I’m using the term “racket sports” and I define a racket as something with strings. If it doesn’t have strings, then it’s a bat in my mind, but that’s not an industry standard. Many people in table tennis call their bats “rackets”, so just be aware that basically I am talking about sports where you hold something and hit a ball and then your opponent hits the ball with their something, normally on a court. Phew.
So with the definition out of the way, let’s address the title. It seems to me that too many people view other rackets sports as competitors to squash and I can understand why people would think that. We have all heard of people trying squash and having fun, but then preferring tennis or badminton for example. The problem with this thinking is that the logical conclusion would be to ban all other racket sports except squash! Clearly that’s a stupid conclusion. Why would we want to stop people from enjoying other sports?
In some ways, they are right. squash does compete with other rackets sports in terms of budget at local sports centres. Many places have limited budgets and need to allocate that budget to a variety of different sports and racket sports get bundled into one category, in the same way that invasion team sports do too. Do we say that rugby is the enemy of football or hockey? I don’t think so. people who play hockey, would not play rugby if hockey was not available to them. Just because they are similar in some aspects, doesn’t mean that the people who play them would switch if they couldn’t play their chosen sport.
What we need to do, and it seems to be happening more and more, is accept that people like different racket sports, but also recognize that a lot of people want to play multiple racket sports over the course of a year and cooperate with each other instead of fighting against each other. Private sports centres with squash, tennis, padel, pickleball etc and starting to appear. The combination of squash and tennis is very common, it’s what most private clubs (outside of the city centres anyway) have.
There is the possibility that we could fragment our player base, but I also believe that we shouldn’t ignore the fact that squash might become a specialist niche within racket sports, in the same way that rackets and real tennis have. It’s not what I want, but it is a possibility. And the reason is simple and often ignored: Squash might not be as easy to play was those other sports. SHOCK! that little ball and the racket with the small head can be less than fun with the WRONG ball. I mean, badminton has a racket with a little head and the shuttlecock’s point is smaller than a squash ball, but it’s easy to hit.
Too often I have stood on the balcony of a squash court in a public sports centre and seen complete beginners try to play with a double yellow dot. Why? Because the ball said “Super Slow” on the box and as a beginner you want a slow ball, right? It’s a natural assumption and squash is to blame, NOT those beginners. As a side note, I have given away so many red dot balls in my life, I just hope that at least some of those beginners carried on playing squash!
So instead of looking at other sports bemoaning their success, let’s reassess squash and see what we can do better, how we can work together to allow players to try all racket sports and play the one they enjoy, or hopefully play many different sports during the year. The first thing is the ball. Let’s rename them to Beginner, Improver, Club and Advanced. IS that naming system perfect? NO. Is it much better than Super Slow, Slow, Medium and fast? Yes.