Is Squash Right For You?
- From toddler squash from age three to recreational squash for seniors, anyone can play this sport.
- Squash is safe and a great way to stay fit, healthy and flexible.
- It is especially recommended for people looking for a sports activity to ward off everyday stress.
- If you want a sport that's physically demanding, fun and strategic, look no further!
- Like with any sports activity, you should see your doctor to get cleared and make sure you don't have any underlying conditions (especially heart problems).
Originally played in a prestigious English school in the middle of the 19th century, squash's fancy reputation comes from its demanding skills and incredible benefits. Let's take a look at the history of this sport so popular in England that can be played in pairs, threes or even fours! We'll explain the basic rules, its many benefits, its broad accessibility and the equipment you need to get out there on the court without feeling foolish.
1. What is Squash?
The Origins of The Sport
Similar to tennis and badminton, squash is a descendant of jeu de paume. In the mid-19th century in London, two students at the prestigious Harrow School were waiting to play a game of rackets (a cousin to jeu de paume) when they had the idea of hitting the leather ball against the walls of the school. And so squash was invented.
The creation of a soft, hollow rubber ball that could be squashed when hitting the wall is how the game got its name.
A Sport In Its Own Right
In 1883, the first squash court was built in Oxford and helped spread squash's reputation as a sport in its own right. It would become more popular following the codifying of game rules and court standards to harmonise the sport in 1911.
The first national federation - the Squash Racket Association - was created in England in 1928 and the British Open was organised from 1930. Women joined this prestigious tournament from 1950, when the sport took a professional turn.
The Expansion of Squash
The International Squash Racket Association was founded in 1967 with seven members, including England and several Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Pakistan, India and South Africa.
The World Squash Federation was created in 1993, bringing together 150 countries and more than 18 million players across the world.
In France, the French Squash Federation split off from the French Tennis Federation in 1980. Today, it has 30,000 licensed members, one-third of whom are women, and 250,000 players with 206 affiliated clubs and 803 courts.
Champions Mr Grégory Gauthier (World no.1 in 2017) and Ms Camille Serme (World no.5 in 2018) have helped put France on the podiums among the world's top nations and alongside Egypt, which dominates the world rankings.
After three unsuccessful attempts, squash may finally become an Olympic sport in 2024 at the Paris Games.
On The Squash Court
Although squash is usually played one-on-one, it can also be played in doubles on regular or special courts.
Three players can also play when training by alternating on the court: each point is played one-on-one and the third player rotates in to play the winner of the previous point. It's a great way to save your energy and play a different opponent!
For professionals, certain tournaments are held in the most incredible places. The night-time Al-Arham International is held in Cairo at the base of the pyramids, while the Tournament of Champions takes place at New York's Grand Central Station. A special court, walled in by glass, is built so spectators and viewers at home can watch the matches.
The Rules of Squash
- Players take turns hitting the ball, which must touch the front wall either directly or indirectly.
- Matches are best-of-three or best-of-five games of 11 points each.
- Like in tennis, the ball can only bounce once before hitting and volleys are allowed.
The ball must be played within the upper line (4.57 m high) and the line above the tin on the lower section of the front wall (48 cm high). If the ball touches or goes outside these lines, it is out.
- The first server is selected by a "toss" (racket spin).
- After hitting the ball, the player must let their opponent move freely around the strike zone to play the ball.
- If the opponent is too close and prevents the other player from playing normally and safely (not getting hit with the racket) or if they are between the ball and the front wall ("no man's land"), the player must not play the ball.
A stroke is awarded if a player involuntarily or deliberately interferes with the other player's ability to hit the ball.
The striker can ask for a let if the opponent involuntarily interferes with play without making it impossible to hit the ball. The referee decides whether to allow a let or not. If there is no referee, the rules of courtesy apply between players.
2. The Benefits of Squash
- Recognised as a way to beat stress, squash is an intense sport that's both fun and great exercise. You can play recreationally or competitively to reap the benefits!
- Squash works both your cardio and muscles to improve endurance, speed and flexibility. It is a physically demanding sport that burns a lot of calories and is ideal for those looking to slim down or tone up.
- But being fit isn't enough to play well. You'll also need a strong mental game because concentration and strategy are key to winning.
That said, the most important thing is to have fun on the court.
3. Getting Kitted Out For Squash
Heavy aluminium rackets (145 g to 170 g) offer a greater level of stability and durability for beginners while lightweight graphite rackets (110 g to 145 g) are easier to swing and improve ball feel and power. This type of racket is best for intermediate to advanced players.
Open throat or mono shaft rackets have a large head size for more power, while a closed throat provides greater accuracy.
A squash ball is between 39.5 mm and 40.5 mm in diameter and weighs between 23 g and 25 g. It is made of two halves of hollow black rubber.
There are five categories of squash balls (marked with coloured dots) which correspond to five skill levels.
- Double Yellow - a slow ball with a low bounce, used by advanced level to professional players.
- Yellow - a fairly slow ball with a low bounce for advanced level players.
- White - a medium-speed ball with a medium bounce for intermediate level players.
- Red - a fast ball with a high bounce, suited to occasional play.
- Blue - a very fast ball with a higher bounce that is great for beginners.