceful, experienced personalities, but rarely (if ever) by logical, empirical study.
Expert opinion is only that – opinion. And too often that opinion is accepted as fact. Our sport needs firmer ground than opinion alone as a foundation. We must be able to hold our understanding up to the candle of proof.
Opinion without facts is like a house built on sand.
Squash needs more than that if it is to reach its maximum success, indeed if it is to fight for its own survival.
In my next piece, I will look at the analysis required to accurately identify and highlight the unbelievably complex kaleidoscope of behaviors that are required for a Squash player to ultimately survive.
Hopefully accurate analysis will make the subtleties of Squash more accessible both to folks who happen upon our sport as they wander through Vanderbilt Hall, and to those who wish to expose themselves to the ultimate challenge of the life and death fight for survival in the arena.
Between coaching assignations, I have been watching the other games and today I hit on something that may be of interest to you.
It was certainly interesting to me.
The quality of play here continues to escalate; technically, strategically, physically – although understandably the emotional state of young athletes, fighting for their place in the pecking order of life, continues to be a bit wobbly – as does some of the behavior of coaches and parents who are also desperate for them to succeed – although even that seems less animated this year.
But within the confines of that superior play, I have noticed some interesting trends.
Depending on how experienced you are, you may or may not know that most players start off playing squash with much more confidence in their forehand strokes than in their backhands.
However if and when they become experienced and advanced players their backhands become their better sides.
This has to do with the fact that the natural forehand stroke is a pulling and throwing action that, if overdone, tends to lead to the ball being pulled away from the sidewall, whereas the backhand action is more of a directed, uncoiling action, that is easier to push along the wall away from the body as opposed to the ball being pulled across the body.
However, I believe the degree to which the backhand becomes unduly focused upon has a number of other contributory factors.
For one, few dynamic young players can resist the opportunity of ripping a hard forehand when the opportunity arises. As a consequence, attention to forehand length directional control and pace variation is a rare attribute in young squash players.
Here at the US Junior Open, players that set up and float tight balls down the forehand side are in a small minority – whereas they almost all do that exceptionally well on their backhands.
There are other reasons too, for this strong desire to rip the forehand toward the opponent’s backhand.
Most players and coaches when working at beginner/intermediate level focus on playing the ball to the opponent’s weaker backhand.
Hence Mark Allen’s email handle ‘ Lobtohisbackhand.’
But once players reach a level of proficiency in returning deep backhands, I wonder if this love affair with attacking the deep backhand actually becomes a hangover that is much less productive and is actually destructive, in so far as it discourages the development of quality, controlled, forehand play?
I had the pleasure of chatting about this today, with that great doyen of French and World Squash, Thierry Lincou – now the Head Coach at MIT.
I posited the following theory to him:
Left handed players develop in a different environment to right hand players ( there being less of them) and necessarily learn to rally on their forehand sides against the consistency of the right handed backhand.
In my experience, lefties don’t rip their forehands anywhere near as much as righties ( they get less opportunity and it is much riskier against the tight righty backhand).
However they do have similar backhand development for the same mechanical reasons I mentioned earlier.
On the other hand lefties don’t get as much exposure to patient careful backhand rallies as righties do – because the righties can’t resist ripping their forehands most of the time. Perhaps the lefty’s backhand makes the righty a little more disciplined, but to be honest, I think most righties – unless they have really trained on this specifically – can’t free themselves from the rush of adrenaline they feel when they get the chance to crack the ball, from half or three-quarter length. This usually means the righty doesn’t get forward to intercept on the volley as often on the forehand as they do on the backhand, because they don’t consider/manufacture the time they need to get forward when they rip a forehand.
So here’s a thought from this old coach:
What if we made sure that our righty players regularly trained with either lefties of their own level or above, or with a lefty pro?
Would this increase the quality of control and pace that righty players developed and discourage the desire to just whack the ball on the forehand?
Thierry thought about it for a moment and then relayed his strategy when he was a player, when playing lefties.
He told me that he would always build a backhand game plan against Peter Nicol or Amr Shabana based on hitting to the backhand deep.
He said that the reason for this was that he knew that they were confident on the forehand side but less so on the backhand and that he could usually get an opening.
I find this very interesting.
At first blush, one could be forgiven for thinking that Thierry was positing the old ‘Lobtohisbackhand’ strategy – until you stop and remember that in Nicol and Shabana we are talking about two of the greats of out game. They didn’t have technical flaws like some Under 13 boy or girl.
What I believe Thierry had struck upon was how much practice Nicol and Shabana had in competition, playing deep on their backhand sides.
Clearly it was more than in junior competition, because James Wilstrop and Nick Matthew don’t just rip it when it comes to their forehands, but even so, I suspect that the time that they spent deep on their backhand sides was appreciably less that deep on their forehand sides.
So, as a result of this discussion and my continuing observations, I have to conclude that if we wish to see the continuing development of quality in junior squash, planning regular training with lefties is a must if righties are to bring the quality of their forehand organization, execution and pace control up to or close to the level of their backhands.
Of course if we do that, Thierry won’t be able to get so much mileage out of playing deep to the lefty backhand – because the lefties will improve too.
Which is of course good for us all, because everyone and Squash as a community, will step up another notch in this ever evolving game.
Oh and by the way, could all the lefty coaches that find their business increasing after this article please forward my 10% commission check via Pay Pal?
December 20th 2015
At the US Junior Open at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.
Recently the Professional Squash Association announced appreciable increase in the prize money funds of both the Men’s and Women’s professional squash tours.
Within a few days of this announcement several other related announcements were made.
First, the National Governing Body of English Squash, England Squash and Racketball and their parent body, Sport England released alarming news of yet further decreases in participation numbers in England.
Next the International Olympic Committee announced that Squash would be considered for the 2020 games in Japan alongside seven other possible sports.
Other contributory events are also bubbling on the back burner.
New Zealand squash has lost a great deal of its funding and has had to resort to the extraordinary step of advertising for a National team coach just for the World Championships.
South African Squash has also lost a great deal of its previous funding and has resorted to charging various levels of registration fees to its participants – creating some strife in the ranks.
US Squash is seemingly a beacon of light in the participation gloom, although when one considers that Squash is the fastest or second fastest growing sport in a rapidly diminishing pool of Sports participants, it is perhaps akin to a lake where one carniverous species is quickly gobbling up the few remaining fish in the habitat.
I don’t want to play the pessimist. I spend my life trying to build Squash programs and help to develop the game.
For young professionals trying to make their way in the game, it is tough enough just to survive – never mind take time to consider whether or not the future of the game is in good shape and certainly they don’t have time to contribute to the development of the game. It’s hard enough to pay the rent and get enough to eat!
Nevertheless, we as a community need , I believe, a more cohesive approach and a more synergistic attitude toward ensuring the continued survival of our sport.
There are some important questions to be answered.
What empirical proof is there ( if any) that Professional and Elite level competition contributes to increased participation and health of the game?
If there is none ( and I do not know that to be true) there is a danger that the PSA and those with Olympic aspirations are, to mix metaphors, clutching at straws while Rome burns.
It is frankly very short sighted to celebrate increased Prize money if there isn’t going to be anyone to win it in a few years.
Another question is how to help governing bodies who have never had to market the sport outside the game to train a new breed of Squash Program Developer.
The idea that Club Professionals – themselves desperately struggling to make a living and never having been trained in the art of new business development – should somehow be asked to shoulder this burden, is frankly living in cloud cuckoo land.
There are a few people that have learned to develop programs – living half of the time in the outside community -in schools, community centers, the mayors office, the local recreation department, fire stations, adult education programs, police stations etcetera and half the time in the clubs and centers; animating the recreational players who don’t want coaching with match making services, leagues, round robins, social nights etcetera and also acting as support staff to the coaches – supplying them with new clients and regathering the clients who want to take a break from coaching and return either permanently or temporarily to recreational involvement.
Coaches are purveyors of technical skills to people who want to be taught. True enough most good coaches spend time offering free advice both out of the kindness of their hearts and as a marketing ploy. But asking them to build membership and participation outside the club is the quickest way to have them spreading themselves too thin and at the same time asking them to spend their time at something they don’t even know how to do in the main.
In most Squash countries Schools desperately need activities and activity coordinators, facilities are usually dormant – and actually all you need is a rebound net to teach at school initially – young people graduating from colleges need jobs, governments want a healthier population and to support apprenticeship programs and National Governing Bodies need people to market and develop the sport at every level from National, to Regional, to Local, to club.
There are several of us that have the skills and experience to train Sports Program Development professionals and assistants, but until the whole community admits that the future is bleak unless the whole community comes together, that aid will go unused and we will continue to watch governing bodies struggling with a life threatening problem that they don’t appear to have the resources or knowledge to overcome.
There are bright spots such as the development of the sport in new countries, but are these new areas simply ten or twenty years behind the traditional countries and the problems that they now face?
By pointing to increased Prize Money, the US Squash participation growth, new countries who appear to be doing well, Olympic possibilities etcetera, are we simply delaying more decay and the ultimate demise of our sport?
Squash needs to be marketed to non squash players and existing players need to be animated, entertained and retained.
We rode the wave of enthusiasm of the 70’s and 80’s and never learned how to develop new business because we were so busy trying to keep up with the demand.
Well the demand is gone. If we don’t want Squash to be remembered as a fad or temporary craze we need to get everyone together and come up with a comprehensive development plan for participation.
Or we’ll be gone.
USOC Developmental Squash Coach of the Year 2014
June 26th 2015
If you, like me, are involved in trying to increase or stem the decline of participation in sporting social and community activity, then this article and the book it relates to are must reads:
In Alex Plimmer’s excellent recent article on http://www.crunchsports.com regarding Squash’s lack of inclusion in the Olympic Games, he follows an entirely logical and reasonable train of thought, citing the undoubted assets of Squash and comparing them with other sports that have achieved the ultimate goal of inclusion in the world’s premier sporting celebration.
But what if rather than ‘ Citius, Altius, Fortius,’ the real key to inclusion is ‘Argentum, Pecuniam, Dinarius?’
I am not suggesting that this is definitely the case, but with the recent spectacular meltdown of FIFA and considering how people that are desirous of being upwardly mobile like to use positions of national focus as stepping stones to other political and personal financial successes, one wonders if powerful governing bodies such as FIFA and the IOC need to be demonstrably more transparent in all of their dealings and decision making?
Should lobbying for inclusion only be done through presentation, with no personal contact allowed between the petitioners and the decision makers, with interactions being carefully monitored?
Hospitality is a bit of a grey area when it comes to persuasion. Just ask Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It’s ruined his life.
And after a transparent campaign, perhaps the results of all deliberations should be delivered in sealed envelopes like the Oscars, with a clear accompanying rationale so that those of us who spend our lives dedicated to building a Sport that is probably more reflective of the true requirements of human survival/success than any other, can stop scrambling around in a confusion of darkness as to why we aren’t welcome at the party.
At least we would know that it wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to tip the bouncer.
June 13th, 2015.
See my latest article on Ramy and his World Championship performance here at SquashMad.com
In my position as his highness, the Chairman of US Masters Squash, I have been asked by our CEO to help to promote our Masters divisions at the US Masters Championships and else where.
I am writing to you to ask for your assistance in this matter.
As has been shown recently, the Masters Squash players of North America are a fine and competitive group, especially when we band together and gather our strength in numbers.
More than ever before we are featuring in World Competitions. With Willie Hosey, Susan Lawrence, Mike Gough, Natalie Grainger, Gerry Poulton, Mariza Ohlsson, Vince Taylor, Dominic Hughes, Beth Federowich, Tom Rumpler, Steve Wren, Hope Prockup and several more of our players gaining worldwide fame for their endeavors.
However the peak of the pyramid is only able to attain such heights if the base is broad.
We are effectively a team training together and we are either strengthened or weakened by the depth and breadth of our competitions.
Beyond the competition we are in essence a group of kindred spirits.
Each year that our national championship numbers dwindle, each of us loses a part of ourselves and that which we have so enjoyed in the past. On the other hand, when we grow – then our hearts are full.
So this year I am appealing for your help.
I am asking you to send your own appeal to all of your contacts in your approximate agegroup asking them to participate in Masters competitions this year.
I personally will be going to Tom Rumpler’s Friends of Squash Grand Masters in Atlanta Dec 12-14, to the US Masters at the McArthur Center in Charlottesville VA March 13-15 2015 and to the Canadian Masters at the National Squash Academy in Toronto April 29-May 3 2015.
Perhaps you have some other favorite masters events you would like to publicize also?
If so please add them to your email and copy me with your correspondence to your friends.
Let’s really beat the bushes and get all the Master’s players in the US and Canada to support Masters Squash by showing up and playing in these events.
If you can’t help I understand. But if you can, thank you on all our behalves.
I am writing to invite you to the next edition of ‘The Millman experience’, my intensive training program for competitive Squash enthusiasts of all ages at Meadow Mill Athletic Club, in Baltimore on the weekend of December 5th,6th and 7th
The schedule will be as follows:
Friday December 5th
Saturday December 6th
10am-4pm ( break for lunch at 12.30pm)
Sunday December 7th
The cost of the weekend will be $400
Those wishing to do less than the full weekend are welcome to apply.
The cost per daily session will be as follows:
Friday 5-8.30pm $135
Saturday Full day 10am-4pm $200. Morning or afternoon only $135
Sunday 9am-1pm $135.
People coming for the full program and those that have attended in the past will be given priority although I hope to fit everyone in. There will be a limit of 16 places.
This will be another exciting and intense training and learning weekend and participants should be ready to work hard throughout.
There are several nice bed and breakfast locations near the club and also the Radisson Cross Keys on Falls road where you can receive a discount by mentioning ‘Meadow Mill.’
Please email me to reserve your participation at: email@example.com
thanks and I look forward to working with you on your game.
Sent from my iPad
Announcing the next installment of ‘The Millman Experience’ : Intensive training weekends for competitive Squash enthusiasts of all levels. October 17. 18.19, 2014 at Meadow Mill Athletic Club in Baltimore.
Photo Courtesy of Will Carlin
PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE: NEW DATE OCTOBER 17,18,19 – 2014
I am writing to invite you to another edition of ‘The Millman experience’, my intensive training program for competitive Squash enthusiasts of all ages at Meadow Mill Athletic Club, in Baltimore on the weekend of October 17th, 18th and 19th, 2014.
The schedule will be as follows:
Friday October 17 – 5pm-8.30pm
Saturday October 18 – 10am-4pm ( break for lunch at 12.30pm)
Sunday October 19 – 9am-1pm.
Once again I will have videographer Franklin Sayers at this session all day Saturday and will supply a DVD to those that have completed the full program.
The cost of the weekend will be $400 ( including the CD)
Those wishing to do less than the full weekend are welcome to apply.
The cost per daily session will be as follows:
Friday 5-9pm $135
Saturday Full day 10am-4pm $200.
People coming for the full program and those that have attended in the past will be given priority although I hope to fit everyone in. There will be a limit of 16 places.
This will be an exciting and intense training and learning weekend and participants should be ready to work hard throughout.
There are several nice bed and breakfast locations near the club and also the Radisson Cross Keys on Falls road where you can receive a discount by mentioning ‘Meadow Mill.’
Please email me to reserve your participation at: firstname.lastname@example.org
thanks and I look forward to working with you on your game.
Sent from my iPad
please enjoy my article about Semis and Finals day at the
BK US Jnr Open
Please enjoy todays article below as published in Squashmad.com:
Please enjoy my article as published today on Squashmad.com below:
Please enjoy my article from Squash Magazine below:
Please enjoy my article published in Squash Magazine at the link above.
Credit where credit’s due.
I have been criticized recently for seeming to be harsh in my criticism of some of the decisions and choices that those in positions of power in our sport have either made or failed to make.
I am not a competitor in a popularity contest.
I have been a Squash professional for over 35 years and throughout that time I have done my best to push the boundaries of Squash.
The failure of England Squash and Racketball to learn how to develop our sport as a business, in my opinion, is a fact and a consummate disaster.
ESR have done other great things I am sure, but the fact remains that participation in our sport in England has declined sadly and in particular in the women’s game.
This particular piece is not, however, about that.
In the aforementioned 35 year span of my professional career in Squash, I have traveled far and wide and have had many and various experiences within the confines of our sport.
Even before I entered the professional ranks, I met some extraordinary people as a junior Squash player.
One of my fellow juniors left a lasting impression on me.
He was a wonderful player with probably the finest drop shot technique that I ever saw – even until today.
He was a great competitor and yet never felt the need to boast. He let his racquet do the talking.
Just before the end of his illustrious junior career he suffered with a debilitating health problem which is not particularly relevant to my story and so negates the necessity of me mentioning it here.
Fortunately he was able to overcome his illness and returned to the game.
For one reason or another he didn’t have a career on the world stage, although in my opinion had he elected to do so, he would have met with an unusually high degree of success.
After I became a professional and played professional Squash I played him several times. The best I ever did was to win a game from him in an inter-county match. He simply did the things that I did considerably better than I did them.
Later on in my travels representing several racket companies, I dropped in to visit him in one of his first positions as a coach and had the pleasure of watching him work with a talented 10 or 11 year old. I was fascinated to see the pressure drills and interpersonal skill with with he exhorted the boy to feats of athleticism that defied belief in a player so young.
The young boy’s name was Simon Parke.
In later years I had the pleasure of helping a young man that had been on my Essex U14 team. Tony Hands was ranked somewhere in the 20s in England at the time. I knew he had great potential and I also knew that I had no time or opportunity to work with him.
He had terrific athleticism and enthusiasm, but in my opinion lacked feel and touch. So of course I sent him to the coach who I believed to have the best drop shot I had ever seen. Under such supervision Tony Hands went on to become a wonderful and successful member of the World Tour.
The coach I am referring to had a number of difficult interactions with ESR. First because in the early years when some people had qualifications and some had not, ESR decided to alienate this coach by undermining him for a lack of official qualifications -despite his extraordinary and irrefutable track record.
After a brief sojourn in the USA, he returned to his roots in England and to Yorkshire in particular.
He and I once had a little disagreement about the technical aspect of the sport. When a few years later he changed his view, he went out of his way to point out that he had altered his view more in line with my own. This is a very rare quality in the coaching world of strong egos and personal opinions.
Later he was welcomed into the ESR fold and had several very successful years before he fell foul of political machinery that often produces casualties that have little to do with the performance of the individual, who then suffers from the wheeling and dealing that leads to their demise.
Despite perhaps feeling abused and unappreciated, this coach has retained his good nature. He never fails to greet a fellow pro when he sees them at an event, always taking the time to pass the time of day and to enquire into the state of things in that person’s own life.
But today, operating once again in his favored role as a trainer of Squash players, he stands out.
In my 35 years I have met many wonderful professionals, players, administrators, promoters, sponsors, benefactors and good old recreational club hackers.
But of all those professionals that I have had the pleasure of meeting, in my opinion, there is no finer trainer of Squash professionals and players than the man of whom I speak.
He is of course the coach of record breaking three time world champion Nick Matthew.
I salute you David Pearson.
Not just for the successes that the world knows you for, but for the years, months, days and hours of unending hard work, through thick and thin, personal highs and lows, that I know that you have endured and that have gone into the making of a champion’s coach.
You are truly a professional’s professional.
A week has passed and the dust has settled in Manchester.
AJ Bell contributed to our sport in a way that few have done, providing an opportunity for the spectacular presentation of the premier Men’s Squash Tournament in the world.
Nick Matthew established that he is truly one of the greats of the game, riding his luck it is true, but that is what icons do and that is why it is they that are remembered and not the ‘nearly’ men or women.
This irrefutable truth notwithstanding, the fact remains that a huge question mark hovers like an ugly cloud over the manner of Gregory Gaultier’s demise.
And moreover, the singular lack of interest from the media in the unacceptable fashion in which he was manifestly debilitated by the anti-doping procedure that he was subjected to in the middle of what could or even should have been the defining tournament of his life.
I personally would be grateful for an explanation as to the following questions:
1. Why can the anti-doping procedure not be conducted immediately after the event, thereby avoiding the possibility of interfering with a fair outcome – the mission of all tournaments?
2. Why is the anti-doping procedure for our sport – one of the most dehydrating known – reliant upon urine samples? Why not hair or blood which is used in other sports and circumstances?
Several respondents have mentioned that Gaultier was made to stay up almost the entire night after his quarter final not the semi – as if this fact excuses the affect that losing a night’s sleep had on him.
This is ludicrous in my opinion.
It takes days to recover from the loss of a night’s sleep when fresh, never mind in the middle of a World Championships when nutrition and rest are at a premium.
We cannot allow this to continue can we?
What kind of Olympic hopeful sport, shoots its players and itself in the foot, in public, and doesn’t even question how it treats participants.
How about never at all if we don’t get our house in order!
If you cannot control a rally in which you are the sole participant…… ( a little piece of creative writing for your pleasure!)
Harry saw John to the door.
“Remember Harry, you can’t run Dead Nick Racket and Fitness on your love for the game. You need income.”
” I know, I know!” Harry said impatiently.
John McKinnon held out his hand and Harry shook it firmly.
John was a great friend and a great accountant and Harry knew he was right.
But where the hell was the money going to come from?
” Why so glum, chum?” Sally said cheerfully as she breezed into the club from college.
Harry hadn’t seen her in his distracted state. He brightened visibly when he saw his star pupil.
“Oh just a few problems with the bills mounting up. Nothing to worry about really,” he said, his words trailing off unconvincingly.
“Anything I can do to help, Coach?” Sally said, trying to buoy her mentor.
“Yes,” said Harry emphatically, ” keep working on your game.”
“Absolutely, in fact I have a key league match tonight against another student. One of those preppie frat boys – who will probably take one look at me and think that he can just smack a girl off of the court.”
“Really?” said Harry with interest, ” and who might that be?”
” Some guy I haven’t met before. Just started in the year above me. Name’s Stalton Leicester…” she paused for effect and then went on, ” the fifth, ” she said with a note of sarcasm.”
Harry raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“What?” said Sally defensively.
Harry smiled at his student’s petulance. ” Oh nothing. Just let me know how he reacts when you run him off the court.”
Later that evening Sally knocked on Harry’s office door. He was pouring over some paperwork as she walked in. He had a frown on his face, which disappeared when he saw Sally.
“So, how’d it go?”
Sally looked sour. ” He never hit a single hard ball in the five games we played. Every time I hit it he was waiting for me. It was as if he knew what I was going to do before I did. It was humiliating.”
Harry looked puzzled. ” Wait, you took two games off of Stolly Leicester?”
Sally squirmed and looked awkward. ” No. He beat me in three. Then we played two more.”
She hesitated. ” He was really nice,” she said begrudgingly.
Harry smiled. ” Before he went off to boarding school, Stolly was one of the brightest, most considerate, hardest working students I ever had,”
he went on, ” but for most people Squash is just one of many things in their lives. Not like me, where it IS my life.” He stopped as though considering something and then went on, “It’s very rare that we see a talent like Stolly and it’s even harder when we know that they probably won’t fulfill their full potential. But knowing that we have helped someone to discover themselves and maybe even to have helped them become the best person that they can be – that is truly rewarding.”
He knew in his heart that Stalton Leicester V would become an extraordinary person in whatever field he decided to follow. And he knew that Stolly would never forget him. But a part of him wished that Stolly could have pursued Squash AND become one of society’s truly extraordinary people. But that just wasn’t how life was in the USA – yet.
The beautiful thing was that Harry had had the privilege of helping to mould Stolly in their short time together. The experience had changed both of them.
That, no-one could take away.
“I know…HE told me all about it.” Sally said with extra emphasis on the word ‘HE’.
Harry came back to the present from his self imposed reverie and looked up to see Sally, a hand on one hip, eyebrows raised, giving him one of those ‘thanks for nothing’ looks that young women can deliver so pointedly.
“HE also told me something else very interesting.” Sally continued.
Harry leaned back in his swivel chair and stretched back his arms and aching neck, which was tight from studying the P and L that was on his desk in front of him.
“Oh yes and what was that?” he said as he breathed out.
Sally sat down on the plastic chair that Harry had forgotten to offer her and continued,
“After the match I was pretty upset. I thought he would just leave me to stew, but he didn’t. He was very kind actually. He asked me how long I had been playing and what sort of training I was doing. We got talking and I told him about meeting Hishi last night – something else YOU didn’t tell me about.”
Harry’s eyes twinkled with amusement.
” Anyway,” she went on, ” I told er.. Stolly,” the boy’s familiar name falling uncomfortably from her mouth, ” that Hishi and I had been working on the most important thing that Hashim Khan said in his book – ‘keep eye on ball’ – and he said that that wasn’t the most important thing Hashim said, only the most widely reported.”
“Oh yes? ” enquired Harry, ” so what did Stolly say was the most important?”
“Well it was weird. He said the most important thing he said was ‘Hashim versus Hashim’.”
“Oh he did, did he?” said Harry, noting his student’s developing interest.
“Did he tell you why?”
“No.” she said blankly. ” He said you wouldn’t want him to tell me why. Why not?
By way of answer Harry said, ” Stolly is absolutely correct. Are you and Hishi going to practice tonight?”
“Then as part of your practice I want you to think about this:
If you cannot control a rally in which you are the sole participant………”
Harry left the words hanging in the air and wrote down three words on a piece of scrap paper and handed it to Sally.
Sally looked at the paper.
On it was written:
‘Sally versus Sally.’
Life is a crucible in which necessity promotes experimentation and discovery.
Although lacking the controlled logic of empirical research conducted in the lab, the sheer quantity of time and effort devoted to the study of a specific field leads to multitudinous tiny evolutions within that field, the only record of which usually remains in the mind of the real life discoverer as opposed to the careful documentation of academic research.
As a result many crucial and valuable discoveries are unknown outside the specific field and may even be lost with the demise of the person who made the discovery.
In addition discoveries made in real life may be polluted by ego or misinterpretation as the person making the breakthrough either hoards the information or doesn’t have the necessary training or education to fully appreciate the ramifications of their discovery.
The academic researcher in turn is rarely an expert in the specific field and without access to such expertise and finding is unlikely to benefit from intuition borne of years of observation and experience.
Hence in my view society would benefit greatly by funding collaborative partnerships between academic researchers and expert real world exponents/coaches.
In this way enormous quantities of hitherto unrecorded knowledge could be empirically tested,documented and fruitfully applied in many other fields.
I believe that my field – the sport of Squash – is one such crucible where there is huge opportunity for examination of the discoveries that I and others have made.
Working with expert academic researchers I believe that the amalgam of the real world discoveries that I have made over thirty five years together with scientific techniques of empirically defining and documenting such evidence, could benefit fields such as medicine, psychology,biomechanics, education, engineering, ergonomics, military research etcetera.
I recently had an exchange with Dr SJ Vine at Exeter University in England after reading an article that was the product of his research.
The article was about what he terms ‘The Quiet Eye’ and I recommend that readers read it both because it is a fascinating article and because it provides context for this piece.
Here is my message to Dr Vine:
To: Vine, Samuel
Dear SJ Vine,
I read with interest your article relating to QE and skill development.
I have been a professional Squash coach and student for thirty odd years and sadly lack the advantage of a sports science education.
By the usual grueling path of trial and error I have however noticed some interesting things as relates to skill development and execution.
In my opinion there are two perception systems at work in a seamlessly dovetailed partnership when Squash athletes perform at optimum levels.
One of these perception systems ( which I call Primary focus for practical usage) is used to maintain a relationship with the ball – Mentally, Physically and Emotionally ( MPE).
This is a conscious system and focuses the athlete the primary task of staying connected with the ball at all times – the ball being necessary to their survival in the game and therefore an absolute necessity.
The other perception system ( which I call Peripheral focus for practical usage) is used to constantly monitor the athlete’s environment – their own whereabouts, the opponent’s whereabouts, their proximity to the walls and indeed any peripheral threat that might interfere with their survival.
I have noticed that in order to execute movements and skills it is very important for the athlete to be continuously active in the situation and never even for a moment to allow their survival skills – of Primary and Peripheral perception to become passive or dormant.
Unfortunately well meaning attempts by coaches to help their athletes can result in the opposite effect as admonishments to focus on coaching aids or ideas often lead to athletes becoming passive on the successful execution of the coaches advice – feeling that the task that they have been given is over and that they are now free to rest. Their Primary focus is distracted in this instance and the continuity of their relationship with the ball is now severed.
In addition to this continuous active behavior I have also noticed that one particular specific behavior triggers the sub-conscious mind to produce a menu of options, extraordinarily precise judgements of hand eye coordination and the ability to exactly predict the behavior of the ball at speeds way beyond the capacity of the conscious mind – whilst still maintaining a continuous connection with the ball.
This simple trigger: the preparation of the racket for either a forehand or backhand, is the single most effective tool in prompting advanced technical, physical and strategic behavior.
In my experience preparing the racket and using feedback in the form of triangulation between the exact point the athlete intends to strike on the racket, the ball and their eye, to exactly guide the athlete, results in a precision of set up to a consistent accuracy within a quarter of an inch, provided the racket preparation is maintained as a measuring tool in exactly the same location, as the athlete approaches. If the racket is moved then the measurement is inaccurate and the weight transference and control, rather than being surgically precise, lacks focus and accuracy.
However this triggering of advanced judgement and precision is only effective if it is done prior to the athlete moving even a single step – because if the movement towards the ball occurs prior to the triggering of advanced planning from the racket preparation, the athlete becomes a ‘chaser’ instead of a planner and much of the subsequent behavior is reactive instead of proactive.
Remembering the great Wayne Gretzky’s famous advice that he tries not to go where the puck ‘is’ but where it is ‘going to be’, and in light of your research and thoughts on QE, I wonder if you would be kind enough to share an empirical understanding of how the above mentioned processes of Primary and Peripheral perception meld to produce a seamless flow of skills and movement within the overarching framework and big picture of a developing rally construction and game plan?
thanks in advance for your consideration.
Sent from my iPad
Here is Sam Vine’s reply which he has kindly consented to allow me to reproduce:
Many thanks for your email, I read it with great interest.
Your analysis of the perceptual and visual attentional processes that underpin expertise in squash is very interesting. In my opinion in resonates with much of the empirical work that has been done in this area. For example Millner and Goodale famously discuss 2 attentional systems (ventral and dorsal) and Corbetta and collagues also discuss goal directed vs. stimulus driven systems. These are prominent theories within cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
Your interest in squash may also lead you to some of the work of Professor Bruce Abernethy who has performed research looking at visual perception in badminton and other high speed racquet sports.
Personally I would very much like to do some research in Squash, using our mobile eye tracing technology, but as with most things ‘Science’ funding is always the stumbling block. If any opportunities arise I will be sure to get in contact with you, your experience and insight would be invaluable.
Many thanks again for your email and your interest in my article.
Dr Sam Vine
Psychology & Human Movement Science
Research group: http://sshs.exeter.ac.uk/exsell/
In my estimation this interchange is an excellent example of the potential for collaboration between vocational workplace exponents of Squash and highly skilled academic researchers.
With focused funding the possible progress that could be made would, in my opinion, produce unimaginable benefits to many sectors that society is not currently privy to or aware of and indeed that the real world exponent in turn doesn’t appreciate the potential of.
I appeal to anyone who has the capacity to direct funds to seriously consider encouraging people such as Dr Sam Vine to continue his research and to enable him to collaborate with experts in Squash and likewise to promote the concept here in the USA with myself and people of Dr Vine’s persuasion and dedication.
While I cannot say precisely what the product of such associations will be, I know that they will be extraordinary, surprising and of unexpected benefit.
Thank you for reading and please encourage your friends and contacts to support these ideas.
So the day came and went and Wrestling – as undeserving as it clearly was when considered as a new sport – stole back the place that it had lost and returned to the fold that it had occupied since the games were held in Delphi.
Squash, played in just about every country in the world, with all its qualities of teaching life-skills, offering health benefits both in mind and body, advancing participants in their lives etcetera etcetera, returned to its uncertain position in the wilderness.
We may well ask.
Here are some thoughts on some of the things that we may well do to become more deserving of inclusion.
And by the way, before I begin, this is not intended as a purely denigratory piece. I love Squash and have been passionate about it all my working life. I have built successful programs in the UK, Holland and the USA. I have coached on four out of the six continents, and pending the arrival of Squash in the Antarctic , that just leaves me with Asia to go. I have been a national coach and the national director of performance, chair of the men’s national committee, a member of the executive committee of US Squash, a county captain, managing director, club owner, Cornell’s Head Coach, and a committed player. So I don’t think anyone can question my passion for this game.
Having had all this experience I do feel that I am uniquely qualified to be self critical on behalf of the game that I am so inextricably linked to.
So here goes.
First of all, we are not a mainstream sport in enough places in the world.
Australia, New Zealand, the UK and one or two other places managed to get Squash into the mainstream for a while. Particularly in the late seventies and eighties.
But a lack of understanding of how to run Squash as a business has resulted in a boom becoming a bust in those countries to a greater or lesser extent.
In Australia, which arguably had the greatest talent pool per capita at one point, my understanding is that there has been wholesale closures of courts and that there is hardly a full time Squash coach that can earn a living.
In Britain the sport has been propped up by lottery funding but the National governing body has had little concept of how to help the sport to be financially viable, churning out any number of level one and two coaches to minister to less and less participants.
Clubs that once were numerous in Britain have seriously declined with inter-club league play – the lifeblood of the sport – almost entirely having disappeared in many areas.
The governing body is not entirely at fault as their personnel have no experience or training in the field of Sports Program Direction or Development and thus as administrators are sadly impotent when they have lost the participants that they seek to administrate.
New Zealand in some respects has managed to hold on to more of what they had, but I am sure even there many folks look back, teary-eyed, to ‘the good old days’ when Dardir El Bachary had something like 9 All Blacks in the world’s top 20 and club Squash was a bubbling exciting part of the vibrant sports life of the country.
In the USA, despite valiant attempts to start Urban programs, the game remains largely the bastion of the wealthy, with the Ivy League Universities and their immediate rivals, wealthy private schools, country clubs and businessmen’s club’s being the mainstays of the sport. And thank goodness for these institutions because without them Squash would be dead.
The governing body here does not have the benefit of the lottery system in the UK, but does have the benefit of the USA’s amazing number of millionaires and has very successfully cultivated and nurtured this group with resulting bountiful benefit.
However, it could be argued that the money spent on Urban Squash, while benefitting some deserving underprivileged children, might better have been spent developing Squash as a mainstream sport, building facilities that were accessible and affordable to all and that, in the fullness of time, would have brought the greater benefit to all participants as, once accepted as a mainstream sport, the accompanying notoriety would have helped the Olympic cause and the resultant insurgence of capital far more.
Rumors abound as to the IOC’s disaffection for the then USSRA after it is said that certain members of the association snubbed the IOC, but whether or not this is true our current challenge is to make Squash a mainstream sport the world over, so that the stigma of being a niche, upper crust game, is no longer a barrier to acceptance.
What are the issues at stake?
These of course vary nation by nation but have many similarities and need a cohesive approach from all concerned.
First of all we need to see the big picture. Right now we have so much parochial behavior that we we can’t get out of our own way.
England Squash and Racketball. This name is utterly crazy in terms of the big picture. In one fell swoop and without any research, England Squash alienated the biggest economy in the world – the USA.
No one in US Squash wants even a taint of the word Racketball or Racquetball, but because someone in the UK thought that the game of UK Racketball should be included – they changed the name. Even remedial questioning of someone in the US would have led to the discovery that this would be a barrier to the development of the sport – and by the way – the game that has the ridiculous name of UK Racketball – is a terrific sport that just might be the savior of Club Squash and participation numbers the world over.
Why not put a little more thought into it? Why not do the research?
I’ll tell you why. Because Squash doesn’t yet exist globally, it only exists nationally and as long as National Governing Bodies can only see the local picture, they will make decisions which are to the detriment of the the global picture.
If someone had had the presence of mind to call UK Racketball – Big ball Squash – and bring it under the Squash umbrella, then all of this nonsense could have been avoided and England Squash could have continued as England Squash, the wonderful game known as UK Racketball would have been branded as Squash and would have been embrace the world over – particularly in the USA where it could have helped make the sport a mainstream sport, and thousands of Squash players who feel that their aged knees/hips could no longer stand Squash and so are relegated to the golf course, would have continued to play – because there is little or no joint stress in Big Ball Squash as I like to call it ( UK Racketball).
Now we have egos invested in UK Racketball and England Squash and Racketball’s name and in US Squash’s abhorrence of all things Racketball and in US Racquetball’s abhorrence of all things Squash and through the usual lack of international communication, the whole things is a balls up of disastrous proportions, with the World Squash federation avoiding the whole thing, even though the director of World Squash and one of the senior executives play both versions and love them.
This of course is just the tip of the iceberg. The pride of one National Governing body in attempting to do what they think is best for their nation getting in the way of dialogue to ascertain if their decision making will be good for the Sport as a whole.
And this is the view of Squash that the rest of the world and the IOC are presented with.
This is just a typical example.
In the USA we need to find a way of building cheaper facilities which are accessible to Mom and Pop and Main Street, USA.
Our national governing body prides itself on having developed participation numbers – but who are the people that we have caught in Squash’s net? The top two or three per cent of the wealthy?
What message does this send to the IOC?
In my research I have discovered that you can build a basic Squash court for about $5000 ( three thousand three hundred british pounds) out of basic materials available at any Home Decorating/ Do it yourself store.
In a city like Philadelphia which has a wonderful Squash tradition, there is almost nowhere for Main Street America to play -even if we put some effort into developing the sport.
My friend Dominic Hughes’s Club Berwyn Squash and Fitness, just outside Philly helps local public schools to play. But that is the exception – not the rule.
I don’t want to exclude the top 2 per cent – they offer us fantastic support. But we have to do something about the other 98 per cent.
Until Squash can be spoken about at least in the same vein as Tennis and preferably as T-Ball and Soccer – how can the IOC ever take us seriously?
We have other issues too.
National Governing Bodies have got to admit their lack of competence in the area of professional Program Direction and Development.
It is simply hopeless to continue churning out qualified coaches in the hopes that someone might show up to take lessons.
We need properly trained Sports Program Directors who know how to recruit, animate, train and retain participants.
England S and R are under perennial threat of losing their lottery funding if they don’t achieve participation figures.
Instead of blindly carrying on with the same futile administrative policies and hoping that by some miracle people decide to start playing Squash, get help from someone that knows how to train young people to be Program Directors and Developer. People that are trained to go out into the community, into schools and colleges, police stations and fire stations, doctors offices and community centers, evening classes etc and who can sell Squash to them.
Administrators don’t sell. It’s not their job. They administrate. Get a properly trained sales force in place. One that has excellent after sales service.
Otherwise kiss your funding goodbye.
In the US put money into Main st. There are so many opportunities and so many potential funding sources. We will help the sport and a lot more people by bringing the sport to the mainstream as well as trying to continuously reap the low hanging fruit. And if we reap much more low hanging fruit we will kill the fruit trees.
I think you can see the point I am making here.
Globally, local Squash has got to do a better job of considering decisions in light of the affect those decisions will have on the game as a whole.
I know it’s not easy. Local problems are immediate and seem urgent. But it’s no good putting a bandaid on a problem that is systemic. And we have amazing knowledge and resources world-wide.
As the saying goes: ‘ Think Globally – act locally”.
That way everyone will benefit.
Friday Oct 4th 2013
A day trip to Aosta.
After a wonderful party with seventy or more of the World Masters Games Squash players that featured a seemingly endless Turinese dinner so typical of Italy – more of a fiesta than a meal – Pat and I walked the fifteen minutes or so through the classically porticoed – ‘though eerily quiet- late night streets of Torino and caught the penultimate metro train home to our little apartment on the Corso Brunelleschi.
Following an all-too-brief, six-and-a-bit hours in bed, we awakened to honor our previously arranged rendezvous with some of our US Squash team mates.
Neither Pat nor I were particularly bright or breezy as we dragged our bodies back to the Massaua metro stop at 7.30am to ensure that we met our assignation at the Porto Nuova at 8.10 or so.
After a painless train trip, a deliciously hot cup of Cafe’ Machiato and a few tasty morsels from the pastry shop at the station, we wandered over to platform 14 to meet our friends.
Despite an overwhelming desire to shut our eyes, the intriguing prospect of the Piedmonte region’s landscape kept us glued to the windows.
We were not disappointed.
As the distant Alps drew steadily closer, we were rewarded with a variety of hillside ‘pensione’ that seemingly clung to the rock defying gravity; terraced vineyards beautifully ordered with almost geometric precision and distant alpine meadows where one could imagine mountain sheep and grizzled ancient shepherds plying their age-old trade undisturbed by the hue and cry of the modern world below.
We changed at Ivrea and immediately became aware of the impending proximity of the French border as the voices on the Aosta train took on a distinctly gallic tone.
The view from the window became yet more spectacular as the milky waters of mountain streams cascaded powerfully into the valley almost threatening to carry the ancient stone bridges away as they burst out from beneath them.
The increasingly French influence on the area became further enforced as we arrived in the little city of Aosta and noticed that the signs at the train station were in both Italian and French. After some momentary uncertainty we ascertained the whereabouts of the city-center and on completing a two or three minute walk, we found ourselves in a beautiful large piazza, dominated by the impressive Hotel de Ville. The street signs themselves were written in French and everywhere French and Italian flags wafted symbiotically in the cheery breeze.
We immediately availed ourselves of the variety of coffee offerings from one of the piazza’s several boulevard cafe’s and I plumpted for a Nuttichino – an interesting mixture of chocolate Nutella, cafe mocha and hot milk foam.
Suitably replenished we made our way to the Ponte Pretorian which did indeed prove to be a remarkably well preserved Roman gate and beneath its arches we found the city’s tourist information office. In the process we were met with the most picturesque view of the Via Ponte Pretorian – a lovely street given over to a combination of delicatessens, souvenir shops, cafe’s, artisan’s workshops and local linen stores. Making a mental note to return later, we crowded into the tourist information bureau.
Prior to our trip I had done my utmost via the world-wide-web to discover the sights to be seen in Aosta. I had found evidence of a cable car to the ski resort of Pila, but every page I scrutinized seemed to suggest that it was closed in the off or non-ski season.
For this reason I was pleased and amazed when the pleasant English speaking young lady behind the counter assured me that it was very much open and available to take us up to Pila.
Having discovered that there was a 12.45-2.15 lunch break when the cable car shut down, we scurried along and – despite a detour born of self-imposed mistaken directions – arrived with five minutes to spare.
The seventeen minute trip from Aosta to Pila costs five euros and is worth every cent. Within moments of departing, the spectacular panorama of the Alps around the little city enveloped our tiny world – suspended on an impossibly thin wire – and like an insignificant asteroid in the massive void of the universe, we floated ever upward toward our ultimate goal : Pila -one of the most famous ski and mountain bike resorts in this part of the world.
Having passed several way stations, we gently bumped into the Pila arrival station and as the doors opened we stepped out into crisp air, seven and half thousand feet above the spot from which we had embarked but a few minutes before.
In the final moments of the ascent we had noted the location of at least two very inviting ‘ristorante’ – one crowded and busy with children, bikers, table-tennis and the other that featured a family sitting around a picnic table that supported two large, impossibly refreshing looking beers.
After stopping for a few snaps for the album and having established that the noisy pub held much less attraction for us than the quiet, refreshing beer-prominent one, we marched down the hill to stake our claim.
I was in the mood for a walk and our team mate Julie Kessler was also up for the challenge. Pat, on the other hand, had spotted the invitingly comfortable lounge chairs at the ristorante and nobly volunteered to forego the walk and to bravely defend our backpacks whilst we were away.
The others seeing the logic of Pat’s thought pattern did the same.
So it was left to Julie and me to brave the heights – which we duly did for a good 30 minutes. Within the first five I was struggling for breath and after 20 I had to take a break, realizing as I did that the thin air was liable to make me ill if I didn’t take care. Having had the rest, Julie and I walked back down the hill and regrouped with the team.
The views were heavenly and the world in which we dwelt for those couple of hour was truly other-worldly, quickly vanquishing the memories of that nether land from whence we had recently arrived.
Time however waits for no man( or woman come to that) and we knew that our sojourn to Nirvana must come to an end.
We gathered ourselves after a quick lunch and headed for the descent which, while equally spectacular, was over far too quickly.
Back then to the beautiful pocket city of Aosta.
Pat was on a mission to buy gifts for our grandchildren and for the first time this trip, her personal compass was on fire as she headed gangbusters for the previously mentioned Via Ponte Pretorian and shopaholism!
I am not always – perhaps I should more accurately say – I am seldom – a good shopping companion. It is remarkable to me that I have managed to achieve a level of fitness on the Squash court that has won me multiple national titles and yet when it comes to the grueling physical challenge of shopping I am like a novice contestant on the first day of the TV program ‘The Biggest Loser’.
Even short bouts are liable to floor me.
On this occasion however Pat was on world class sprinting form and found every item she was looking for in short order.
Having won the competition and perhaps even threatened the previous world shopping record, we were rewarded with a post match respite and collapsed into the shaded chairs of a lovely cafe’ at the end of the Via Porte Pretorian.
One cup of English Breakfast combined with the Prince of Wales’s own blend for me and a Coke light to the good for Pat and, with a zephyr breeze around my ears, I gratefully slipped into an afternoon doze.
Awakening to discover that I had not realized that I had dropped off, I felt comfortably refreshed and ready to reconnect with the team at our previously agreed meeting point back beside the Hotel de Ville.
With the rendezvous complete, we agreed to return to Torino a little early, filled with the satisfaction of a truly memorable day in a never-to-be-forgotten city in a romantic land of cafe’s and piazzas, vineyards and mountains.
Richard Millman in association with Meadow Mill Athletic Club
A weekend with The Squash Doctor
Friday to Sunday July 12, 13 and 14 at the Meadow Mill Athletic Club, Clipper Mill Rd, Baltimore, Maryland.
Come and have a fun, informative, competitive and challenging weekend with Richard
Experience the unique, thoughtful and focused approach to Squash that has helped
Richard to successfully train players at every level from beginners to international
champions and that he uses himself in his approach to his own game,
In a twelve hour weekend of intensive coaching, The Squash Doctor will give you a
prescription for your own unique development and send you away with a multitude of
ideas and options to improve your game.
To sign up contact Richard at: email@example.com or phone him on 843 323
7340 and fill in and return the form below before Wed July 3rd 12noon.
Payment can be made by Pay Pal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience/Objectives and Level ( 3.0-5.5 players
I hereby declare that I have paid the non-refundable deposit of $75 via PayPal to
email@example.com and that I will pay the balance due upon arrival at the
program on Friday July 12th 2013.
I further declare that I hold harmless Richard Millman, his assistants and Meadow Mill
Athletic club and their employees and agents of any and all injuries or accidents that
may befall me in the course of this program.
So declared and signed by me ( print name)…………………………………………
Signed( Parent/Guardian if minor)……………………………………………………………
Cost of Program – $395 Schedule: Friday 5-8, Saturday 9-12 & 1.30-4.30, Sunday 10-1.
Accommodation: Radisson Cross Keys – mention the Meadow Mill rate.
More musings and ramblings from The Squash Doctor.
I apologize that it has been a while since my last written rant on the subject of Squash, my up and down competitive journey and things that are current in my thinking and/or interest.
Some of you may be grateful for this lapse since several of my previous pieces have lured you in on the promise of interesting content only to morph into epistles only slight shorter than War and Peace.
Be warned! I make no guarantee that this will not happen again here.
However, in hopes of not losing you at the outset, here briefly is what I hope that this piece is going to be about:
The US National Championships in Stamford Connecticut, USA
The Canadian Nationals in Markham Ontario, Canada.
The Rules of Squash.
Big Ball Squash.
There you have it.
I know that in the past I have teased you and dragged you screaming and kicking through the stories of my exploits, never revealing the outcome until I have tried your patience to the limit, leading you to question the value of life itself and why you ever started reading the blasted piece in the first place. For that I apologize and I thank you for your loyalty in seeing the task through. If by some strange chance you went through that laborious process and you are here with me now ( possibly hardly able to believe that you have allowed yourself to be gulled once again) – let me relieve you right now. I won. Both the US 50+ and the Canadian 50+.
No drawn out melodrama – not yet anyway.
However I will tell you my stories in both events and my recollection of my thoughts -hopes and fears – and my observations, which I hope you will find both helpful to the sport and to yourselves and your friends.
Now, if you find yourself presently in a predicament where you have an appointment or some other pressing concern impending upon you immediately or in the very near future, I suggest you take a break here and return at some point later when you can steel yourself manfully, or womanfully as the case may be, for the mammoth task at hand.
Should you choose to proceed now – Bon chance mon brave! I will be with you all the way.
Since last we communed after the Canadian National Championships in May of 2013 at the incomparable White Oaks Country club venue at Niagara-on-the-lake, a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial Ponte.
You will remember that I had somewhat sceptically agreed to try drinking Cheribundi on a daily basis on the advice of my friend Kirk Sigel, an investor in the manufacturing company.
You will also remember ( and if you do not you can quickly remedy the lack by reading the tale on my blog – Millmansquash.wordpress.com) my account of that memorable match where I and my great friend and rival Dominic Hughes battled practically to a standstill before, having fortunately saved several match balls in the fourth, I won an epic fifth game 14-12 to win the match and my first Canadian title.
Throughout the tournament I had been struggling with my right knee which had never properly recovered from surgery and a much to rapid return to competitive Squash in the UK the previous year. However the combination of wonderful treatment from the resident Chiropracter Dr Joe Pelino, known as ACT or Active Release Therapy and the extraordinary anti-inflammatory and restorative affects of Cheribundi, saw me progress from little more that a limping invalid in my first match to a veritable terrier or perhaps more aptly a Golden retriever in the final against Dominic.
Since then I have continued drinking Cheribundi as near to daily as I am able and have recommended its use, welcoming all skepticism to many clients and friends.
Both I and my fellow Cheribundi drinking acquaintance and friends have reported nothing but positive results in the interim. In addition to the anti-inflammatory affects, recent research has revealed that Tart Cherry juice, of which Cheribundi is composed (with nothing else but a little apple juice for sweetness and preservative) has also been found to have valuable anti-aging properties and also to be one of the premier anti-oxidants available.
I strongly recommend that you research this product and, should you find the information interesting, order your Cheribundi from http://www.cheribundi.com.
You will not be disappointed.
( This may be a suitable juncture, my fellow traveller, at which to search out some refreshment or to otherwise prepare yourself for the next stage of the battle.)
Let us return to my friend Dominic Hughes.
Not only is Dominic a fierce, but fair, magical and merciless competitor – he is also an avid student of the game and all things Squash related. During and after the Canadian nationals I and one of our fellow competitors, Chris Sadler from Barrie, Ontario, waxed lyrical to Dominic on the subject of diet and in particular a wonderful program lately gathering much attention known as the Paleo Diet.
Both Chris and I and my wife Pat had been following this eating system and had both lost a good deal of weight and found ourselves with more energy.
Dominic was interested and proceeded to take the time and trouble to research the thing. Finding that he liked what he saw, he plunged in and drank of the proverbial KoolAid.
Now, if , as I am sure most you are and have been, you are a serious competitor in this sport, you will know that, unpleasant as it is at the time, there is nothing better for one’s competitive juices than a good swift kick up the backside to get you back on the right track.
This, is turns out, is precisely what my encounter at the Canadian Nationals 2012 proved to be.
Dominic went home with less of a bee in his bonnet and more of a wasp up his backside. Oh don’t worry – he was extremely magnanimous in defeat after our match.
But he wasn’t happy.
So he went home, started the Paleo, and got mean.
And brother did he get mean!
( By all means take a breath at this point dear reader. Go ahead. Inhale with gusto! It’s free.)
The next major event on the calendar in 2012 was the World Masters in Birmingham, England.
Following our 6 month sojourn in the UK, in consideration of my pre-Canadian nationals knee worries and my distinct lack of funds after attempting to make some sort of a living in the UK, Pat and I decided that I would not enter the World Masters. I really didn’t think I would be fit quite honestly and as much as it grieved me ( since winning a World title is one of my fondest personal dreams) I decided that going home to Charleston and building a new business so we could pay our bills, was the better form of valor.
As luck would have it, things fell into place very nicely as I first went and did a summer camp for Dominic at his wonderful club Berwyn ( where my son Joe is happily building his and Berwyn’s reputation for being a first class teaching academy and welcoming Squash and Fitness club), then visited my great friend Damon Bourne at the lovely Madison Squash Workshop and spent a great week working with him and his members and finally landed at the stellar Meadow Mill Athletic club at the invitation of the charismatic ‘Squash Mom’ Deborah Gore-Dean and club owner Nancy Cushman, where I enjoyed working with nationally ranked children for the first time in the USA in years – in any meaningful sort of way.
This proved to be providential as there was room indeed a need for an addition coach to run one of Mrs Gore-Dean’s academies and happily I was able to fill the spot. An easy direct flight from Charleston to Baltimore facilitated my weekly visits for the foreseeable future.
So my financial stability was less uncertain and professionally I was on the kind of track that I love to ride – helping talented people on the amazing life-journey that is Squash
( Should you have a glass of water or orange juice to hand – or perchance a beverage of a more adult nature – now would be an excellent moment the wet or indeed whet (should you wish it to achieve sharpness) the whistle.)
Meanwhile my friend Dominic, had entered the World Masters in Birmingham.
Having done so and having lost to me in Canada and having started on the Paleo diet, he was becoming leaner and meaner by the day.
It is perhaps an understandable trait of my countrymen in dear old England, that – when they are unfamiliar with a chap from over here, and that none of the chaps over there can immediately vouch for him, a chap from over here may not seem worthy to the eminent chaps over there. And when a chap does not appear worthy, then a chap doesn’t get seeded.
Now lest it be said that I am tarring the whole of the wonderful English Squash family with one brush, let me say that the work that England Squash Masters have done in developing Masters squash is ( in my humble opinion and based solely on my experience) foremost in the world and we ( not just the English ‘we’ as in ‘me’ – but the whole masters world ) should be grateful because Masters squash would not have progressed anywhere near to its current healthy and strongly evolving state without that august body.
However I did personally write to advise the seeding committee that Dominic was at least as strong if not stronger than myself. That may of course, have ultimately been to the detriment of Dominic as the honorable Chairman of the England Squash Master, the ebullient and evergreen Martin Pearse ( the Chairman) has always thought of me as, and I quote, ‘Millman, that little fat bloke who can’t move.’ Now in fairness he has revised that assessment in recent years and has been most generous to me, but one can’t help thinking that the image may have remained with others who disdained my estimation of Dominic. Or perhaps my missive miscarried and failed to reach the target.
Whatever the case, Dominic Hughes,revved up his computer and opened the draw of the 2012 50+ World Masters Championships to find himself unseeded, directly in the path of one Geoff Davenport of Australia, number one seed, a player who had never lost a match in his entire World Master’s career.
Other’s would have complained, muttered, moaned. Appealed for reason or some such.
He was already mean. I’d seen to that.
Now -he got meaner.
I can’t personally describe the events as they unfolded as I wasn’t there ( I am sure you are grateful for that particular absence.)
This, however, is my understanding of how events unfolded:
In the first round I believe that Dominic prevailed unencumbered. In the next round he was due to meet a seeded player – as it happens a school chum of mine by the name of John Cordeaux – one of the bravest players I ever met on a Squash court – lately making a wonderful comeback after an enforced medical absence from the game of many years.
Dominic emailed me for the inside scoop on John to which I had to apologetically say nay as I felt I couldn’t help Dominic against John anymore than I could help John against Dominic.
As it happened the issue was moot as John pulled out with an injury.
This left Dominic up against Geoff Davenport – possibly one of the most dominant number one seeds in the whole of Masters Squash.
My good friend Mark Talbott was taught the meaning of the words ‘Overconfidence can be disastrous’ by his wonderful and equally legendary father Doc Talbott.
It’s a good story that I won’t tell here that ends with Mark wearing women’s underwear and sitting on a plate of ice-cream.,
Anyway I don’t say that he was overconfident but, the esteemed and acclaimed Davenport never really knew what hit him. Eyewitnesses to the crime tell me that Dominic abused the former champion in four games. Sorry Geoff….. hope you enjoyed your flight back to Oz. Ouch!
Dominic then had to play my old nemesis the extraordinary evergreen Scot Alan Thomson. If you regularly subject yourself to my scribbling, you will know that I have had epic tussles with this grizzly Caledonian who is rightly well celebrated by the poets.
Sadly for Alan, Dominic hadn’t heard the poets and the gritty Scot was summarily dismissed in three.
Next was the semi final. Dominic’s opponent for this may not be a familiar name to regular sufferers of my prose but to any international Squash person he is a legend. Zainal Abijdin has been the terror of Singapore for many-a-year. His deception is mythical.
A battle royal ensued where Dominic had his backbone and his intestines rearranged on a constant basis. According to Dominic, in the fifth game Abijdin exclaimed the words ‘there’s hope!’
The sudden realization that the Singaporian had actually been feeling hope-less, immediately re-invigorated Dominic and he dug deep to eke out the win of a lifetime.
It was an extraordinary performance. Unseeded he had decimated the draw and the tougher half at that. Meanwhile our Canadian/Irish friend Willy Hosey had ripped through the bottom half unscathed.
Dominic appeared in the final against Willy but his battle had been fought in the semi. Lean, mean and a champion in all but name he returned to the USA.
I watched with interest. And fear.
( Should you find yourself at this point in the throes of a titanic struggle to keep your fluttering eyelids open – give it up! Release yourself to sleep’s warm embrace – even if it should be 11.15am. Otherwise: Gird yourself traveller! We go on!)
The summer came and went. Fall season was upon us and with it the intensity that is the US Junior Squash scene. Rankings, tournaments, infinite lessons and of course in Baltimore the academies.
For me it was a refreshing and interesting re-entry into the junior world. Having had relatively little to do with it for the preceding 6 years in Charleston I found myself incognito, literally unknown to the fast majority of the parents and children of the US Junior scene despite my long and without wishing to be immodest rather successful track record.
As a result the students that came to me were initially the second tier kids – those that were the bronze and silver students other than one or two higher level players who knew what I was all about.
So I set to to do the job that I love – build people -through the medium of Squash – from the ground up. And what fun I had ( and am having at the time of writing).
People that had never been exposed to the concepts and systems that I used were alternately fascinated and amazed and my business flourished, bolstered by my wonderful three days a week in my beloved Charleston – finally back in my beautiful home with my back porch facing the natural wetland and the man made lake behind our house.
Even one day of sun and the polite and friendly company of Charlestonians – particularly those in my neighborhood – and I can easily face the grey winter days of that country close to or north of the Mason-Dixon line. Without that day or two however…. call the therapist and make me an appointment!
The weeks turned into months and as Thanksgiving and the holidays approached, thoughts of the US Nationals and 2013 approached.
Time to plan. Time to train. Time to think about Dominic Hughes.
What did he have in store for me.
What could I offer to him?
Of course imagination is a powerful and sometimes powerful thing. What was Dominic up to? Having lost to me in Canada and then performed so startlingly well in the Worlds, I could only think that, in the words of the vernacular, at the US Nationals he would ‘bring it.’
Of course forewarned is forearmed and with that in mind I started to prepare.
Hope for the best. Expect the worst.
I started doing more sprint work on the bike. Typically 4 to 6 one minute on, one minute rest. I started upping my morning work out. First 20 push-ups, 20 leg raises, 20 lateral leg lifts each side, repeating the sequence twice if I could manage it.
Eventually I got doing just one set of 50 of each of them – although I seemed to fatigue out on the push-ups and could only do 50 some of the time.
I started arranging games with the other pros at Meadow Mill. Trying to keep up with guys of 10 or 20 years younger than me. Hard work – but I did OK and all the time I was feeling fitter.
By the time we got into early January I was planning a preparatory tournament – the South Eastern’s at Tom Rumpler’s club in Atlanta – Mid Town.
Now I don’t want to offend anyone, but Tom does run a superb tournament. If you haven’t been to one of his events – go. Perhaps the best is the Grand Masters in the first week in December – whether you are from the US, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean or even if you fancy a trip from the UK – you won’t be disappointed. The draws are excellent and the hospitality first class.
By the way at this point it was almost a year since we heard the terrible news of Michael Rothenberg’s passing. I miss him and I know a whole host of you in the Squash community do. He was one of ‘the ones’ you know – they don’t come around too often. Too soon gone.
As if that wasn’t enough suddenly there was news of one of our most beloved coaches being ill. Bob Callahan is a legend. He is the father of the modern Squash camp. All other camps are based on his superb original design. And the countless young men that have graduated from his Princeton program who have gone on to be leaders in their fields and throughout the world – well his contribution is beyond value and beyond my capacity to adequately describe. Bob, as you may know is stepping down from his post. But we of the Squash world will always be grateful and never forget him. He is a hero in the story of Squash. Thank you Bob.
Anyway back to my preparations for my expected forthcoming confrontation with one my personal Squash heroes – the aforementioned Mr Dominic Hughes.
Off we popped to Atlanta. Taking this opportunity, we visited with our dear friends Lana and Ed Quibell. Lana was off to visit her daughter Michelle in Seattle on the Saturday so our only chance to spend an evening with her was Friday.
This we did with, as it turned out, excessive gusto.
Generally I am religious about not drinking alcohol before competitions. Doc Talbott taught me that 72 hours is the minimum required to get it out of your system -so I just avoid it altogether – usually.
But we were having a great time with Ed and Lana. Ed is a great lover of red wine – and so am I – and Ed is a superb host. Before I knew it four bottles were gone.
And the ladies weren’t drinking.
When I woke up on Saturday – three hours before my first match, I wasn’t sure what State I was in.
State. Province. Country even.
I got to the club and tried to avoid eye contact and certainly conversation with anyone.
I was finding it difficult to put coherent thoughts together – never mind having a cheery chat with an old friend.
I went to warm up on a bike and tried to drink a small lake full of water in hopes of flushing out the guilt and some of the wine.
Eventually my opponent, Brian Warner – the son of the sponsor – arrived; and we played a somewhat brittle, short sharp match that I won. I don’t think any of the rallies were more than 7 shots. I don’t know if Brian had been on the same track as me the previous evening, but fortunately for me he didn’t ask me to do too much.
This took me to the semi finals against one Atlanta’s great players and characters, the Malaysian magician, Chris Tham. Chris played for Malaysia as a junior. His hands are simply ridiculous. Fortunately his usual physical state is less magical and if one can return his crazy shots, he will eventually run out of gas. That’s the theory anyway.
On this occasion the program worked out somewhat differently.
The first two games were neck and neck with me flinging my pickled frame around the court to retrieve the deft flicks and boasts that he spewed carelessly from his mercurial hands. I won them both 11-9. In the third game I was going to do the same again and of course, I knew that Chris would probably give up – as this much work was not normally in his personal game plan. All was going to plan except Chris didn’t seem to understand the formula that I had prescribed and unbelievably – kept trying.
I lost the game 8-11. Irritating, but no harm done I thought. I’ll just hurt him in the next one and he’ll collapse. Sadly the script that I was writing didn’t account for a strangely enthusiastic Chris Tham and the quantity of wine that I had imbibed. It turned out that the ‘collapsee’ was me, as Chris wracked my body with pain asking me to go get myriad boasts and then volleying whatever I managed to get back. My legs absolutely turned to jelly and I lost 11-2 in the fifth.
I limped home to Charleston, much chagrined.
Subtext: Never drink before a tournament. Ever.
But I wasn’t out of the woods.
( This is probably a good time to take a break. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No really…… I promise I won’t go anywhere.)
I now had less than two weeks until the US Nationals at Natalie Grainger’s new club Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Connecticut.
Plenty of recovery time right?
I went up to Charlotte, North Carolina where I coach one or two days per week.
I got on court and … still couldn’t move. Nothing. Nada. Legs not working. Zero spring. Zero take-off.
In this sport if you don’t have a good first step you may as well have no steps at all. Especially against someone like Dominic Hughes. When Dominic intercepts it’s like daylight robbery. You see it happening but you can’t believe that anyone would do that right in front of you.
I went up to Baltimore and played a couple of games against some decent opposition and sort of picked my body up and threw it at the front of the court in desperation. It wasn’t pretty and my confidence didn’t improve.
After that it was off to Stamford.
The new facility at Chelsea Piers in Stamford is very impressive. With multiple Ice Rinks, Swimming Pools, Gymnastics halls, a dozen Tennis courts, 12 beautiful new Squash Courts, fitness and weights galore, pro-shops, cafeterias, waiting rooms, auditoriums, creches………….. well you get the idea. It’s like a veritable Disney for sports.
All the courts are basically the same except the end one that has a glass side-wall. Yuck! Not just ‘ Yuck’ for this court mark you. No…’Yuck’ in general for all single glass sidewall courts and even two glass sidewall courts with grey non-descript backgrounds. Depth perception goes out of the window (literally!) and instead of the game being the focus, the fear of losing the ball becomes the main concern and desperately detracts from the match at hand. You’d think in this day and age architects and Squash professionals would have ironed out all the kinks so that courts like the all glass and three-sided glass at Yale and the amazing fishbowl at Trinity where blue glass is backed by blue walls, would be a thing of the past. In my view Yale’s all glass would be better with dark walls and using a white ball and Trinity would be better either stocking that court with Beluga whales like the Aquarium in Atlanta where we all had such a wonderful time the last time they ran the Nationals, or at least choosing a seriously dark color for the outside walls and using a white ball. The last time I played against Dominic there we both felt like we needed sub-aqua gear and came off the court with a nasty case of the Bends!
At the Chelsea Piers facility all the courts are pretty consistently good with the exception of the glass sidewall court – which probably would be better with a bright white twin vue film applied to it so that the contract with the black ball would be sufficient.
I would also suggest Tennis Umpires chairs behind all the courts to that referee’s could be heard and could get a decent view of the players and vice-verse.
It was however wonderful for everyone to be in the same venue and the camaraderie of the Nationals – which is an essential factor for people coming from all over the country – was first class.
I started my campaign with a match against DC player Ross Campbell. He volleyed everything and gave me conniptions until I realized that he was standing at least a yard behind the short line for the entire match. I played a drop shot from the back of the court which he never moved to. So I played another. And another. And another. You get the picture. Lucky for me he didn’t manage to adjust.
In round two I played Mark Sealy from Barbados. A former Tennis player who was built like a couple of garages stuck together, he gave me a terrific tussle before I finally put in one very long rally that seemed to sap him and I came out as a 3-1 winner. Fortunately my legs did work and I finished this one feeling marginally better than I did against Ross, which in turn was marginally better than I felt the week after the Southeasterns.
I was progressing at the rate of a turbo charged snail. But I was progressing.
Next was the semi final.
I had been warming up religiously, drinking a bottle of Cheribundi everyday and drinking water to the point that I needed to visit the men’s room every five to ten minutes.
In addition I had been using a neoprene roller to stretch with both before and after my matches and was feeling much better with regard to muscle and joint flexibility and mobility.
My opponent in the semi was Mark Reed from New Hampshire who had lost to Dominic in the final the previous year. Mark had a superlative ability to play straight attacking short volleys – many of which resulted in kill shots. It took me a while to adjust to this as I am so used to players ( other than Dominic) struggling with my floats and lobs and so I was unprepared for a player like Mark who positively relished these shots for a while. However I have so often found over the years that this apparent love affair with playing attacking volleys from my floats and lobs can be something of a Trojan horse as what first feels like a successful venture often deteriorates into torture as the the energy with which players first attack gradually ebbs and eventually, reaching up for the float or lob become so physically debilitating that the player becomes fatigued beyond the point at which they can defend themselves. Fortunately for me this seemed to be the situation with Mark, who having played so well to begin, ran out of gas.
This one I won in three straight – to progress to the final – and the aforementioned worriesome encounter with Dominic.
I never pay much attention to how things are going on the otherside of the draw in my tournament play. I am so consumed with playing each of my matches that I don’t seem to have the time or the inclination to check things out on that score. However, I did bother to find out what happened in Dominic’s semi with my friend Will Carlin.
Now I know Will has been revitalized of late having gotten past injuries and to a point in his life where he feels able to give of his best in training and competition. So I suspected he was on a warlike path. And so it proved as he had apparently given Dominic quite a battle, narrowly missing what would have been an historic win, in the end losing an incredibly tight four setter.
One can’t read too much into these situations but I have to say I was happier with Dominic playing a four set semi than I would have been if it had only been three.
So we came to our final. And for this game I had an interesting and quirky piece of good fortune. As I was warming up I bumped into Eric Raynor from Salt Lake.
We passed the time of day and Eric mentioned that he had watched the final of the Canadian 50+ the previous May where Dominic and I had had a humdinger and I had somehow, miraculously gained the 14-12 in the fifth victory that had been the precursor to Dominic’s stellar World Masters run. In the course of our chat Eric expressed his admiration for how I had, on a number of occasions during that match, held the ball at the front of the court and suddenly and deceptively smacked it straight down the wall past Dominic resulting in an outright winner. When Eric mentioned this I was somewhat dumbfounded as I had completely forgotten about this tactic which I had fallen upon entirely by chance. Pondering on this, I wished Eric a pleasant day and continued my preparations.
The first game with Dominic was a close run affair with nothing much to choose between us. It was a bit frantic as nervy first games sometimes are and I got to game ball first. However Dominic stiffened his resolve and turned things around at the last moment and won the game.
In the second the rallies got longer and became more about testing each other than winning points. I suddenly remembered my conversation with Eric and, waiting for the right opportunity, when Dominic took me to the front of the court, unloaded the passing shot. It worked. I then set to building tough rallies as my fitness felt good and although I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific, I didn’t feel that Dominic was his usual sparky self firing on all cylinders.
I won the second quite strongly and then the real test came in the third. We had some amazing rallies and I must say my court coverage surprised me. I was able to retrieve a lot of Dominic’s wonderful attacking shots and returned them with some interest into the back corners – with occasional passing shots a la Eric Raynor-esque description.
Finally we had a mammoth rally during which we took the ball and each other to the four corners of the world, before I put Dominic in the back forehand corner and he capitulated, hitting a boast whilst leaning against the sidewall. I of course hit his boast exactly back to where he was standing and he duly won the point, but the die was cast – he had leaned against the wall.
After that I won the third and gained a good lead in the fourth. My mind couldn’t quite handle the idea that I was leading and several times I nearly strayed from the game plan to start thinking about the result and even to whether I was going to throw it away – which is of course stupid because one can’t throw away something that one doesn’t yet have – but such are the ludicrous machinations of the mind if one ever stops focusing on performance and game plan in favor of the outcome and winning or losing.
It is a lesson easily explained but it can be a lifetime in the learning.
In the end I prevailed and in spite of my fears of the specter of a vindictive Dominic Hughes coming back to bite me after our match in Canada at the end of the previous season, I played a great match and won my second US Nationals 50+ title. Dominic was particularly complimentary in his comments after the match – which is the mark of the man – magnanimous in defeat. I am pretty sure that he didn’t feel or perform his best – but he never made mention of this to me.
I stepped upstairs to the very pleasant and ambient bar that I am sure is a testament to Natalie Grainger’s professional understanding that Squash and conviviality are essential partners, and ordered a very satisfying glass of Bourbon (the first alcohol that had passed my lips since my debacle in Atlanta.)
(I feel it important at this point to mention nutrition. You simply can’t keep reading without some proper nourishment. What’s in the fridge? A toothsome lettuce leaf? A chunk of relatively unmildewed cheese perhaps. Yesterday’s Chinese? Feel your stomach grinding? Quick. Eat. And then…who knows where we are going to blog off to next…….?)
Earlier on during the tournament I had asked Dominic if he was coming to the Canadian’s again this year in May. He told me that he thought it unlikely as he had plenty to do back at Berwyn. After our final I wondered if his competitive juices would be flowing extra hard and if he would change his mind. But he didn’t and when just under two months later the draw for the Canadian National’s came out, his name was nowhere to be seen.
The other name I was expecting with great trepidation was that of Dominic’s vanquisher in the final of the World Open in Birmingham – the amazing Willie Hosey.
The tournament was being held at the Mayfair Parkway Racquet club in Markham, Toronto – where Willie is the pro.
Imagine then the mixture of feelings I experienced when I discovered that Willie’s name didn’t appear in the 50+ draw but instead was in the 40+ draw.
On the one hand I wouldn’t have to deal with the World number 1 over 50 but on the other hand I wouldn’t get to play the World number 1 over 50.
Then I stopped to think for a moment. There was no guarantee that I would get to that stage of the event anyway even if Willie did enter.
It is a peculiar fact of life that we find it easier to step up against a player ranked just above ourselves in Squash than we do to fend off a player ranked just below us.
I find this a particular enigma since my years of experience as both a player and a coach have made it clear that human beings find it a lot easier to fight for survival than to kill. You will often notice that at the very moment it seems as though an opponent is going to finish off the player he trying to beat, that the player who appears about to be beaten will make a desperate last ditch fight and escape his predicament.
Why then do lower ranked players do well against players just above themselves while stronger players are so susceptible to players just below them?
I believe that the weaker player sees themselves in optimism as the hero in their own story while fear of failure leads the stronger player to visualize losing their position.
Once again we see the mental malaise of worrying about losing something that we don’t possess, for we are only as good as each performance we give and so our minds must always focus on our next performance and not waste time in idle debate about what we should or shouldn’t be capable of.
This being said I looked online to discover my name listed as the number one seed for the Canadian National 50+ championship 2013.
In hopes of saving some dough I got a cheap flight from Charleston to Buffalo and took the Greyhound to Toronto. It turned out to be a dubious economy because by the time I had spent the four hours on the bus and then another hour and a half on the subway and bus to find my hotel, I was pretty much burnt out.
On Thursday morning I made my way, via exorbitant taxi, the five minutes up the road to the Mayfair Parkway club. It is a beautiful facility with Tennis,Swimming, a well appointed Gym, Spa and Wellness centers, Squash and essentially – a wonderful Bar and Grill which is the heart of the club.
The first thing that struck me when I walked into the tournament control area ( on the doubles court) was the swarm of Canadian referees in official T shirts milling around.
Wayne Smith the Kiwi Head Referee does a first class job of keeping a tournament organized and on time and the Canadian Referees are the best in the world in my opinion. They understand how to keep the game flowing but they don’t penalize players with no-lets when an opponent plays a tight shot but doesn’t give access to the ball.
I think the UK referees would benefit from spending some time with their Canadian counterparts. I’m just saying. No offence intended.
My first match was against the father of a junior player who is well known in the states – Gilles Chemtob and his daugher Chloe were up from Orlando for the event.
Gilles played very well and I was a little rusty to begin and he gave me some very nice games, before I won 3-0.
I notice that if I am not playing regular competition I quickly forget the fine details of how to play my brand of competitive Squash. I find myself asking myself ‘ What is it that you do that makes your particular game of Squash unique and successful?’ There is no doubt that the nuances of competitive Squash are not like riding a bike. If you don’t keep your competitive match play polished and current, it will desert you and you will find yourself – no matter your previous successes and reputation – rather like the Emperor in his new clothes – naked and embarrassed as to what to do. Fortunately a few matches will kick you back into your familiar ways – as long as you make it through the first few rounds without getting beaten. I always remember the great tennis commentators when speaking of Borg and Sampras and the likes talking about their vulnerability being greater in the early rounds.
This happened to me in both the US Nationals and the Canadians and warrants more ‘warm-up’ tournament play in future. A good lesson to remember.
In my next match I had to play another Canadian – Steve Wasilenko. Steve was another firm striker of the ball. Fortunately for me I don’t think he had often had to deal with my particular brand of lofted early volley and deception and despite giving a good account of himself to begin with, I was able to wear him down, winning in three straight.
While playing this match I happened to look up into the balcony and saw that an icon of our game – Tony Swift – was watching. As will become clear, this was of particular moment to me.
I started playing Squash at the age of twelve when I gained a scholarship to an English boarding school – Gresham’s school – in the county of Norfolk. I was an awkward kid and never really fitted in well, having moved home so many times and having had to try and establish myself in the pecking order countless times.
A teacher suggested I try Squash as I seemed to have the sort of personality that he thought might be suitable.
I labored at the game for some time and more through hard work than skill fashioned myself into a steady but unremarkable junior player. I was at the same time fortunate and unfortunate to come into a team of brilliant players. Our coach was the well known and infamous Malcolm Willstrop, father of James Willstrop. Willstrop and I were never able to see eye to eye – he seeming to see me as an impostor having come from a state school and me seeing him as a monster who ( I thought) took pleasure in beating me whenever he saw fit.
Nevertheless we both persevered and eventually I made it into the fifth spot on a team of five. There I stayed from the age of twelve until I left the school at eighteen.
I never won a tournament in all that time until, in my final year, I entered the Eastern Area Junior Championships. The others on my team all entered the Yorkshire Area Junior Championships.
Anyway, off I went to the town of Bedford to play in the ‘East.’ I was unseeded I believe, but minus my team mates, for the first time in a tournament ( I was a tough team player in team Squash and rarely lost for the team) I stepped up to the plate. The number one seed was an England ranked junior – Jonathan Cook – a local star. His coach and the then National Coach of England was one Tony Swift. All of us boys at Gresham’s knew who Tony was as he was the first National coach we had ever read about ( as it happens he was the first National Coach – but we didn’t know that) and he was at the pinnacle of the English game.
I don’t remember the details too well, but I remember I played out of my skin and beat Jonathan Cook in the final. My first ever tournament winner’s trophy was handed to me by National Coach Tony Swift.
You can understand therefore, why looking up into the balcony and seeing Tony standing watching my match as a 53 year old was still somewhat emotive.
I won the match and moved on to the semis where I had to play a solid player from Barrie Ontario – Chris Sadler.
Purely incidentally I had seen a few rallies of Chris’s quarter-final against Bill Lam and had noticed how close it was. On checking the draw sheet for my time/court I saw that Chris had won in a very close five. When I finished my warm up before playing Chris I had seen him trying to run down the hallway. It wasn’t pretty.
In the event Chris tried to superheat the ball to pound me off the court. Sadly for him his body was way too tender and he couldn’t generate the movement or the power he was seeking. I won in three straight. Chris was very generous in his comments afterward but I feel that he was just too frazzled to give a proper account of himself.
In the other half Tom Powers from St Catherine’s Ontario was playing number two seed Tom Brown from Manitoba.
I didn’t really know much about these guys other than a little bit of scuttlebutt I had picked up from friends. I knew that Dominic Hughes had beaten Tom Powers the previous year, but I didn’t know any details and I wasn’t going to read anything into that. Dominic has polished me off pretty frequently so I know how that feels!
Their match was pretty competitive in the first two games – Tom Powers winning 12/10 and 11/9. Evidently in the third game Tom Brown faded somewhat.
So we came to the final.
The match was played on one of the two side-by-side glass backed courts that had video feeds and bleachers that could hold at least a couple of hundred people.
I fully expected a partisan crowd as a Brit masquerading as a US Squash player I didn’t expect any favors from an Ontario crowd supporting a popular Ontarian in Toronto in the Canadian Nationals.
I did an extra long warm up as is my wont these days thanks to the spanking that Ross Norman gave me in the final of the British Open 50+ in 2010, where I realised that all Squash matches and in particular international finals, begin long before the referee calls the score at love all in the first game.
I confess I was a little daunted having seen Tom Powers in the locker room. The man doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him and gives a fair impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger when shirtless. I had vague hopes of him being muscle bound and therefore not too mobile, but he put that notion to bed in the first couple of rallies where he also gave a fair impression of Superman in retrieving my best lobs and drops.
Houston, I thought, we have a problem.
The first game was a brutal mix of my attempts at playing slow tight length against Tom’s determined and clear intention of generating enough heat to make the ball glow.
The trouble was he wasn’t a hacker with inaccurate smashing that bounced back harmlessly. No. He had the length and width pretty much down and I was reduced to desperatlely flicking the ball as it barely came off of the back wall.
Not that I was completely dominated at that point. The rallies were competitive, long and physical – and I like that in a first game, because it often tires my opponents out for the second. I worked the ball high to the back and he drove the ball hard and looked for loose ball to agressively volley.
It was tight, but he won the first 11/9.
I would have preferred to win the first of course, but I wasn’t too dismayed. I came off the court and started to go over the lovely card that my wife Pat had left in my bag. ‘Volley the return of serve. Take the ball early. Don’t go short too early.’
I decided the last piece of advice was particularly important in the next game – against a fit opponent who would be looking for weakness and attacking opportunities and would probably pounce on a short ball played too early before he was the least bit physically debilitated.
It was a good strategy. In the second I worked the ball high to the back and trapped Tom with dying ball in the corners, forcing him to boast or play short from the backhand back corner. He didn’t mind this as much as a less fit person would have as he was very confident in his coverage of the front corner. However, mindful of Pat’s advice, time and again when he played short, I got into position early, held the ball and then flicked a float back over his head.
I managed to get a small lead and held it despite determine resistance from Tom who managed to catch me unexpectedly with short winners from the backhand corner several times.
I won that game 11/8.
By now battle was well and truly joined and we both had a fair picture of what was happening.
I can only tell you the story of the match from my perspective of course – and Tom, I’m sure he sees it differently. That said, this is how the rest of the match seemed to unfold in my view:
Tom was now fully aware of my strategy of floating him relentlessly to the back court. I think he realised that this was dependent on my being able to set up both my movement and my ball control by being on balance. So he decided to do his best to pressure me off balance and to thereby limit my precision. I have to say he did a very good job. He wailed on the ball and I found myself stretched to the limit. As each rally progressed – me trying to work the ball high and tight and deep, while he was crushing the ball low and hard and deep, I found myself falling further and further behind. A neck and neck battle developed with me always seeming to be trying to come back rather than being ahead.
The voices on the balcony were gathering hope and enthusiasm and Tom seemed to feed off of that and to be gaining in confidence.
I lost the third 11/7 or 8 I believe and I think that score flattered me.
Dark clouds were looming.
The interesting thing was that as I came off the court, knowing that I was on the wrong end of the confrontation, I genuinely felt a fascination for the conundrum I found myself in. Rather than feeling fear of failure, I was consumed with trying to solve the strategic problem in front of me. I reviewed Pat’s notes and thought through the previous game. I realised that building a steady and patient rally was actually in Tom’s favor as it gave him time to settle and to use his marvellous power and mobility to gradually and unfailingly, little by little, overwhelm me.
I decided on a strategic change. I would still volley the return of serve. I would still take the ball early. But I would start the rally with an attacking drop volley. Not to win. But purely to stretch him. This would prevent his relentless development of dominance in a gradual build up and force him to retrieve under pressure from the get-go.
It definitely had some downside.
1) I was not only playing short early, I was playing short immediately.
2) If I tinned it I would just encourage my opponent.
However I felt pretty good about it. I wasn’t trying to win the point – only to stretch my opponent.
I set out in the fourth game with a straight drop volley which I followed up the court, looking to intercept whatever Tom did if I possibly could. He was surprised but used his unusual mobility to pick it up. But I was on him instantly and flicked the ball over his head to the back. Again he miraculously got there but again I was on it really early and played a quick short ball while he was still at the back. Incredibly he got it again but he was too far in arrears and my next shot was too much.
I maintained this for the whole fourth game. I got to 7-1 up before he really came up for air. I won the fourth 11-4 – all the rallies short sharp flicks and deception with an out of sorts Tom on the wrong end of them in the main.
I heard a few voices of friends of mine with ‘Come on Richard!’ in amongst the more numerous ‘Come on Tom!’ shouts. I felt better, but I suspected that my opponent wouldn’t be bamboozled for too long. The cat was out of the bag and he had ninety seconds to prepare his own change of tactics.
I started the fifth hoping to continue as I had in the fourth, knowing that I didn’t want a physical battle like the third. However my hopes were somewhat dashed when Tom smashed my serve back across the court to a perfect width and length. My heart sunk as I watched the ball roll out of the backwall nick. Was that smoke coming from the ball?
It immediately became evident that Tom had decided to pound me off the court with his tremendous power and physical prowess. However, where in the second game he had played shot that hurt me, he now tried to play irretrievable shot to completely beat me. This put enormous pressure on him as he took on a huge task. The rallies were very tight, but pretty soon he hit a huge tin and roared in pain. I settled in to try and play as tight as I could and to be patient. Something told me that if I was prepared to give Tom the opportunity to do so, he might be willing to give me the match in his desperation to overwhelm me.
As wonderfully fit as he clearly was, it had been a very hard match and when one plays with a narrow margin of error and one is tired, bad things happen.
Tom had already served four or five service faults in the match.
Now he hit three massive tins at crucial times.
Even so we were still neck and neck. But this time it always seemed to be me that was the one point ahead and him trying to come back.
We exchanged point for point in a series of highly physical, competitive rallies – me desperately trying to float the ball tight to keep him contained and he striving to generate early pace and power to utterly swamp me.
In the end we arrived at 10-9 match ball to me.
Another vital struggle for the upper hand ensued with continual contrasting exchanges of my floats to his power drives, with occasional low hard attacking blasts and attempts at wrong footing flicks. After about fifteen or twenty shots I played a slightly loose cross-court to Tom’s backhand which wasn’t very wide.
He saw an irresistible opportunity.
With full power he attempted a hard, low, reverse corner.
Unfortunately, instead of striking the sidewall he struck the front wall first.
Instead of a reverse corner his shot turned into a kind of low Corkscrew or ‘Philadelphia’ as it is known here in North America.
Now as experienced players know, the corkscrew or ‘Philadelphia’ is the only shot in Squash that visibly moves in the air ( except for some of Qamar Zaman’s shot and he was a super-being after all) and so I was now confronted with a very hot, bouncy ball, banana-ing towards me as I stood smack bang in the middle of the court.
It was a very nervy moment. I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sure how the ball was going react from the bounce.
I lifted my racket to prepare a shot and……….
Tom ran right through my swing into the ball.
He evidently thought I was going to play a drop and was determined to get there.
The referee didn’t hesitate: ‘Stroke to Millman.’
The marker announced ‘Game and Match.’
Tom was extremely disappointed – as you can understand – he had been so close and had been in charge for much of the match.
I was very happy.
I walked around the corner and sat on a comfortable couch that was in the hall way outside the swimming pool.
For a few moments I just sat and stared into space.
Then I laughed happily in both celebration and relief – and once again looked at the card that Pat had sent me.
Those few words on a piece of card had kept me focused on the task – and not the outcome.
( Congratulations dear reader! You have conquered a challenge almost as great as the match you have just read about! Undoubtedly you deserve a rest. Go, refresh and, if you have the spine for it, return here, undaunted and anew, to the fray!)
It has been my privilege and pleasure over the past several years to become enthralled, engaged and addicted to Master’s squash.
Undoubtedly some of the reason for this is my life-long love of Squash. And some of it is because I lacked the success that better players than me enjoyed in our respective younger years. But perhaps my strongest interest in Masters Squash is the players themselves. That extraodinary group of crusty, determined, sporting, charismatic, funny, intelligent, generous and hospitable human beings that year after year come back to battle each other on the courts and to ( perhaps of equal importance) to share a beer and a story and to contribute in myriad ways to the game we all love.
For me all of this is important and worthy of more than simply maintaining. In my view it is a very underdeveloped world wide resource.
And yet there are some wonderful examples and models that we have before us.
Prince of all these examples in my view are the bi-annual World Masters championships held last in Birmingham, England.
Next comes the Home Internationals between England Scotland Ireland and Wales and the annual competition between Australia and New Zealand ( I wonder if these could be expanded to include Japan and Hong Kong/ China?)
These international team matches fullfil a dream for many folks who, like myself, hold playing for one’s country as the ultimate combined expression of one’s love of the sport and of one’s country.
Next are the great Inter-provincial and team competitions. Here South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Australia and lately Canada are leading the way.
Bare in mind that my reporting here is a reflection of my current knowlegdge and I am very happy to be corrected and updated with any other Master’s Team information.
In an effort to grow Masters Squash and thereby the number of conversations over dinner or a beverage about our Sport in which I firmly believe the development of all aspects of our game are not only rooted but absolutely dependent upon, I have lately written a proposal for an International Masters Team competition between Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean ( West Indies if you like) and the USA. A sort of North American Home Internationals a la Great Britain and Ireland competition already in existence.
It is my hope that this competition, run on almost identical lines to its UK predecessor, will lead to a standardization in format that will eventually make way for bi-annual world Masters Team Championships to be held in the alternate year to the World Masters Individual championships.
It is my hope that host countries would compete to hold a world championships for one women’s and one men’s age group. Hence the World 50+ Team championships for Men and Women might be in Cape Town the same year as the World 35+ Team Championships might be in Buenos Aries while the 40+ and the 60+ might be in London and Sydney respectively. You get the picture. At the moment it is just a dream. But from lititle acorns………..
Here is the proposal in case those in Australia, Sweden, India, Slovakia, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, Kuwait, France etc would like to attempt to start their own competitions and thereby strengthen the bonds that tie us; at the same time as giving countless Masters players the chance to compete for the honor of their flag:
North American and Caribbean International Masters TeamsBi-Annual Championships
To initiate a formal annual competition between the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The annual competitions between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and between Australia and New Zealand have offered masters players in those countries the honor representing their nation in international competition for many years.
When the selection criteria became both standardized and objective in England some years ago, the numbers of masters players competing for a place on national teams led to a great increase in participation in the regional qualifying events and the happy combination of both new players trying out and old players returning to the sport.
Masters players are the ‘lifers’ of Squash and are frequently the most financially able to help the continued growth of the sport at all levels.
Giving Masters players ambition can only help the sport as a whole as increased tournament participation leads to residual increases in sanctioning and membership fees and increased volunteerism -especially in the fields of refereeing, administration, fundraising and sponsorship.
I propose that, beginning in June 2014, US Squash, Squash Canada, Federacion de Squash de Mexico and Caribbean Area Squash Association formalize a bi-annual competition to determine the North American Champions in each age group.
Further I propose that we adopt the very successful existing system used by England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This would not only make implementation very easy to follow but would also prepare us for Intercontinental play under the same system.
I have already received a challenge from England to send teams to North America for a series of test matches and I feel confident that World Squash would approve of the standardization of Masters teams organization to facilitate increased activity between World Masters nations.
I have set out a possible program below.
Outline of Inaugural North American International Masters Competition 2014
Friday evening June 5th, Saturday June 6th and returning home Sunday June 7th.
This date is after the completion of annual national Championships and far enough before the World Masters in Hong Kong. It is also at the end of the school year which may be helpful logistically.
Obviously it is the right of each participating association to choose an appropriate venue.
Each venue will be hosting up to four teams of five players per age group with a maximum of four age groups at each venue. So as an illustration, hosting associations may hold competitions as follows:
A) Mexico City, Mexico : WO35 will play with MO35, MO55
B) Toronto, Canada:: WO40 will play with MO40, MO60
C) Philadelphia, USA WO45 will play with MO45, MO65
D) Barbados, Caribbean: WO50 will play with MO50, MO70
( The venues – A B C and D would follow a 4 tier rotation – so that , for instance, Wo35 would be in Mexico in the first year of competition, Canada on the second rotation, USA the third and the Caribbean in the 4th.)
There may be as many as 4 teams per age group with the schedule being one match Friday evening, one match Saturday morning and one match Saturday afternoon.
A party and presentation dinner will be held on the Saturday evening with Sunday being the return travel day.
It is suggested that players/teams exchange commemorative mementos and small gift items of a traditional national flavor and that the host country/venue provide individual winners and runner up medals for the first and second place team players.
It is expected that the members of each age group team will work together to either find sponsors or grants or to self-fund. It is not expected that national associations will fund these competitions.
I should mention in closing this section the wonderful work done by many stalwarts of the game around the world on behalf of Masters Squash. Please support these heroes of our lives and thank them whenever you can. This is not intended to be self-serving. I am doing my best but my best would be as dust were it not for the pioneers who have already built the wonderful international masters programs that currently exist. I just hope to help join a few of the dots as it were, to continue the development.
Are Masters players a bunch of older folk getting together to have a good time for their own amusement? Definitely.
Are they perhaps the most underserved and potentially greatest undermined resource of the modern game of Squash? I think so. How about you?
( OK Immediately rush out and start a new masters program. Now! Go on! Don’t wait. What do you mean it’s the middle of the night? What kind of excuse is that? Alright, I suppose you can wait ’til the morning. Meanwhile steel yourself – there’s more to come.)
A House of Sand?
If you are reading this you are highly likely to be a died-in-the-wool, absolute believer in the game of Squash. As such you aren’t in need of convincing that our sport is worthy. Worthy of participation. Worthy of media coverage – perhaps you are less convinced on this. Worthy of inclusion in the Olympic games? With all of the effort made to persuade the powers that be of this – you would certainly hope so. However, we believers in Squash need to take a look in the proverbial mirror from time to time. It’s all very well to assume that the hands on the tiller of our sport are piloting us in the right direction and that our boat is a good boat, but if no-one bothers to check how would we ever no if we are headed for the rocks or ever so slowly sinking in a ship full of holes?
I am not trying to sink us. But I am trying to get everyone to take pride in making sure our ship is truly yare.
In our sport we have many people doing their best. We have promoters, administrators, players, coaches, parents, clubs, manufacturers, writers, publishers, editors, referees, commentators, bloggers, teachers, cameramen, photographers, video editors and others that I am sure I haven’t mentioned.
All of whom are focused on moving the game forward.
But what if the game is broken?
If you are on the inside of the game and convinced of how wonderful it is – how often do you stop to take a long hard look at it?
If someone on the outside takes a look at it and sees problems we would probably rouse up as one to defend our sport.
But wouldn’t it be better if we made sure it was as strong as we believed it to be before we picked a fight.
What am I talking about ? You may well ask.
All of the people that I mentioned earlier are operating under the assumption that the sport we all adore is sound – whole – not faulty.
But what evidence do they have for that assumption?
Hearsay? What their coach told them?
And where did their coach get the information? More hearsay? More previous coaches?
But who is actually checking to make sure?
We all have a responsibility to do so.
We all assume that Squash is wholesome because we love the game.
But all that does is further the generally accepted wisdom.
We need to check.
Very, very carefully and without glossing things over.
Sometimes in life we are so busy trying to execute our tasks that we don’t even ask whether the way we are trying to do the task is the right way or even that the task itself makes sense. Just so with Squash.
Everything that we do is based on the rules. But what if the rules are broken?
That would be a real problem wouldn’t it? If the rules were illogical and in the very way they were written misleading players, coaches, referees, administrators, reporters, manufacturers, sponsors, tv companies, international games committees etc……do you think that would be a problem?
I certainly do.
Of course we could do what most people do when the status quo is threatened. Quietly sweep the problems under the carpet and hope that no-one notices.
You might ask Richard Nixon how that worked out for him.
Of course World Squash hasn’t done that. They have commissioned a group to do a study. And that’s a good thing because :
OUR RULES ARE ILLOGICAL!!! ANY FRESHMAN LOGIC CLASS WOULD RIP THEM APART.
But if that’s true, why has no-one pointed this out before?
Well have you ever questioned whether the Rules made sense? Well they’re the Rules right? They just are.
When did you last read them? And if you have, did you read them with an enquiring mind? Did you ask yourself if they made sense?
Do you know anyone that ever questions whether they make sense?
That doesn’t mean they make sense. They need to be carefully and regularly reviewed by people who play the game at a very high level and who understand the game at all levels.
So if no-one asks these questions, how will we ever move forwards?
Well, I have asked and I have written a whole re-write of the Rules with my comments and suggestions.
I am sure that all my suggestions aren’t perfect. I have done my best to do them justice. Now it’s up to you.
If you really care about our sport, its future both inside the game and out, please spend a little time thinking about whether the Rules are logical.
So that all the hard work done by all those people that are involved in our Sport can base that work on an absolutely solid, unimpeachable foundation.
Not an assumption that it just must be right. And a busy population that would just prefer to sweep uncertainties under the proverbial carpet
You can see the rules and my comments and suggestions here on my blog at http://www.millmansquash.wordpress.com.
I would appreciate your thoughtful comments and suggestions. For the good of the game.
If we can get the rules right, there are a couple of other house keeping issues:
It’s often said that everything starts at the top and then trickles down to the bottom.
If that’s true let me ask these questions:
1. Why is is that the lowliest junior in the US rankings can’t get an end of season Ranking unless they pass a rules test and yet a PSA player can be a member of the world tour without doing so? They are Pros – they must know the rules, mustn’t they? Yeah. Right. Until the PSA makes all members pass a rules test the accepted standard is that you don’t have to know the rules to play at the top of the game. So why should any one else bother. Lift that carpet up, here are some more sweepings.
2. Do Inter-collegiate Coaches have to pass a rules test? How often do you think Inter-collegiate coaches read the updated rules? We don’t know because there is no continuing education – so we have to assume that you don’t need to know the rules to Coach college level Squash. And if the coaches don’t read the rules regularly, what about their players?
They must know the rules, mustn’t they? They are really good players. Yeah. Right. Are you still holding up that carpet?
If we don’t maintain high standards in house, how can we expect major games commissioners, sponsors and media to respect us.
When at the US Open last year, a former top 10 player lectured a referee, telling him that ‘ it can’t be a stroke if the ball comes off of the back wall,’ I winced and hoped that their was no-one from the world press or the IOC who actually knew the rules. What an embarrassment.
Sorry to mix the metaphors, but is our ship safe? Is our house built on rock or sand. And do we want to just hope for the best – or make sure before someone else questions it?
(Has anyone got a happy pill handy? That was a little dour wasn’t it? Hopefully it challenged you. If you wan’t a little change of scene go read my blog on the rules – I’m happy to wait while you do. Better safe than sorry ‘though. OK. We are getting close to the finishing line . Just one little sprint to go. Are you ready? Set?Here we go……………)
Most British or Australian readers will be familiar with the UK game that has enjoyed a recent surge of popularity – unfortunately given the name of UK Racketball.
Indeed regular readers of my epistles will be familiar with the game because I credit it as being the savior of my competitive Squash game after knee surgery and an injudicious early return to the competition court that resulted in further damage.
North American readers may not yet be aware of just what an impact this sport has had in the UK where in some large clubs more than fifty percent of the playing membership has permanently switch to this game.
World Squash Czar Andrew Shelley and legendary World Squash Domo George Mieras are sworn advocates.
Having spent a good deal of time on both sides of the Atlantic I am in a fairly strong position to comment on the flexibility and malleability of the British and North American participants of the game. Stubborn is the word that immediately comes to mind. Not that stubborness is necessarily a poor quality. No indeed inflexibility in the face of adversity is a wonderful quality. However in the face of the relentless march of time it is not an asset.
Having made the parochial error of calling this new sport Racketball – utterly unaware and apparently careless of the massive emotional and political connotations that word has in the United States, England Squash and Racketball and Scottish Squash and Racketball have successfully constructed a completely unneccessary and practically insurmountable barrier to the development of the sport in North America.
This is the point at which we find out if anyone is listening or indeed if anyone who is listening cares enough to actually do something rather than, too busy to take the time to make a positive contribution, the famous carpet will once again be lifted in order to receive the latest sweepings.
US Squash is hard at work promoting Squash and has no interest in promoting Racketball or Racquetball or anything that sounds like either of these two indistinguishable words.
So if this offshoot of our sport – which is terrific and because it results in practically zero joint pressure or damage may well be the savior of Masters Squash players throughout the world ( I choose my words very carefully – this is no exaggeration) is to progress, those that hold sway in the UK, those that hold sway in North America and in particular the overarching governing body – World Squash need to stop procrastinating and start taking an interest in working together to make sure that everyone benefits – in particular Squash.
Insular attitudes are completely understandable. Pressing local issues always seem to be of most concern. But ‘ to see ourselves as others see us’, to paraphrase and mangle Rabbie Burns’s great words, is essential if we are not to become irrelevant globally and through the onslaught of progress.
To facilitate the adoption and consequent advantages of this terrific version of Squash – and make no mistake this game is Squash – the same concept, the same strategies by and large, fantastic cardio-vascular benefits – more cardio actually than the original version of Squash for all except Professional Squash players, almost no joint damage – I have suggested a very simple procedure to World Squash.
Just call it Big Ball Squash.
After all we have Hardball Squash in North America. We have the Max Progress Squash ball all over the World. So why not Big Ball Squash.
The adoption of the name Big Ball Squash would have many huge advantages. It would stop the alienation of practically the entire North American community ( but who cares if you live in the UK – right? Well I hope you do if you live there – because we need a Global approach if Squash is going to be an Olympic and international concern and healthy in the future).
The name Big Ball Squash would bring the sport into the Squash fold – World Squash, England Squash ( not and Racketball), Scottish Squash ( not and Racketball).
The changing of the name of England Squash to England Squash and Racketball was extremely poorly thought through and very little research can have been done before hand.
Of course I am sure that I am ruffling someone’s feathers by saying this – but that someone should have checked out how emotive that additional word is in North America and how far back it would set the sport.
To further the development of our sport, I am asking you all to support this game in two ways:
1. Go and play Big Ball Squash if you haven’t already.
I don’t mean stop playing regular Squash. I just mean go and try this new game a few times. I promise you a great and pain free workout and a fun game. If you want to see it played there is plenty of video on Youtube. You can watch PSA player Darryl Selby and former World Champion Peter Nicol having a rare old time.
2. Advocate to whomsoever you can the adoption of the name Squash ( Big Ball Squash if you like – but Squash all the same) and let’s get rid of this ludicrous regional division so that we can move forward Globally.
Without some sort of move like this, I guarantee you that our sport – and I mean the whole gamut of Squash – will be held back years, because of local insistence on and revulsion for the name Racketball – which is not our Sport.
We are Squash – and proud.
What is it that John Lennon said? ‘Life is what happens while you are busy doing other things.’
If we are always too busy to notice, then we only have ourselves to blame when things don’t work out the way we would have liked them to.
Thanks for listening.
(Now try and keep calm. I don’t want you having a sudden and desperate bout of separation anxiety, but this is it. Yes – it. The end. Fini. No Mas. Eindlich. Eventually there will be more – just not now. Thanks for your company. I hope you enjoyed the read and I hope you will take action that you feel suitable based on what you have learned. Enjoy your Squash if you are a player and if not – my commiserations and although I can’t imagine how you are making it through your life without Squash, I wish you all the best. Au revoir.)
Richard C Millman
May 17th 2013.
For reprint or quotation please seek the author’s permission – firstname.lastname@example.org
THE RULES OF SINGLES SQUASH MAY 17TH 2013 (with accompanying Advice, Interpretation and Suggestions by Richard Millman)
THE RULES OF SINGLES SQUASH
May 17th 2013
(with accompanying Advice, Interpretation and Suggestions
The Rules as they are currently written as of February 2012 appear in black type.
Words in Italics are intended as thought provoking advice for anyone who is interested in the game of Squash.
Words in Bold Italics are offered as suggestions to consider in the future writing and implementation of the rules.
It is with great pleasure and honor that I offer this rendition of the Rules of Singles Squash complete with my personal advice, interpretations and suggestions.
The game of Squash is unique in the modern human experience, testing every mental, physical and emotional system that we command.
Truly it is the game of mind, body and soul.
How important then, is it that the Rules by which we play are clear and consistent in order to avoid misinterpretation by any participant or spectator? And that we make strenuous efforts to learn, understand and play by these rules?
In my work here I have tried to convey my contributions as logically as possible – remembering of course that a game that challenges and stimulates complex and intelligent minds is necessarily complex in and of itself.
And yet, the basic ideas of the sport are not confusing in their own right. Provided we explain the concepts and Rules of the game clearly, all participants, whether on or off the court, should be able to understand and execute the simple sequences that should be followed.
In the long and storied history of Squash, I hope that we are still experiencing the very youth of the game and that its evolution will enjoy a far longer future than the period that we have so far enjoyed.
If this is to be the case, we that are currently engaged in conducting the sport; whether players, coaches, referees, administrators, commentators, promoters or manufacturers; carry a high responsibility. That is to safely deliver our sport in the best possible condition to the generations to come.
To that end I would ask that you find time to read the following.
One final request:
In a busy world we are often focused on execution of the Status Quo because we are short of time. If the Status Quo is flawed however, we may find that much of the work we have done has been of reduced value.
If you are currently engaged in conducting some aspect of the game of Squash, I would ask you to stop for a moment and question the Status Quo that you accept on a day-to-day basis and ask yourself if there is some contribution – however small – that you can make to the logical ( and it must be logical, provable and definable) evolution of our game.
If you are a Referee – how much do you try and learn about the game from Coaches and Players?
If you are a Coach – how often do you read the Rules or keep up with the advances in the game?
If you are a Player or Commentator – how often do audibly discuss the Theory of Squash with other players, mentors, commentators or spectators?
If you are an Administrator – how often do you go and talk to Players, coaches, referees, spectators?
We all have our theories of Squash, but in being busy in our lives, how often do we examine the dearly held beliefs that our personal theories are comprised of?
John Lennon said that: ‘Life is what happens while we are busy doing other things.’
It isn’t easy to evolve, but every once in a while an opportunity comes along to ‘stop and smell the roses’ and to re-appraise and re-direct the road that we work so hard to travel along, day after day.
It may be that you are on the right road, but if you are, please take a moment to read this and perhaps pass on your thoughts,
so that those of us that are less fortunate than you, may see our paths more clearly.
I hope you enjoy the read – and the contemplation!
May 17th 2013
The game of Squash is played in a confined space, often at a high speed. The following principles are essential for the orderly playing of the game.
Safety: Players must always place safety first, and not take any action that could endanger the opponent.
Fair play: Players must respect the rights of the opponent and play with honesty. (More importantly, if you move at the appropriate time you will not only respect your opponent’s rights, you will maximize your advantage in a fair and proper way.)
1 The Game
1.1 Singles Squash is played between two players in a court, each holding a racket to hit the ball. The court, ball and racket must meet the WSF specifications in Appendices 7.1, 7.3 and 7.4.
1.2 Play consists of rallies( this is the key word – a Rally is the unit of play in Squash – the period during which players must focus their competitive attention at maximum level for the entire duration. There are no peaks and troughs in concentration, the player must operate at 100 per cent with their primary mental physical and emotional focus on the ball and their peripheral focus on the environment, until the rally is over. Coaches must beware not to allow their advice to players to become distractions. The ball is always the primary focus and comments like ‘get back to the T’ or ‘use a banana shape for movement into the front corners’ distract the player from the absolute focus on the ball that is necessary for a rally.When coaches have students focus on one particular stroke or aspect of the game, the emphasis given to that particular activity can become over-emphasis which in turn will lead to the player giving that activity an undue proportion of their attention and even to making the player think that the activity is a task in itself – ie: hitting a forehand drive – if the student views this activity as a separate task they will then habitually raise their attention level to execute what they perceive to be a self-contained task during the course of the rally – and then fatally drop their focus when they have completed this artificial task. Shots are not tasks – they are simply component parts of the rally – which is the shortest period of time for which a player must maintain 100 per cent continuous focus – with no interruptions – in Squash. The Rally is the task ), each starting with a serve. If the serve is good, the players return the ball alternately until the rally ends (see Rule 5).
1.3 Play must be continuous ( if play must be continuous – then so must attention to the ball – no intermittent distractions during the rally – as stated in my 1.2 comment) as far as is practical.
2 The Warm-Up
2.1 At the start of a match, the two players go on court together to warm up the ball for a maximum of 5 minutes. After 2½ minutes the players must change sides, unless they have already done so. ( Every court is different. Your first job is to establish what a good width and length is on this particular court. After that, it is perfectly reasonable to investigate what your opponent is good/bad at. You might try some lobs, a boast, a ball down the middle – just to see how the opponent deals with those. Don’t read too much into it as players are often different in the warm up to the way they are in the game itself. If however, the opponent is clearly weaker in one or other back corner, or seems slow to the front, or struggles with volleys – then take note!)
2.2 The players must have equal opportunities to hit the ball. A player retaining control of the ball for an unreasonable time is warming up unfairly and must be penalised under Rule 15 (Conduct).( As a practical fact and as proper etiquette, players should not hit the ball to themselves more than twice. More than that and the opponent feels alienated. We are there to try and win by our skill -not by gamesmanship).
3.1 The winner of a rally scores 1 point and serves to begin the next rally. (Hopefully if you are serving, you aren’t just starting the next rally, you are trying to gain an advantage to get ahead in that rally. Look at the opponent, see where they are standing and try and aim your serve at a point that will give them the most difficulty. Then before you hit the ball, get your body movement traveling at a momentum that allows you to get into position in time to defend against your opponent’s possible returns – before they can hit the ball. You always need to organize enough time to be waiting for the opponent to hit the ball. You can do this by combining good, early movement ( priority 1) with appropriately paced ( priority 2) and appropriately placed ( priority 3) shots. Make sure that your balance and weight are always a)directed toward and b)moving with, the ball – wherever it is. Try and develop a serving ‘ritual’. In other words a systematic approach to serving that you can reproduce time after time, perfectly. Consistency is what you want.)
3.2 Each game is played to 11 points, except that if the score reaches 10-all, the game continues until one player leads by 2 points.
3.3 A match is normally the best of 5 games, but may be the best of 3 games.
3.4 Alternative scoring systems are described in Appendix 3.
4 The Serve
4.1 The player who wins the spin of a racket serves first.
4.2 At the beginning of each game and after each change of server, the server chooses from which box to serve ( if, during the warm-up, you notice that the opponent is particularly strong on the backhand, you might start serving to the forehand. However, generally the backhand side for most players is the weaker side and is a good place to start. Having said that, anything you can do to break up an opponent’s rhythm is a good idea – so once you get into the match, it might well be worth mixing up which side you start from.). While retaining the serve, the server must serve from alternate boxes.
4.3 If a rally ends in a let, the server must serve again from the same box (‘though not necessarily with the same serve – remember to mix up the rhythm.).
4.4 If the server moves to the wrong box to serve, or if either player is unsure of the correct box, the Marker must inform the players which is the correct box.
4.5 After the Marker calls the score, both players must resume play without unnecessary delay. However, the server must not serve before the receiver is ready( If you think the opponent is serving before you are ready – just turn away from the opponent into the back corner until you are ready to receive. Don’t waste time – as soon as the score is called you should be prepared, but you can at least make sure that you receive fully prepared to play).
4.6 A serve is good,( in this case ‘good’ means legal – for a serve to be good follow my advice in 3.1 and 4.2 and try to develop a range of at least three different serves ( one standard and two variations) that you can use to help further break up the opponent’s rhythm.) if:
4.6.1 the server drops or throws the ball from a hand or racket and strikes it correctly on a first or further attempt before it touches anything else; and
4.6.2 at the time the server strikes the ball, one foot is in contact with the floor inside the service-box with no part of that foot touching any boundary of that box, and
4.6.3 the ball is struck directly to the front wall, hitting it between the service-line and the out-line; and does not hit the front and side walls at the same time; and
4.6.4 the ball, unless volleyed by the receiver, bounces for the first time in the quarter-court opposite to the service-box without touching any line; and
4.6.5 the ball is not served out.
4.7 A serve that does not comply with Rule 4.6 is a fault and the server loses the rally.
4.8 If the server drops or throws the ball but then makes no attempt to hit it, the server may make another attempt to serve.
4.9 A let is allowed if the receiver is not ready to return the serve and does not attempt to do so. However, if that serve is a fault, the server loses the rally.
5 THE PLAY
5.1 If the serve is good, play continues as long as a return( The word ‘return’ is interpreted as ‘getting the ball back.’ You don’t want to simply get it back – you want to do more than that.This might sound pedantic – but words are powerful and strongly affect thoughts. Ideally, you want to strategically move yourself into position while simultaneously striking a ball that gives you an advantage – or at the very least diminishes any advantage that your opponent may have gained with their last shot. So don’t just return it – plan how to use your shot to put you ahead in the rally. Not simply get back to where you were.):
5.1.1 is struck correctly before it has bounced twice on the floor; and
5.1.2 hits the front wall, above the tin and below the out-line, without first having bounced on the floor, either directly or after hitting any other wall(s); and
5.1.3 rebounds from the front wall without touching the tin; and
5.1.4 is not hit out; and
5.1.5 does not hit either player or the non-striker’s racket;
5.2 or until
5.2.1 a player requests a let or makes an appeal, or
5.2.2 one of the Officials makes a call.
6.1 A maximum of 90 seconds is permitted between the end of the warm-up and the start of play( an opportunity for you to once more carefully go over your game plan in your mind), and between each game( an opportunity to review how things went in the previous game and to consider how to adapt your game-plan if necessary. If a coach or friend is advising you – let what they have to say wash over you – don’t attempt to have a conversation – your job is to receive and assimilate information, not transmit it – and then just use what ever info that you feel is most useful. Don’t over complicate things – one or two ideas is plenty. Then re-affirm your game-plan and go to it. See if you can come up with a one or two word mantra that you can repeat between rallies to keep your game-plan on track.).
6.2 A maximum of 90 seconds is permitted to change damaged equipment. This includes glasses, protective eye-wear or a dislodged contact lens. The player must complete the change as quickly as possible, or Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied.
6.3 Intervals in the case of injury or bleeding are specified in Rule 14 (Injury).
6.4 During any interval, either player may hit the ball.
7.1 A match is normally officiated by a Marker and a Referee( The game of Squash is a spectacle and a drama – and it should be. Without going over the top, try to speak in a voice that is both clear enough and loud enough that both the players and the spectators know what is going on and are kept on the edge of their seats. This will both make the match run more smoothly and add to the sense of occasion for all concerned.), both of whom must keep a written record of the score(learn a simple system from your club coach or a local referee. Make sure you write down the score before you call it. Otherwise you may be looking at the marking sheet when something untoward – like a ball going out – happens.), which player is serving, and the correct box for service.
7.2 If there is only 1 Official, that Official is both the Marker and the Referee. A player may appeal any call or lack of call made by that Official as Marker to that same Official as the Referee( there is no appeal to that one official’s calls as Referee – only as Marker – be clear on the difference as per the descriptions of the duties of a Marker and the duties of a Referee in 7.6 and 7.7).
7.3 The correct position for the Officials is seated at the center of the back wall, as close to that wall as possible and just above the out-line.
7.4 An alternative Officiating system called the 3-Referee System is described in Appendix 4.
7.5 When addressing players, officials must use the family name.
7.6 The Marker must:
7.6.1 announce ( good word ‘announce’ – here again you should speak in a voice that implies a sense of occasion – enough volume and just a touch of drama that relays to both the players and the audience the import of the moment) the match, introduce each game, and announce the result of each game and of the match;
7.6.2 call “fault,” “down,” “out,” “not up” or “stop”, as appropriate;
7.6.3 if unsure about a serve or return, or unsighted, make no call;
7.6.4 at the end of a rally, call the score with the server’s score first, preceded by “hand out” when there is a change of server;
7.6.5 after a player’s request for a let, wait for the Referee’s decision, then repeat the part of that decision that affects the score, and then call the score;
7.6.6 after a player’s appeal against a Marker’s call or lack of call, wait for the Referee’s decision and then call the score;
7.6.7 when a player needs 1 point to win a game, call “game ball”, or if 1 point to win the match, call “match ball”;
7.6.8 when the score reaches 10-all, call “10-all: a player must win by 2 points”.
7.7 The Referee, whose decision is final ( final means final – don’t try and drag your appeal on – otherwise you are likely to get a conduct warning):
7.7.1 must ensure that the court is satisfactory for play and postpone or suspend the match if this is not the case. If a match is suspended and resumes later, the score stands;
7.7.2 must allow a let if, through no fault of either player, a change of court conditions affects a rally;
7.7.3 may award the match to a player whose opponent is not on court ready to play, within the time stated in the competition rules;
7.7.4 rules on all matters, including all requests for a let and all appeals against a Marker’s call or lack of a call;
7.7.5 must, if disagreeing with the Marker’s call or lack of a call, rule immediately, stopping play if necessary;
7.7.6 must, if the Marker calls the score incorrectly, correct the score immediately, stopping play if necessary;
7.7.7 must enforce all the Rules relating to time: and
126.96.36.199 must announce( again all these calls should relay a sense of moment, the imminent approach of the action. Don’t go over the top – but having a match Marked and Refereed should heighten focus and importance and thereby crystallize the effort levels of the players. If your voice is dull and boring or if you are checking your text messages or talking to your buddy through the performance of your scoring duties, the players and the audience are going to feel as though the occasion is of no moment and the whole deal will feel like a bit of a damp squib. As a Marker and Referee you have an opportunity to subtly add to the sport of Squash – without ever affecting the fair outcome of the match. See my intonation advice in Appendix 2.) “Half-time” during the warm-up, unless the players have already changed sides, and “Time” at the end of it; and
188.8.131.52 must announce “15-seconds” before the end of all intervals and “Time” at the end of them. It is the players’ responsibility to be close enough to hear these announcements;
7.7.8 must, if the ball hits the non-striker, make the appropriate decision;
7.7.9 may give an explanation for a decision;
7.7.10 must announce all decisions in a voice loud enough to be heard by the players, the Marker and the spectators;
7.7.11 must, if a player’s conduct is inappropriate, apply Rule 15 (Conduct);
7.7.12 must, if the behavior of any person, other than that of a player, is disruptive or offensive, suspend play until the behavior has ceased, or until the offending person has left the court area.
8.1 After(! here’s where the logic starts to break down – really think about whether this is valid. Personally I think this is a poor direction and choice of word.) completing a reasonable follow-through (Instead of reading ‘After’ try and think about this as ‘Before’ so that you are organizing your movement and shot to facilitate a good and ready position for all of your opponent’s possible choices ‘before’ you attempt to execute your movement and stroke.) (‘After completing a reasonable follow-through’: this description is not conducive to a flowing game. As you will see from video, players must begin to move/recover fractionally BEFORE they even strike the ball – movement being an integral part of an athletic shot and the legs and core the source of the energy that a player transfers into the ball- an essential element of the mechanics of striking a Squash ball. It is necessary to promote both the outgoing player’s ability to be in position for the next shot and the incoming player’s access to the ball that has just been hit. Allowing/encouraging players to stand still while hitting the ball/completing their follow-through will lead to interference. The point is this – as soon as the ball is struck ( i.e: immediately upon contact) it becomes the right of the next player to gain access to the ball. In a game of moments – the time spent on completing the follow through while standing still is time spent denying the incoming player the right to access the ball – more importantly it disadvantages the player who has just struck the ball as they need to be in position to defend the court against all of the incoming players options. Not only is it not necessary to stand still to complete a follow-through, it is frequently detrimental to the player executing the stroke to do so.
I believe that it is important that the writer of the rules and Markers and Referees in general, carefully watch a slow motion video to understand the sequential progress of a game of Squash. I cannot emphasize enough how important this issue is, in my opinion, to the future of the game. Players and coaches alike are guided by the wording of the rules. If the wording is retrospective ( i.e: After completing a reasonable follow-through) then players will act retrospectively. If on the other hand the wording is proactive ( i.e: Before striking the ball a player must ensure that their position on completion of the shot will not deny the opponent the following 4 requirements…) then players and coaches will consider their actions prior to executing the stroke. This is a key logical and intellectual difference.), a player must make every effort( misleading – either there is interference or their isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant) to provide the opponent ( provide the opponent??? I don’t want to have to provide the opponent with anything – I am trying to win – in a sportsmanlike manner. If I am having to provide my opponent with things I can’t have organized myself very well. I want to provide myself with great position and a readiness to cover every possible choice the opponent can come up with. To do that I need to organize myself before I hit the ball. Not try and desperately get out of the way after I have failed to think through the consequences of my actions. The rule as written, unfortunately promotes a ‘shot-centric’ mentality instead of a ‘rally-centric’ mentality. In other words: by focusing the player on a single shot the rules discourage proactive organization of a dynamic and flowing rally and describe a player standing still, completing a follow-through and then desperately and re-actively trying to move out of the opponent’s way. Your focus shouldn’t be what you are doing for your opponent, it should be on what you are doing (in a fair and sportsmanlike way)for you! And of course if you start your movement into position as a part of the execution of your stroke, your opponent will automatically have clear access to the ball – but more importantly you will 1) find yourself in a better position ahead of the play, 2)play a mechanically more sound shot and 3)you will be waiting to pounce upon their next choice. Think Rally-centrically – not, as the rules intimate, Shot-centrically)with the following 4 requirements:
8.1.1 a fair view of the ball on its rebound from the front wall ( providing that the opponent has not contributed to a loss of view by moving before the ball was struck and thus creating their own loss of vision); and
8.1.2 unobstructed direct access to the ball( automatic – if you organize your movement into position in a proactive, timely fashion); and
8.1.3 the space to make a reasonable swing at the ball( mmmm.. What is a reasonable swing? If the opponent has prepared their racquet and clearly indicated the space they are going to use to swing – no problem. If, however, they run to the shot with their racquet down( perhaps they are a former tennis player) and then suddenly lift it up at the last moment, then this is not a reasonable swing and can lead to injury – through no fault of the non-striker. Preparation is the indicator and therefore must be considered together with the space offered) ; and
8.1.4 the freedom to hit the ball to any part of the entire front wall ( This refers to the so-called ‘triangle’ rule whereby an imaginary triangle is formed by taking a line from the ball (at the moment that you are ready to hit it) to each of the front two corners to form a ‘no-go’ triangle that the non striker must be outside of when the striker is ready to hit. It doesn’t matter if the player has plenty of room to hit the ball straight – they must be given the opportunity to hit any part of the front wall. Once again however, if ( when you are the player that hit the previous ball) you organize to benefit yourself – in advance – you will find that you have positioned yourself favorably and automatically allowed the opponent the freedom to hit any part of the front wall. That freedom should be a natural side effect of you helping yourself – not the focus of you helping the opponent).
Interference occurs when the player does not provide the opponent with any of these requirements. ( Perhaps this might deserve a re-write? Something like: Interference occurs when a player fails to properly plan and execute their movement and shot in advance (proactively), thereby causing the game to progress while leaving them behind , out of position and blocking the incoming player.)
8.2 A striker who believes that interference has occurred may stop and request a let, by saying “Let, please”. A Referee accepting any other form of request, must be satisfied that the player is actually requesting a let (in other words: you have to communicate. Dabbing your finger in the air and hoping the Referee and your opponent know what you mean won’t pass muster.). Any request for a let includes a request for a stroke ( Please don’t hold your clenched fist up and try and influence the Referee to give you a stroke. By all means be demonstrative if you were in position to play a winning stroke and show that you wanted to play the ball, but don’t try and bully the Referee into giving you the decision – it just reflects poorly on you and brings the game into disrepute. Simple say in a firm clear voice: ‘Let, please’ Don’t forget to say ‘please’. Aggressively shouting the word ‘Let’ – is just rude.). Only the striker may request a let for interference, and that request must be made without undue delay.
8.3 The Referee may allow a let or award a stroke without a request having been made, stopping play, if necessary.
8.4 The Referee, if uncertain about the reason for the request, must ask the player for an explanation ( a simple explanation – not a manifesto!)
8.5 If the striker requests a let and the opponent’s return then goes down or out, the striker wins the rally.
8.6 Fair View.( Remember – Fair View providing the would-be striker hasn’t gone off in the wrong direction on a wild goose chase and thereby created the visual interference themselves. If you stayed where you were and were ready to play if you could only have seen the ball then…) If the striker requests a let for lack of fair view of the ball on its return from the front wall, then:
8.6.1 if there was no interference, no let is allowed;
8.6.2 if there was interference but the striker would not have been able to make a good return, no let is allowed;
8.6.3 if there was interference and the striker would have been able to make a good return, a let is allowed;
8.6.4 if there was interference that the opponent was not making every effort(misleading – either there is interference or there isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant – however pleasant it might be) to avoid, a stroke is awarded to the striker.
8.7 Direct Access. If the striker requests a let for lack of direct access to the ball, then:
8.7.1 if there was no interference, no let is allowed;
8.7.2 if there was interference but the striker would not have been able to make a good return, no let is allowed;
8.7.3 if there was interference but the striker’s freedom to get to and play the ball was not significantly affected, this is minimal interference and no let is allowed.
8.7.4 if there was interference but the striker did not make every effort (misleading – either there is interference or their isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant) to get to and play the ball, no let is allowed;
8.7.5 if the striker continued play beyond the interference, and then requested a let, no let is allowed;( provided the interference did not affect the execution and outcome of the shot).
8.7.6 if the striker had direct access but instead took an indirect path to the ball and then requested a let for interference, no let is allowed, unless the player was wrong-footed, in which case Rule 8.7.7 applies;
8.7.7 if the striker was wrong-footed, but then showed the ability to recover and make a good return, a let is allowed, unless the striker would have made a winning return, in which case a stroke is awarded to the striker;
8.7.8 if there was interference and the striker would have made a good return, a let is allowed;
8.7.9 if there was interference and the striker would have made a winning return, a stroke is awarded to the striker;
8.7.10 if there was interference that the opponent was not making every effort to avoid ( this is not logical – whether or not the opponent was making every effort is irrelevant – either there was sufficient interference to justify a stroke or there wasn’t. It makes no difference how hard the player is trying to get out of the way – if they are in the way- they are in the way! The lack of proactive planning is a mistake – no matter how hard they try and slam the barn door after the horse has bolted!), a stroke is awarded to the striker:
8.7.11 if there was interference that the opponent was making every effort to avoid but was prevented from doing so by the striker’s position, a let is allowed; ( could this be reworded?- perhaps: if the incoming striker prevents the opponent from providing a clear path to the ball – by blocking the opponent’s egress at the moment that the opponent is attempting to move – a let is allowed)
8.7.12 if a player’s direct access to the ball is obstructed before the opponent’s return has reached the front wall, that player’s appeal may be considered, even though that player is not yet the striker.( illogical – a player should become the striker as soon as the opponent has struck the ball – not when the ball hits the front wall -this rule is unnecessary and leads to confusion)
8.8 Racket Swing.( I refer you back to my earlier remarks in 8.1.3 about what a ‘reasonable’ swing is.)
A reasonable swing comprises a reasonable backswing ( Prepared in a timely fashion and not suddenly and dangerously produced without consideration of the opponent’s position and safety. As a Squash player you need to develop your peripheral awareness and intimately know what is happening in the environment around you at all times. Hitting someone because you didn’t realize they were there, usually reflects on your lack of sensitivity and competitve awareness, more than it does on them crowding you.), strike at the ball and a reasonable follow-through. A player’s backswing and follow-through are reasonable as long as they do not extend more than is necessary for the return being attempted.
If the striker requests a let for interference to the swing, then:
8.8.1 if there was neither interference, nor reasonable fear of injury, no let is allowed;
8.8.2 if there was no interference, but there was a reasonable fear of injury, a let is allowed;
8.8.3 if there was interference but the striker would not have been able to make a good return, no let is allowed;
8.8.4 if the striker continued play beyond the point of interference and then requested a let, no let is allowed;
8.8.5 if the swing was affected by slight contact with the opponent who was making every effort ( misleading again – either there is interference or their isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant as it is post-shot reactive player due to a failure to plan and start movement in advance) to avoid the interference a let is allowed ( was the stroke affected or not? If it was it should be a stroke. If not it should be a no-let. Encouraging players to marginally make contact with their opponent’s swing will lead to abuse of the rule.), unless the striker would have made a winning return, in which case a stroke is awarded to the striker;
8.8.6 if the swing was affected by contact with the opponent who was not making every effort ( misleading again – either there is interference or their isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant) to avoid the interference, a stroke is awarded to the striker;
8.8.7 if the swing was prevented by significant contact with the opponent, a stroke is awarded to the striker, even if the opponent was making every effort ( misleading – either there is interference or their isn’t – making an effort is irrelevant) to avoid the interference;
8.8.8 if the striker encounters interference while turning( this is a bit of a minefield which I feel needs to be cleared up once and for all. ‘Turning’ is dangerous and players should not hit the ball when turning – the fear created ( or that can be created) is not conducive to good sportsmanship and I feel that Squash would be better off if ‘turning’ was simply not an option for continuing a rally. There is no need to ‘turn’ ‘if the player organizes themselves adequately – it is often used to avoid a difficult serve or cross court lob. If the opponent has hit an unreasonably loose, wide, cross-court or a shot down the middle, then there should be ample time to set up without turning – in which case if there is interference a simple let/stroke decision needs to be made. Please let’s get ‘turning’ out of the game) or while making a further attempt to hit the ball and could then have made a good return, then:
184.108.40.206 if the opponent was making every effort(once again – either they are in the way – let/stroke or they aren’t – no let. The effort thing is not relevant to the amount of interference and more importantly is again a retroactive instruction to the player to ‘ try and get out of the way’ which is an exhortation to work on the opponent’s behalf after having executed a shot, instead proactive advice to consider their behavior before choosing how to execute their shot in order to avoid being out of position and thereby creating a conflict of interests.) to avoid the interference, even though the swing was prevented, a let is allowed;
220.127.116.11 if the opponent was not making every effort( again irrelevant – if they were making every effort and were plum in the way how is that different to standing stock still? And what if they were too frightened to move because they didn’t know where the ball was going to go? In my opinion the ‘every effort’ advice and ‘turning’ just need to be removed. It would simplify things greatly.) to avoid the interference, a stroke is awarded to the striker;
18.104.22.168 if the opponent had no time to avoid the interference, a let is allowed.
8.8.9 if the striker caused the interference by using an excessive swing, no let is allowed;
8.8.10 if there was interference and the striker then exaggerated the swing, a let is allowed.
8.8.11 A player’s excessive swing can contribute to interference for the opponent when it becomes the latter’s turn to play the ball.
8.9 Freedom to hit the ball to any part of the entire front wall ( This refers again to the ‘Triangle’ rule that we discussed in 8.1.4).
If the striker refrains from hitting the ball, and requests a let, then:
8.9.1 if there was no interference, nor reasonable fear of injury, no let is allowed, or
8.9.2 if there was interference and the ball would have hit the non-striker on a direct path to the front wall, a stroke is awarded to the striker, unless the striker had turned or was making a further attempt, in which case a let is allowed, or
8.9.3 if the ball would first have hit a side or back wall, but would have hit the opponent before reaching the front wall, a let is allowed, unless that return would have been a winning return, in which case a stroke is awarded to the striker.
9 BALL HITTING A PLAYER
9.1 If the ball, on its way to the front wall, hits the non-striker or the non-striker’s racket, play must stop.(think about this again in light of the ‘Triangle’ rule.) Then:
9.1.1 if the return would not have been good, the non-striker wins the rally;
9.1.2 if the return was going directly to the front wall, and if the striker was making a first attempt without having turned, a stroke is awarded to the striker;
9.1.3 if the ball had struck or would have struck any other wall before the front wall and the striker had not turned, a let is allowed;
9.1.4 if the striker had not turned and was making a further attempt, a let is allowed;
9.1.5 if the striker had turned before hitting the ball, a stroke is awarded to the non-striker, unless the non-striker made a deliberate movement to intercept the ball, in which case, a stroke is awarded to the striker.
9.2 If the ball, on its return from the front wall, hits a player before bouncing twice on the floor( the classic situation in which this occurs is when you have hit the ball down the center of the court and are standing behind an opponent ( ‘the striker’ in the wording of the rules) who you think is about to hit the ball), then:
9.2.1 if the ball hits the non-striker or the non-striker’s racket, before the striker has made an attempt to hit the ball and no interference has occurred, the striker wins the rally. If interference has occurred, Rule 8 (Interference) applies;
9.2.2 if the ball hits the non-striker, or the non-striker’s racket, after the striker has made one or more attempts to hit the ball, a let is allowed, providing the striker could have made a good return. Otherwise, the non-striker wins the rally;
9.2.3 if the ball hits the striker and there is no interference, the non-striker wins the rally. If interference has occurred, Rule 8 (Interference) applies.
10.1 The loser of a rally may appeal against any call or lack of a call by the Marker by saying “Appeal, please”. A player may not appeal against any decision of the Referee.
10.2 The player must specify which return is being appealed, and, if there is more than one appeal, the Referee must consider each one.
10.3 After the ball has been served, neither player may appeal anything that occurred before that serve, with the exception of a broken ball.
10.4 At the end of a game, any appeal regarding the last rally must be immediate.
10.5 In response to an appeal against a Marker’s call or lack of call the Referee must:
10.5.1 if the Marker’s call or lack of call was correct, allow the result of the rally to stand; or
10.5.2 if the Marker’s call was incorrect, allow a let, unless the Marker’s call interrupted a winning return by either player, in which case award the rally to that player; or
10.5.3 if the Marker did not call a serve or return that was not good, award the rally to the other player; or
10.5.4 if the Referee was uncertain whether the serve was good, allow a let; or
10.5.5 if the Referee was uncertain about the return, allow a let, unless the Marker’s call interrupted a winning return by the striker, in which case award the rally to that player.
11 The Ball
11.1 If the ball breaks during a rally, a let is allowed for that rally.
11.2 If a player stops play to appeal that the ball is broken, and it is found that the ball is not broken, that player loses the rally.
11.3 If the receiver appeals that the ball is broken before attempting to return serve, and the ball is found to be broken, the Referee, if uncertain as to when it broke, must allow a let for the previous rally.
11.4 A player who wishes to appeal at the end of a game that the ball is broken, must do so immediately.
11.5 The ball may be changed if both players agree or if the Referee agrees with one player’s request.
11.6 If a ball has been replaced, or if the players resume the match after a delay, the players may warm up the ball. Play resumes when both players agree or at the discretion of the Referee, whichever is sooner.
11.7 The ball must remain in the court at all times, unless the Referee permits its removal.
11.8 If the ball becomes wedged in any part of the court( this might happen in a front wall/side wall nick or in a door or in a floor board or floor nick), a let is allowed.
11.9 No let is allowed for any unusual bounce.
Either player may request a let because of distraction, but must do so immediately.
12.1 If the Referee decides that there was no distraction that affected the striker, no let is allowed.
12.2 If the distraction was caused by one of the players, then;
12.2.1 if accidental, a let is allowed, unless a player’s winning return was interrupted, in which case the rally is awarded to that player;
12.2.2 if deliberate, Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied.
12.3 If the distraction was not caused by one of the players, a let is allowed, unless a player’s winning return was interrupted, in which case the rally is awarded to that player.
12.4 For major events Appendix 5 (Distraction) may be applied at the discretion of the Tournament Director.
13 FALLEN OBJECT
13.1 If either player drops the racket, that player may pick up the racket and play on.
13.2 If the striker drops the racket because of interference, the striker may request a let.
13.3 If the non-striker drops the racket because of contact during the striker’s attempt to reach the ball and requests a let, Rule 12 (Distraction) applies.
13.4 If any object, other than a player’s racket, falls to the floor during a rally, play must stop.
13.4.1 If the object falls from a player without there having been any contact with the opponent( make sure your protective eye-wear is secure. If it hits the floor:), the opponent wins the rally.
13.4.2 If the object falls from a player because of contact with the opponent, or falls from a source other than a player, a let is allowed. However, if a player’s winning return was interrupted, the rally is awarded to that player.
13.4.3 If the object was not seen until the rally ended and had no effect on the outcome of the rally, the result of the rally stands.
( In my opinion rule 14 is very well written and extremely clear. Make sure you understand it before you play.)
14 ILLNESS, INJURY AND BLEEDING
A player who suffers an illness that involves neither an injury nor bleeding, must either continue play without delay, or concede the game in progress and take the 90-second interval between games to recover. This includes conditions such as cramps, nausea, and breathlessness, including asthma. Only one game may be conceded. The player must then resume play, or concede the match.
14.2 Injury. The Referee must:
14.2.1 if satisfied that the injury is genuine, advise both players of the category of the injury and of the time permitted for recovery. Recovery time is permitted only at the time the injury takes place;
14.2.2 if not satisfied that the injury is genuine, advise the player to decide whether to resume play immediately, or to concede the game in progress and take the 90-second interval between games and then resume play, or concede the match; Only 1 game may be conceded.
14.2.3 if satisfied that this is a recurrence of an injury sustained earlier in the match, advise the player to decide whether to resume play or concede the game in progress and take the 90-second interval between games; or concede the match. Only 1 game may be conceded.
14.3 Categories of injury.
14.3.1 Self-inflicted: where the injury is the result of the player’s own action. Such an injury could be a muscle tear or sprain, or a cut or bruise resulting from a player’s collision with a wall or falling to the floor. The player is permitted 3 minutes to recover and, if not then ready to resume play, must concede that game and take the 90-second interval between games for further recovery. Only 1 game may be conceded. The player must then resume play or concede the match.
14.3.2 Contributed: where the injury is the result of accidental action by both players. An interval of 15 minutes is permitted. This may be extended by a further 15 minutes at the discretion of the Referee. If then unable to continue, the match is awarded to the opponent.
14.3.3 Opponent-inflicted: where the injury is inflicted solely by the opponent.
22.214.171.124 Where the injury is accidentally inflicted by the opponent, a Rule 15 (Conduct) penalty must be imposed. The injured player is permitted a maximum of 15 minutes to recover. If then unable to resume play, the match is awarded to the injured player.
126.96.36.199 Where the injury is the result of the opponent’s deliberate or dangerous play or action, and if the injured player requires any time for recovery, the match is awarded to the injured player. If the injured player is able to continue without undue delay, a Rule 15 (Conduct) penalty must be imposed.
14.4 An injured player may resume play before the end of any permitted recovery-period. Both players must be given reasonable time to prepare to resume play.
14.5.1 Whenever bleeding occurs, play must stop and the player must leave the court and attend to the bleeding promptly. Such time as is reasonable and necessary is allowed.
14.5.2 If the bleeding was accidentally caused by the opponent, then a Rule 15 (Conduct) penalty must be imposed. The injured player is permitted time to stop the bleeding.
14.5.3 If the bleeding is the result of the opponent’s deliberate or dangerous play or action, the match is awarded to the injured player.
14.5.4 Play may resume only after the bleeding has stopped and, where possible, the wound has been covered.
14.5.5 A player who is unable to stop the bleeding within the time permitted, must either concede 1 game to gain a further 90 seconds and then continue play, or concede the match.
14.5.6 The court must be cleaned if necessary and any bloodstained clothing must be replaced.
14.5.7 On resumption of play:
188.8.131.52 If the bleeding recurs, no further recovery time is permitted, and the player must concede the game in progress and use the 90 second interval between games for further treatment. If the bleeding has not then stopped, the player must concede the match.
184.108.40.206 If the covering on a wound falls off, play must stop and Rule 13 (Fallen object) applies. If no blood flow is visible, play may continue without the covering.
14.6 When an injury also involves bleeding, the recovery time may be extended only while the bleeding and its treatment continue.
14.7 If a player’s vomiting or other action causes the court to become unplayable, the match is awarded to the opponent.
15.1 Players’ obligations.
15.1.1 Players may not place any object within the court ( While it is common practice to leave a wallet or watch or similar property at the front of the court – it is actually against the rules – so you might avoid an awkward situation by simply not asking your opponent if it is OK with them and putting your property in a more appropriate place).
15.1.2 Players may not leave the court during a game without the permission of the Referee.
15.1.3 Players may not request a change of any Official.
15.2 Players must behave in an acceptable manner that is not unfair, dangerous, abusive, offensive, or in any way detrimental to the image of the game of squash ( as much as you are trying to win and as frustrated as you may feel, etiquette is one of the things that separates Squash from many other sports that are losing the battle of respect. Fight as hard as you can to win – but win by the excellence of your play and don’t disrespect your opponents or spectators or the Officials of the tournament).
15.3 If a player’s conduct is unacceptable, the Referee must penalize the player, stopping play if necessary. Unacceptable behavior includes, but is not limited to:
15.3.1 audible or visible obscenity;
15.3.2 verbal, physical or any other form of abuse;
15.3.3 dissent to the Referee( Disrespecting a Marker or Referee is a really low blow. They are an easy target and they are just doing their best. I know it’s frustrating and I have been guilty myself, but maintain calm and don’t make disparaging comments about their abilities. You don’t have to agree but you don’t have to be unpleasant) ;
15.3.4 abuse of equipment or court ( I.e: Don’t smash your racket against the wall, or throw your racket and glasses down in disgust or smash the ball at the wall in anger – particularly not in the direction of the Marker and Referee or the crowd);
15.3.5 unnecessary physical contact, which includes pushing off the opponent;
15.3.6 unfair warm-up ( Remember – in the warm-up: don’t hit the ball to yourself more than twice. There is no need to do this and it may simply alienate the opponent);
15.3.7 delaying play, including being late back on court ( Go back on court when the Referee calls 15 seconds, not when the Referee calls ‘Time’. ‘Time’ is called to start the game, not to recall you to the court);
15.3.8 dangerous play, including excessive racket swing;
15.3.9 deliberate distraction;
220.127.116.11 receiving coaching during play ( make sure your coach or supporters don’t give you advice as to how to conduct yourself strategically during the play. There is nothing wrong with encouragement – in fact it adds to the sense of occasion. You can exhort your player to greater efforts – just not give them specific advice. Make sure the cheering goes on at a appropriate times – e.g. Just before the start of a game or at the end of a point before the Marker calls the score. Don’t drown out the Marker as the calling of the score is the indication to the players to commence play).
15.4 The penalty for any offense must be a Conduct Warning, a Conduct Stroke, a Conduct Game or a Conduct Match depending on the seriousness of the offense. The Referee may issue more than one warning, stroke or game to a player for a subsequent similar offencs, providing any such penalty may not be less severe than the previous penalty for the same offence. These penalties may be assessed by the Referee at any time, including during the warm-up and following the conclusion of the match.
15.4.1 If the Referee:
15.4.2 stops play to issue a Conduct Warning, a let is allowed;
15.4.3 stops play to award a Conduct Stroke, that Conduct Stroke becomes the result of the rally;
15.4.4 awards a Conduct stroke after a rally has finished, the result of the rally stands, and the Conduct Stroke is added to the score with no additional change of service-box;
15.4.5 awards a Conduct Game, that game is the one in progress or the next one if a game is not in progress. In the latter case an additional interval of 90 seconds does not apply.
15.4.6 awards a Conduct Game or a Conduct Match, the offending player retains any points or games already won.
NOTE: The court dimensions and markings are specified in Appendix 7.1
APPEAL A player’s request to the Referee to review a Marker’s call or lack of call.
ATTEMPT Any forward movement of the racket towards the ball. A fake swing or feint at the ball is an attempt, but racket preparation with only a backswing with no forward movement towards the ball is not an attempt.
BOX, SERVICE-BOX A square area on each side of the court bounded by the short line, the side wall and by 2 other lines, and from within which the server serves.
CORRECTLY When the ball is hit with the racket, held in the hand, not more than once, and without prolonged( Could this be clarified- perhaps ‘prolonged’ could be defined as ‘carried’ or ‘struck more than once’?) contact on the racket.
DOWN Indicates that a player’s return hit the tin, or the floor before reaching the tin.
FAULT Indicates that a serve is not good.
FURTHER ATTEMPT A subsequent attempt by the striker to serve or return a ball that is still in play, after having already made one or more attempts.
GAME A part of a match. A player must win 3 games to win a 5-game match and 2 games to win a 3 game match.
HAND OUT Indicates a change of server.
LET The result of a rally in which there is no winner. The server serves again from the same box.
MATCH The complete contest between two players, including the warm-up.
NOT UP Indicates that
·1 a player did not strike the ball correctly, or
·2 the ball bounced more than once on the floor or
·3 the ball touched the striker or the striker’s clothing.
OUT A ball is out when it:
·1 hits the wall on or above the out-line; or
·2 hits any fixture of the court above the out-line; or
·3 passes over a wall and out of the court, or
·4 hits the top edge of any wall of the court or
·5 passes through any fixture ( some courts have lighting fixtures that are supported by two ‘down-rods’. If the ball goes between the supports it is out, if it goes to the left or right of the outermost support, it is in. Hey! – you have to draw a line somewhere!)
QUARTER-COURT One of two equal parts of the court bounded by the short line, the back wall and the half-court line.
STRIKER A player is the striker from the moment the opponent’s return rebounds from the front wall until the player’s return hits the front wall (In my opinion this is extremely illogical and would benefit from a review. I would contend that the player is the incoming striker from the moment that the ball leaves the opponent’s racket. To deny them the title of striker from the moment the ball leaves the opponent’s racket is to deny them time – the lifeblood of the game).
TIN The area of the front wall covering the full width of the court and extending from the floor up to and including the lowest horizontal line. The tin must be constructed of a material that makes a distinctive sound when struck by the ball (See also Appendix 7.1).
TURNING The action of the striker who hits, or is in a position to hit, the ball to the right of the body after the ball has passed to the left or vice versa, whether the striker physically turns or not.
N.B. Shaping (preparing) to play the ball on one side and then bringing the racket across the body to strike the ball on the other side is neither turning nor making a further attempt.
WRONG−FOOTED The situation when a player, anticipating the path of the ball, moves in one direction, while the striker hits the ball in another direction.
2.1 MARKER’S CALLS
HAND OUT To indicate a change of server.
DOWN To indicate that a player’s return hit the tin, or the floor before reaching the tin.
FAULT To indicate that a serve was not good.
NOT UP To indicate that a player’s return was not up.
OUT To indicate that a player’s return was out.
10-all : A Player must win by 2 points To indicate that a player must lead by 2 points to win the game, when the score reaches 10-all for the first time in a match.
GAME BALL To indicate that a player requires one point to win the game.
MATCH BALL To indicate that a player requires one point to win the match.
YES, LET/ LET Repeating the Referee’s decision that a rally is to be replayed.
STROKE TO PLAYER (or TEAM) Repeating the Referee’s decision to award a stroke to a player or team.
NO LET Repeating the Referee’s decision that a request for a let is disallowed.
Examples of Marker Calls
Match introduction ( This is where the Marker can heighten the sense of occasion by delivering the intro in a clear voice that infuses listeners with the idea that this is something important.) Smith serving, Jones receiving, best of 5 games, love ─ all
Order of calls Anything affecting the score.
The score with the server’s score always called first.
Comments on the score.
Calling the score (Again – the intonation the Marker uses can make a big difference. Does it sound as though this is an important moment – or dull, boring and of no consequence? Your delivery can really add to the moment – provided you don’t affect the fair outcome of the match.) Not up. Hand-out, 4 ─ 3
Yes let, 3 ─ 4
Stroke to Jones, 10 ─ 8, game ball
Fault, hand-out, 8 ─ 3
Not up, 10-all: a player must win by 2 points
End of a game 11 ─ 3, game to Smith. Smith leads 1 game to love
11 ─ 7, game to Jones, Smith leads 2 games to 1
11 ─ 8, match to Jones, 3 games to 2, 11 ─ 5, 13 ─ 11, 6 ─ 11, 11 ─ 5
Start of a new game Smith leads 1 game to love, love ─ all
Smith leads 2 games to 1, Jones to serve, love all
2 games all, (each), Smith to serve, love ─ all
2.2 REFEREE’S CALLS
CONDUCT WARNING ( Here on the other hand, I would avoid any intonation. Infusing a penalty announcement with any emotion or sense of the dramatic could well inflame a situation. A firm but even tone is my advice here.) To advise that a Conduct Warning has been issued.
e.g. Conduct Warning Smith for delaying play. The result of the rally stands.
(player) for (offense), stroke to (other player or team) To advise that a Conduct Stroke has been awarded.
e.g. Conduct Stroke Smith for delaying play. Stroke to Jones (or Europe).
(player) for (offence), game to (other player or team) To advise that a Conduct Game has been awarded.
e.g. Conduct Game Jones for abuse of opponent, game to Smith (or America)
(player) for (offence), match to (other player or team) To advise that a Conduct Match has been awarded.
e.g. Conduct Match Hassan for dissent to Referee, match to Khan (or Oceania)
FIFTEEN SECONDS (Firm, loud and clear – a warning with a sense of some urgency and direction) To advise that 15 seconds of a permitted interval remain.
HALF-TIME ( Same as Fifteen seconds – meaningfully) To advise that the midpoint of the warm-up period has passed.
NO LET (Crisp, even tone with a slight down tone) To disallow a let.
STROKE TO PLAYER (or TEAM)(Again – Crisp, even tone) To advise that a stroke is being awarded.
TIME ( Similar to Fifteen Seconds and Half-Time with perhaps a touch more of the imperative.) To indicate that the warm-up or a permitted interval has elapsed.
YES, LET (Crisp, even tone with a slight up-tone.) To allow a let.
LET / PLAY A LET (for me, in the spirit of the game, I would suggest adding the word ‘Please’ to the call of ‘Play a let’.)
( this call to be spoken in a conciliatory, up-tone.)
To advise that a rally is to be replayed in circumstances where the wording “Yes, Let” is not appropriate.
Alternative Scoring systems
Point-a-rally scoring to 15.
As in Rule 3 (Scoring) except that each game is played to 15 points. If the score reaches 14-all, the game continues until one player leads by 2 points.
2. Hand-in/hand-out scoring.
Rule 3 (Scoring) is replaced by:
3.1 The server, on winning a rally, scores a point; the receiver, on winning a rally, becomes the server without a change of score.
3.2 Each games is played to 9 points, except that if the score reaches 8-all, the receiver chooses, before the next service, to continue that game either to 9 (known as “Set 1”) or to 10 (known as “Set 2”). The receiver must clearly indicate this choice to the Marker, Referee and the opponent.
3.3 A match is normally the best of 5 games, but may be the best of 3.
The Three Referee System uses a Central Referee (CR) and two Side Referees (SRs) who must work together as a team. All should be the highest accredited referees available. If the 3 officials are not of a similar standard, then the Referee of the highest standard should act as the CR.
The CR, who is also the Marker, controls the match. One of the SRs will keep score as a backup.
3 The two SRs should be seated behind the back wall in line with the inside line of the service box on each side, one row below the CR.
4 The SRs make decisions at the end of rallies – not during them – on the following matters only:
4.1 When a player requests a let:
4.2 When a player appeals against a call or lack of a call of down, not up, out, or fault by the CR:
4.3 If any Referee is unsighted or unsure of the reason for the appeal, that Referee’s decision is “Yes, Let”.
4.4 If direct communication between the SRs and CR during a rally is possible and agreed to by the team before the start of the match, if an SR is sure that a ball was down, not up, out or a fault, and was not called by the CR in the role of Marker, then the SR should immediately alert the CR. If both SRs have alerted the CR in this way, then the CR must stop the rally immediately and award the point as appropriate.( Does this open the system to inconsistency that will irritate players who will not know the exact mechanics of the situation? – ie: if the team agrees that the SR will notify the CR during a rally in one match and then the system is changed in the next match. Perhaps there should be consistency as to the system in every match, in every tournament?)
5 Every appeal must be decided by all 3 Referees, simultaneously and independently.
6 The decision of the 3 referees is final, unless a video referee system is in operation.
7 The decision of the 3 Referees must be announced by the CR without revealing the individual decisions, whether it was a unanimous or a majority decision, or whether the CR agreed with the decision.
8 In the unlikely event of 3 different decisions (Yes Let, No Let, Stroke), the final decision will be Yes Let.
9 Only the CR decides all other matters including time-periods, player conduct, injury and court conditions, none of which may be appealed.
10 Players may only directly address the CR. Dialogue must be kept to a minimum( the current rules governing appeals and explanations are clear. If one MO is followed in one refereeing system and then that MO is not followed here – how can the non-Squash playing public ( our potential Olympic viewers and supporters) understand what is happening? A sequence of: Markers call, Appeal, if necessary a request for a player to explain the reason for the Appeal and final Referee’s decision is all that is required and can be easily followed by spectators – Squash playing or otherwise – if they are familiar – and we are consistent – with the system.).
11 If electronic consoles are available, the 3 Referees give their decisions through their consoles and the CR announces the result. If electronic consoles are not available, the use of WSF standard-size color Referee Decision Cards is recommended so that players cannot see the individual decisions of the 3 Referees.
WSF Standard Decision cards:
L (yellow) = Yes, Let
S (blue) = Stroke
N (red) = No Let
N (red) = Ball was Down/ Not Up/ Out/ Fault
G (green) = Ball was Good
If hand-signals are used:
Thumb and forefinger in the shape of an ‘L’ = Yes, Let
Clenched fist = Stroke
Hand held out flat, palm downwards = No Let
Thumb Down = Ball was Down/ Not Up/ Out/ Fault
Thumb Up = Ball was Good
At some major events crowd interaction and other general noise may occur. To encourage spectator enjoyment, Rule 12 (Distraction) will not apply. Players are required to continue play and Referees are not to ask for spectators to be quiet (the MO used by the Umpires at Grand Slam tennis events seems very workable. Umpires gently ask the spectators to allow the players to continue play, using the words ‘thank you Ladies and Gentlemen’. That conciliatory attitude, inviting the audience to help with the continuation of the match seems to be a pleasant and practical manner of ensuring a fair outcome in these circumstances.).
The exception is that if a very sudden, loud or isolated distraction occurs, a let may be awarded to a player who immediately stops play and appeals.
The WSF recommends that all Squash players should wear protective eyewear, manufactured to an appropriate National Standard, properly over the eyes at all times during play. It is the responsibility of the player to ensure that the quality of the product worn is satisfactory for the purpose.( This is a very loose direction and will be ignored by many. If the WSF could regulate consistent wearing of protective eyewear for all players, many injuries would be prevented world-wide (reference the Canadian experience where Squash eye injuries dropped off the annual ranking list of sports eye injuries after eyewear became mandatory in Squash in Canada) , sales would increase and players could become role models of safety and be paid sponsorship for their trouble. The result would be a safer sport, with more revenue for players, sponsors and events, national governing bodies and of course the manufacturers of the eyewear. It would also add to the consistency of behavior among all players – thereby promoting greater appeal and less confusing inconsistency among both the playing and the viewing public and among agencies such as the IOC.)
Current National Standards for Racket Sport Eye Protection are published by the Canadian Standards Association, the United States ASTM, Standards Australia/New Zealand and British Standards Institution.
DESCRIPTION AND DIMENSIONS OF A SINGLES COURT
( Could the measurements also be listed in Imperial measurements?)
A Squash Court is a rectangular area bounded by 4 walls; being the Front Wall, 2 Side Walls and Back Wall. It has a level floor and a clear height above the court area.
Length of court between playing surfaces 9750 mm
Width of court between playing surfaces 6400 mm
Diagonal 11665 mm
Height above floor to lower edge of Front Wall Line 4570 mm
Height above floor to lower edge of Back Wall Line 2130 mm
Height above floor to lower edge of Service Line on Front Wall 1780 mm
Height above floor to upper edge of Tin 480 mm
Distance to nearest edge of Short Line from Back Wall 4260 mm
Internal dimensions of Service Boxes 1600 mm
Width of all lines and the Board 50 mm
Minimum clear height above the floor of the court 5640 mm
1. The Side Wall lines are angled between the Front Wall Line and the Back Wall Line.
2. The Service Box is a square formed by the Short Line, one Side Wall and two other lines marked on the floor.
3. The length, width and diagonal of the court are measured at a height of 1000 mm above the floor.
4. It is recommended that the Front Wall Line, Side Wall Line, Back Wall Line and Board are shaped so as to deflect any ball that strikes them.
5. The Tin must not project from the Front Wall by more than 45 mm.
6. It is recommended that the door to the court be in the center of the Back Wall.
7. The general configuration of a Squash Court, its dimensions and its markings are illustrated on the diagram.
A Squash Court may be constructed from a number of materials providing they have suitable ball rebound characteristics and are safe for play; however, the WSF publishes a Squash Court Specification which contains recommended standards. The standards must be met for competitive play as required by the appropriate National Governing Body of Squash.
SQUASH COURT DIAGRAM: GENERAL CONFIGURATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SINGLES COURT
(To be added. Copy from Current Rules.)
SPECIFICATIONS OF A STANDARD YELLOW DOT SQUASH BALL
The following specification is the standard for a yellow dot ball to be used under the Rules of Squash.
Diameter (millimeters) 40.0 + or ‑ 0.5
Weight (grams) 24.0 + or ‑ 1.0
Stiffness (N/mm) @ 23 degrees C. 3.2 + or ‑ 0.4
Seam Strength (N/mm) 6.0 minimum
Rebound Resilience ‑ from 254 centimeters
@ 23 degrees C. 12% minimum
@ 45 degrees C. 26% ‑ 33%
1. The full procedure for testing balls to the above specification is available from the WSF. The WSF will arrange for testing of balls under standard procedures if requested.
2. No specifications are set for faster or slower speeds of ball, which may be used by players of greater or lesser ability or in court conditions which are hotter or colder than those used to determine the yellow dot specification. Where faster speeds of ball are produced they may vary from the diameter and weight in the above specification of a standard yellow dot squash ball. It is recommended that balls bear a permanent color code or marking to indicate their speed or category of usage. It is also recommended that balls for beginners and improvers conform generally to the rebound resilience figures below.
Beginner Rebound resilience @ 23 degrees C not less than 17%
Rebound resilience @ 45 degrees C 36% to 38%
Improver Rebound resilience @ 23 degrees C not less than 15%
Rebound resilience @ 45 degrees C 33% to 36%
Specifications for balls currently fulfilling these requirements can be obtained from the WSF on request
The speed of balls may also be indicated as follows( this seems out of date – super slow is typically double yellow dot these days and there are a number of larger balls with longer hang times that have taken over from Red and Blue Dots – does this need to be re-written for clarity?)
Super slow ‑ Yellow Dot
Slow ‑ White Dot or Green Dot
Medium ‑ Red Dot
Fast ‑ Blue Dot
3. Yellow dot balls which are used at World Championships or at similar standards of play must meet the above specifications but additional subjective testing will be carried out by the WSF with players of the identified standard to determine the suitability of the nominated ball for Championship usage. The slowest speed of balls intended for elite players and Championship usage may if required be identified by a double yellow dot. Such balls will be deemed for the purposes of this specification to be yellow dot squash balls.
4. Yellow dot balls of a larger diameter than 40.0mm specified above, but which otherwise meet the specification, may be authorized for use in tournaments by the official organizing body.
DIMENSIONS OF A SQUASH RACKET
( again – for convenience – could sizes also be listed in Imperial measurements?)
Maximum length 686 mm
Maximum width, measured at right angles to the shaft 215 mm
Maximum length of strings 390 mm
Maximum strung area 500 sq. cm
Minimum width of any frame or any structural member
(measured in plane of strings) 7 mm
Maximum depth of any frame or other structural member
(measured at right angles to plane of strings) 26 mm
Minimum radius of outside curvature of frame at any point 50 mm
Minimum radius of curvature of any edge of frame or other structural member 2 mm
Maximum weight 255 gm
a) The head of the racket is defined as that part of the racket containing or surrounding the strung area.
b) Strings and string ends must be recessed within the racket head or, in cases where such recessing is impractical because of racket material, or design, must be protected by a securely attached bumper strip.
c) The bumper strip must be made of a flexible material which cannot crease into sharp edges following abrasive contact with the floor or walls.
d) The bumper strip shall be of a white, colorless or un-pigmented material. Where for cosmetic reasons a manufacturer chooses to use a colored bumper strip, then the manufacturer shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the WSF that this does not leave a colored deposit on the walls or floor of the court after contact.
e) The frame of the racket shall be of a color and/or material which will not mark the walls or floor following an impact in normal play.
f) Strings shall be gut, nylon or a substitute material, provided metal is not used.
g) Only two layers of strings shall be allowed and these shall be alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross and the string pattern shall be generally uniform and form a single plane over the racket head.
h) Any grommets, string spacers or other devices attached to any part of the racket shall be used solely to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration and be reasonable in size and placement for such purpose. They shall not be attached to any part of the strings within the hitting area (defined as the area formed by overlapping strings).
i) There shall be no unstrung areas within the racket construction such that will allow the passage of a sphere greater than 50mm in diameter.
j) The total racket construction including the head shall be symmetrical about the center of the racket in a line drawn vertically through the head and shaft and when viewed face on.
k) All changes to the racket specification will be subject to a notice period of two years before coming into force.
The WSF shall rule on the question of whether any racket or prototype complies with the above specifications, or is otherwise approved or not approved for play and will issue guidelines to assist in the interpretation of the above.
I believe that at the time of writing, the Sport of Squash is still relatively early in its evolution. If this is the case, not only should we expect the playing of the game to continue to develop but we should expect to constantly monitor and evolve the way that we administer and regulate the game.
We must ensure that the Rules make logical sense and will lead toward a fair outcome – otherwise we will seriously impair the development of the sport.
After all, the Rules are the seed from which all else in Squash grows.
I respectfully request that my suggestions are carefully reviewed.
I am happy to offer them without reservation and equally to offer my assistance in helping to move the game forward.
I have spent 35 years questioning both my own ideas and those of others – always seeking logic rather than simply accepted wisdom. This is the way I teach – asking my students not to accept at face value the ideas I offer them, but to seek to understand and to question until we reach a mutual understanding.
I suggest that the Rules are worthy of such an approach.
As World Squash and other entities review and revamp the Rules please be assured of my willingness to assist.
I can be contacted at email@example.com
Richard C Millman
May 18th 2013.
Very grateful for this lovely montage by Keith Robbins of last weekend’s Kentucky State Open:
Absolutely thrilled to have won the 2017 United States National 55+ title against my long term rival and great friend Dominic Hughes.
Dominic’s skill, tenacity, sportsmanship and integrity all contributed to a wonderful confrontation that, on this occasion, turned out in my favor.
Many thanks to my coach who has helped me through so many crucial matches and did so again today – my wife Pat Millman.
Thanks also to my sponsors Harrow Sports and Imask protective eyewear.
Also thanks to US Squash and Philidelphia Cricket Club for the event.
And finally to all my friends and students who have been so supportive.
Please come and visit us at Scenic City Squash in Chattanooga TN.
Link to Video of finals including mine:
Start at the 3’45” point to watch Dominic and me.
As some of you may know, I have recently relocated to Chattanooga Tennessee to take up the position of Director of Squash at the wonderful purpose built, stand alone Squash club that Mike and Taylor Monen have built: Scenic City Squash (https://m.facebook.com/Scenic-City Squash-578699352285091/).
We have a number of events coming up and those of you who would like to come and work on your games with me at this wonderful little temple of squash, please come and join me for a visit.
To contact me you can either email me at Millmansquash@gmail.com, call 8433237340 or contact me through the Scenic City Squash Facebook page.
Here is an update from the page:
Our next intensive half day Grand Prix No 2 is on April 9th.
The Scenic City Spring Classic will be April 21-23. Come join us!
Here’s my latest article from Squash Magazine:
As the world’s sportsmen and women meet in Rio Di Janeiro, I ponder on what Pierre De Coubertin might have thought about an International Olympic Committee that repeatedly snubbed the sport that is widely acknowledged to be the ‘world’s healthiest sport.’
Perhaps he would reflect that the modern Olympics has no need of a sport that is deemed to be the ‘healthiest’ and the ‘fittest.’
Perhaps he would reflect that the organizing powers might feel uncomfortable with healthy and fit athletes.
Or that perhaps they no longer recognize those attributes as being laudable.
Perhaps Citius Altius Fortius is no longer necessary.
He would have to accept that the Olympic Committee no longer strives for those very ideals that he founded the modern Olympics upon.
He would have to accept that in the modern world there are limits to the Olympic Ideals – that giving up on excellence is Ok and that not trying is acceptable in the face of pressure.
Oh well – I guess Squash will have to strive for its own Olympic Ideals.
Is it a fair question to ask whether or not the modern Olympic organization merits the title Olympic? Are they truly pursuing De Coubertin’s principles?
Aug 9th 2016.