SQUASH 101: Back to Basics
"I got totally robbed" is a common post match refrain often heard from players lamenting calls that didn't go their way. Whether the match was officiated or self-reffed, inevitably there are situations where the players disagree on what the correct call should have been. In squash, there is plenty of interpretation that needs to take place in the case of interference, not to mention the challenges of making the proper line and "not up" calls during a match.
It amazes me how few people actually do seem to fully understand what constitutes a stroke versus a let. Playing someone in a competitive match who doesn't know can lead to significant levels of frustration, on par with a computer virus or losing your cell phone. The regular LessonCourt section in this magazine helps us interpret the rules and apply them appropriately. However, if you're anything like me, you need to experience it to really understand, so reading the rules and interpretations certainly helps, but not entirely.
Having played for 20 years, I thought I knew the rules concerning interference quite well until I took a U.S. SQUASH officiating course in 2003 (prior to actually working at U.S. SQUASH). The half-day course used a presentation, videos and discussion to explore the topic in detail, and I came away from the day with a completely new understanding of the rules of squash. Unfortunately, these courses have only been available intermittently for the last several years due to a focus on other priorities.
It's also been at least a decade, but likely closer to two, since U.S. SQUASH has had any visual presence in clubs. Attribute this to being another victim of the transition from an offline world to an online world. Those of us who have been playing for a while will remember the white USSRA "Official Rules" poster which was literally a poster of the complete rule book.
This week we're going "old school" and sending a new "SQUASH 101" rules poster to all Member Clubs, along with other U.S. SQUASH promotional posters, brochures, and U.S. SQUASH tin stickers. It is our hope the SQUASH 101 poster serves two purposes-provide people who have never played squash some of the basic information they need to get started, and provide regular players some of the details on the more contentious parts of the rules, including interference and conduct.
We also just rolled out a revised online version of the "Club Level" Referee Certification exam. It is shorter than previous exams, and incorporates videos in order to help ensure players can actually effectively apply the rules. All junior players are required to pass this exam in order to retain a ranking. Adults are encouraged to take the exam to achieve Club Level certification, and some District leagues are beginning to require it for their players. We will soon add a "You Make the Call" section on our site that will have an ongoing series of points where after watch a point, you are then asked to make the call: let, stroke or 'no let.' I guarantee that you will frequently be surprised by what is actually the correct call.
Beyond these basic steps, we are also considering taking the following steps to increase players' knowledge of the rules and comfort with officiating:
- Adding officiating courses across the country
- Providing officiating starter kits for teaching pros and coaches to help teach their students
- Increasing officiating support at the local level to oversee, mentor and train officials
- Bolstering the officiating staff at National Championships
- Mailing out the rule book to members
How quickly we introduce some of this support will depend on funding. We are determined to help address shortcomings in what is a central and critical component of the game. In the end, though, it is important to remember that it is the players, not the officials, who are ultimately responsible for their own conduct, and to know and abide by the rules so no one leaves the court feeling robbed of their enjoyment of the game.