Playing Squash Against People Who Don't Know The Rules

Some players don't know the rules and some players don't want to know the rules, which is why being confident about the basic squash rules is so important.

16 December 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗

Let's be honest, some parts of the squash rules are a minefield of problems. Not because they are badly written, but because of the nature of sharing an enclosed space with another idiot. Yes, I said "another" idiot because sometimes we are all idiots. Anyway, I doubt any sport has to contend with the arguments, both on court and in the bar afters, as well as on the interent nowadays, regarding those rules.

Two women playing squash bumping into each other

Even very advanced players get in each other's way sometimes

Even two well-educated players, and by "well-educated" I mean people who do know the rules, can sometimes disagree about their interpretation. So it's no surprise that lots of players cause themselves and other players problems by not knowing the rules. I recently received this message.

Hi Phil, any advice for playing people who don’t seem to know the rules - and even profess their ignorance! No one wants to turn into talking rule book.

Anonymous, via Instagram

And before I respond to it, let's have a quick quiz.

Which situation below have I encountered in real life?

1. A server can have as many serves as they want until they are happy. If they don't hit the returners shot (the service return), they can serve again.

2. If a players shouts "MOVE!" during a rally and your don't move, it's their point.

3. Aiming the ball at the player is an acceptable tactic as long as you don't aim for the head.

The answer is at the bottom of the article.


The person who sent me the message says at the end "No one wants to turn into talking rule book." and that's tue but what you want and what you should be are two different things. Every single squash player who plays competitive squash should learn the rules. Not only that, they should learn how to mark and referee, because if you play competitive squash you WILL have to referee.

Maybe now would be a good time to define "competitive squash". I use this phrase when I am talking about playing in proper events; tournaments, leagues, inter-club matches, championships etc. You can be competitive when you play your friends and do your best to win, but that's not what I mean by competitive squash, although sometimes the biggest arguments are between friends!

I recommend going on a proper course, but even just reading the rules and talking about them with your friends and fellow players may be enough to avoid some of the more dangerous or easily-avoided situations.

I'm not a "qualified" referee, but I have been around squash for so many years, have read the rules a number of times, have had numerous discussions with referees, pro players, club players tournament admins to know those rules pretty well, but even I would go on a proper course if I were still involved with players and tournaments.

Video Analysis

Stop wondering how good your squash can be, and start making decisions that help you improve.



So knowing the rules is the first part, the second part is implementing those rules with confidence. If I were on court and playing against somebody and something happened, my demeanour and behaviour immediately during and after the incident, is key to projecting that confidence. In general, I strongly dislike it when professional players assume they know what the call will be and act accordingly. For example, they pick the ball up and walk to the serving box believing they will get a stroke awarded to them. But in non-refereed club matches, that's exactly what you should probably do.

Any hesitation or doubt, either verbally or physically could open the door to a discussion and that should be avoided. However, if there is anything asked, in a calm and as authoritative voice as possible, explain why the call is that way.

I'm not saying that all discussion is bad, but during the match it should be avoided, especially if it happens a lot over different aspects. if the same situation occurs in the same match, then perhaps this is the perfect "teaching moment" and a clear explanation is the answer to stopping it happening again.

At the end of the match, if the situation allows, e.g. there's nobody waiting to use the court, recreate the situations and demonstrate why it was a let or stroke and how it can be avoided.

Common Sense Versus Bullying

Many times common sense should prevail, but alas in the heat of battle and having a singular point of view can make common sense evaporate. Fanciful interpretation sof the rules only cause confusion. Nobody, especially me, expects you to be an expert overnight, and often a friendly tone and a let is enough to keep the squash fun and competitive. But don't let ignorant bullies control you. Stand your ground and defend your opinion. Don't let dangerous play occur and be prepared to walk off court if necessary. In fact, I recently wrote an article about Playing Against Aggressive Players, which may be worth a read if you have time.

Getting injured because a player won't stop doing something dangerous is not worth it in my opinion. Arguing with a player who doesn't know the rules is a waste of time. I'd rather hit the ball solo than play somebody who won't listen to reason.

Final Thoughts

Knowledge and confidence are key. But even those things can convince a person who is not interested in learning how to play squash properly. In those cases, you have to take in account the situation and decide whether it's worth fighting for the truth or just let it go, finish the match and avoid this person in future.

Quick Quiz Answer

All of them! That's right, over the years, I have heard each and every single point said seriously about squash. I have no idea where people get these types of ideas but they do. I hope newer generations of players don't grow up with these silly ideas.

Do you have any weird and wonderful stories about squash rules? Contact me and maybe I can turn it into another article.

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I am a squash coach with nearly 40 years experience, teaching complete beginners through to professionals.

Currently, I call myself an "online squash coach" as I rarely coach on court.

I enjoy working with club players and strive to present information in an entertaining and engaging way.

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