Taking the decision to play in your first proper tournament is an important step in your development. And for many it can be a very scary and stressful experience. No player will ever reach their potential until they challenge themselves and playing new people in new surroundings is a great way to become better.
Playing the same people, week in, week out, can be fun and give you an easy way to measure your progress. “John used to beat me and now I beat him, so I must be getting better, right?” Well, maybe, it’s not that simple. All that might have happened is that you adapted to his game. And, yes, adapting to different players’ games IS one way to show your progress, but if it takes you 10 times to beat somebody who is essentially the same standard as you, then have you really got better?
When you play your first tournament is important too. Too early in your development and you might not have as much fun as you could and too late, and you might keep delaying it until you are too nervous to try.
As a compromise, you could look to visit a club night/afternoon at a different club. That has some of the same benefits as entering a tournament without the pressure. You could also visit a tournament without registering to play, just to experience the atmosphere etc.
Lastly, you can make a counterpoint to each and every point I raise below and I respect that. I want to reiterate that if you are happy playing the same partner and have fun when you do, that’s great. I’m not trying to gatekeep fun squash. All I ask is that you try entering a tournament a couple of times and if after those two you don’t want to continue, then at least you tried.
Onto The Reasons
- Fire up your competitive spirit.
Nearly all of us play better when we are motivated, inspired and have a little stress. It’s true that every now and again, almost certainly when no one is watching from the balcony and the game we are playing has no importance, we hit the most incredible shots. Being able to play well when it counts is Some readers may know I am an English teacher and the students who really want to pass an exam are the ones who work hardest and the same is true of sports. Playing for fun is enough for many, many players but if you can make that mental step to play competitive squash, you will almost certainly find your desire to improve increases.
- Visit facilities that you wouldn’t normally be able to.
Many clubs are private meaning you can only play there if you are a member or a guest of a member. Whilst it’s true that lots of clubs have open days, especially on World Squash Day(1), for most of us making the effort to independently visit these clubs is too much trouble.
- Meet new people and beat them!
As much as that sounds like a tagline for a dating agency, simply expanding your circle of squash friends is a valuable thing. I’m not saying you have to socialize with all the people you meet or even any of them, but having a list of different players who you can contact and arrange games will suddenly spice up your squash life. I have said it many times before and I will continue to say it: playing different people is one of the best ways to improve your game (after you have reach an improver level). Adapting to different styles and shots is key to success and playing new people forces you to adapt your game.
- Having to referee/mark games.
(I use referee and mark interchangeably – in the past they actually used to be different jobs, but not any more) Some people enjoy this others don’t, but either way it will probably make you a better player. Watching a match from the balcony during club nights and seeing people argue over lets is very different from being the person who has to make the decision. Having to mark a match will almost certainly improve your understanding of the rules. Why? Well firstly, because you should do a little reading of the rules beforehand and secondly applying those rules fairly is at times challenging.
- Because it can be an absolute blast!
Anybody who has played tournaments will tell you that they are a lot of fun. There are times when it’s a little boring waiting for your match or when you meet and play disagreeable people (it does happen!) but overall playing in tournaments is so much fun. Even though it is a competitive situation there is a lot of cooperation too. Talking to players in-between games, seeing other peoples heat up routines, watching a meltdown when an obvious stroke is given as a no let, the social aspect of eating and drinking together after (if that aspect interests you) and just the general comradery of being modern gladiators who enter the pit for fun but also with the hope of glory.
Well, there you have them; 5 reasons to play in your first tournament. Now go and register for the next squash tournament!