I care about your enjoyment. Honestly, I really do. I love squash and want it to be more popular. The best way for “me” to do that is to help “you” enjoy it more. If I can help you love squash, you might play it more. The more you play it, the more likely you are to introduce to somebody and so the cycle continues. Sounds easy, right? Well, maybe it is, but if I just focus on what I can do, then I will let the rest take care of itself.
So how does that little speech affect what type of player you are? Well, knowing the different types of player standards can help orientate yourself in the wider squash community. But I want to be clear, I do not want everybody to want to become an advanced player. That is certainly NOT my objective with my articles and videos. I do believe that being able to play all the shots, have a good understanding of tactics and being quite fit makes squash more fun. And FUN is my real objective.
The standards I describe below I just my designations. The ones I have used for years and the ones I categorize articles into on this site. Other people may use different names, other coaches may have more standards, other players feel these types of things aren’t helpful. Withing each of the standards below, it is possible to split them down further, but honestly it’s not important for this article. Lastly, this article is just a guideline. many people don’t fit into these names, and that is perfectly fine.
A beginner is almost certainly somebody who has been playing for less than 6 months or less than about 25 times. I say 25 times because that’s about once per week for 6 months. Now, just because you start playing squash, doesn’t mean you are definitely going to play EVERY week for 6 months. Of course not. I just feel that within the 6 months or 25 times you will have decided whether you really enjoy squash and want to continue. Most players withing this group are initially happy to just hit a few shots, run around to get some exercise and not worry too much about technique or rules. The equipment they use doesn’t need to be expensive, but of course if you have disposable income and want to spend it on good quality shoes then that’s fine too. Squash Goggles should be worn by all players who start playing squash and kept on for at least a year. After that, if you decide to not wear them, at least you have given them a fair trial.
Consider the Beginner as a trial period. A time to see if you enjoy squash and will actually continue playing.
This player has been playing for around 6 months and knows that they want to continue playing squash, and as such has probably decided they need a better racket, which could be true. They may have also decide to have coaching. The decision to get coaching is an important one because it generally signifies a desire to improve, hence the name. The “Beginner” is not only just starting or beginning to play, but they are also unsure if they want to keep playing.
You could easily argue that people know almost immediately whether they enjoy squash and want to keep playing or not, and I would probably agree with you. But, saying you love it and actually keep playing are very different!
So the improver has probably become a little interested in getting the balls out of the back corners and that means focusing a little on technique, which can lead to coaching. They will also probably start to hit their shots, both harder AND softer (obviously not at the same time – don’t be silly!), so they develop a desire for better drop shots and boasts.
The jump between Beginner & Improver is often more mental and physical. Improvers make the effort to improve, not just play.
A recreational player has past through the Beginner and Improver stages and has settled into a regular routine of a between once to three times per week playing. Most likely they will play with the same group of players, although they could belong to a club and might even attend club nights. These players are content with their standard and knowledge of the game. In most municipal sports centres around the world, the recreational player compromises the major of squash court bookings. If it weren’t for those types of players many sports centres might close their courts.
I heard too many coaches use negative, almost insulting, language when talking about this group and it makes me very angry. If squash had 50 million active recreational players around the world I would be so happy. THIS is the base from which you build a hugely successful sport. THIS group of people keeps the sport alive.
A Club player is very similar to a Recreational player but has one main difference: their circle of opponents. I have found that Recreational players tend to play the same small group of players all the time, and for many this is perfect, but it is a very delicate balance. If one or two of that group change their schedule, suddenly the whole group could stop playing. if they don’t know other people, they it’s very hard to arrange games.
And that’s where the squash club becomes important. The switch to Club player is not so much about standard or a desire to improve, it’s more about the environment they play in and perhaps the addition of a competitive atmosphere. A Club player plays more people over the course of a year. They probably play in the club’s ladder or leagues and maybe even local tournaments. All of those things encourage the Club player to train for squash.
Their squash bag is certainly full to the brim with rackets, spare rackets, shoes, kit, balls and other squash paraphernalia. They have probably had one or two lessons, in fact, they might even have regular lessons. Training squads and inter-club team squash might also be part of their “Squash Week”. In combination with Recreational players, Club player keep the sport of squash alive. These people are the ones that introduce their children to the game and it’s clear that the earlier children have access to squash, the better – although juniors is another article completely!
The Advanced Player!
It is at this point, that the actual standard of a player matters. The actual skill and ability of the player defines their group, not how long they have been playing or how often they play. There is a lot of crossover between Club player and Advanced player. Making the distinction is often of personal judgement. For me, an Advanced player is able to hit almost any shot they want from almost any where on the court. But the skill comes from choosing the right shot. They have the ability to rally up and down the wall for long periods if they want to. if they have coaching, it is to fine-tune their strokes, not get the basics right. In many ways defining an Advanced player is as simple as saying, you’ll know one when you see one.
If you belong to a club, depending on how big the club is, the Advanced player might consist of between 5% and 10% of the players. However, that percentage really is just a wild guess based on my experience. One final point. For me, an Advanced player is tied solely to their skill NOT their fitness. I consider myself an advanced player, but I lack even the basic-level of fitness and 90% of club players would be able to beat me.
But Phillip, What About Movement?
This article is already way longer than I had planned, but yes, using movement as a guide to a persons standard is definitely important. I feel confident that I could watch a player doing ghosting and tell you their level, even without seeing them hit a ball. That’s because moving is PART of technique.