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.
Before I give you my two cents worth on this so called ‘Debate’ that has somehow gained some traction on websites recently, I want to say ‘Hats off’ to Kevin Klipstein and US Squash.
Kevin and I don’t always see eye to eye, but in this matter, in my humble opinion, he and the association are streets ahead of the competition.
Now to the heart of the matter: are Women worth the same money as Men in Squash?
First of all, I assume this discussion – it’s hardly a debate – was triggered by one of the rising PSA players’s twitter comment.
It was certainly inflammatory. I don’t know if it was a serious comment based on thoughtful consideration, on weighing up all available evidence, on consideration of the effect of the remark. I rather think not. But I didn’t make the remark so I don’t know for sure.
What I do know is that Women exact every bit as much pain and effort from themselves as Men do in pursuit of excellence in our sport.
I have been coaching this sport Man and Boy since 1976 when as a high school player I started helping out other team mates and friends. In the intervening time I have been privileged to work in some capacity or other with the following players at some point in their development: Alex Cowie, Cassie Jackman, Omneya Abdel Kawy, Michelle Quibell, Louise Johnson, Amy Gross, Julia Beaver AND Chris Walker, Tony Hands, Del Harris, Mark Chaloner, Julian Illingworth, Paul Millington, Mark Heather, Robbie Lingashi, Ahmed Hamza, Josh Schwartz, Rishaad Pandole.
However long or short my interaction with these players was, I can guarantee you that there was no discernible difference in how hard they tried – everyone of them gave every last drop of effort that they could muster.
Every professional Squash player, whatever their gender, is contributing toward the development and success of this sport.
If you try and value one gender above the other you are failing to understand the intangible nature of the contributions that both are making to society – your society.
You may as well say that a good father is worth more than a good mother. Think about that for a moment.
If we don’t value the Women’s game as highly as the Men’s game we fail to understand our own origins.
As to the practicalities of the matter – well there is no doubt that it is much more practical for club coaches to show the average club player the game by using the WSA and the Women’s Professional tour as an example because the average club player can relate to what they see there.
Not many people can easily relate to what Ramy Ashour is doing – because at the moment he is pretty much the only one doing it. Even his opponents are having a hard time relating to it!
But this is not the point – the point is that we want Women and Men to be valued for their contributions. Their contributions are different – the proverbial Apple and Orange – but equally valuable and equally necessary.
But in the case of Squash – we want to equally reward those that are the best Apples in the world and those that are the best Oranges in the World.
So far as I am aware there is no standing competition where Apples compete against Oranges – nor should there be.
Without giving Women equal standing in society our societies fail. Consider the countries where war/persecution is still prevalent. Consider the countries where Women have parity. Then think about which societies you would prefer to live in.
Without the Women’s game, there is no Men’s game in the long run and even in the medium term – without the Women’s game, the Men’s game would degenerate into ugliness.
In all things balance – no Ying without Yang.
So either you support parity for Women, shouting ‘Vive la difference’ from the roof tops or give your mum a call, and see how she responds to your idea that she isn’t worth the same as your dad.