Why squash is a dying sport

Don’t get me wrong, I am a self-diagnosed squash addict and love the purity of the sport… That being said, it’s a dying sport in large part to failings by the people who (don’t) run it.

First and foremost, the territorial in-fighting between the various ‘organisations’ is killing the goodwill that MUST exist for a sport to flourish. Squash clubs won’t promote events at other clubs for fear of…. I haven’t figured this one out yet, but they don’t do it.

Instead of thinking exponentially, enabling, facilitating and enhancing their members’ experience, they hide and inhibit the growth of the sport that they need to grow.

Cutting their noses despite their faces.

I’ll give you an example. I just competed at the 2010 Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast in Queensland only to find out it’s been held there every second year for the pat 10 years. I’ve been playing masters squash for the past 5 years and had never previously heard of it.

None of the masters players I know even knew the tournament existed, let alone that squash was included, not to mention it was now only staged in Queensland – How can that be?

But that’s not the only reason squash will remain sick as a sport rather than a thriving, vital  and growing sport. The multiple scoring systems are a nightmare for competitive players – especially when organisors don’t even know the scoring system until the day of the competition.

Can you believe that?!?!

What does it take to publish the $#%$% rules when you register? All it takes is a cut and paste of the rules which are sent to the printers WELL AHEAD of the event.

It’s not rocket science.

With 3 scoring systems, there are 3 completely different modes of play that are possible – limited training does not allow you to optimise for all 3.

Then of course there is the running of the events. When you have multiple age groups, each with different size draws as well as plate versus round robin formats, all running in parallel on multiple courts, the logistics are quite challenging – but there is a system to ensure things run smoothly.

It’s as simple as having a bulletin board with each court number at the top row with the next match indicated on the board AS WELL AS the following match, so each court has the next TWO MATCHES identified in chronological order. This permits all competitors to see when they are next up – based on the matches being played on THEIR COURT.

You’d think this is easy to follow – guess again. At the Pan Pacific Games, many games started 10 to 30 minutes early or late due to a total disregard for this fail safe system. Sadly, a competitor was caught off guard and actually lost a medal due to a late forfeit when her opponent used the late ruling against her.

I know this sounds like I’m whinging and I guess I am – it’s because it’s so disappointing to see us stuff this up when we can pull off the best Summer Olympics ever AND year after year have the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne become the player’s favourite Grand Slam event.

We can do better – so why don’t we?

That’s the question for the day – I don’t have an answer because the problem is a complex political one. Until all the squash clubs and associations agree to agree and work together in a concerted effort, for the benefit of the sport – squash is a terminal patient on its deathbed.

There are fewer and fewer players and therefore less and less clubs. I can totally understand why. I am relatively new to the sport with less than 5 years of competitive experience and unless I was a diehard fan (addict), the negative experience of the Pan Pacific Masters Games would be enough to substantially reduce my enthusiasm, maybe even have me consider quit competitive play altogether.

There is nothing worse for an elite athlete to train for something and have the rug pulled from underneath him/her at the last minute. All that training is ‘lost’ for no good reason – of course the training will serve a purpose later on, but that’s not the point of competing.

You want to do your best EVERY TIME you show up. You invest the hours, make the sacrifices and spend the time and money – to get an outcome. One that is fair and that you feel you have some control over.

I really hope all this comes to a head and someone somewhere starts to change things because unless that happens, this is a train wreck on a collision course with the death of the sport as we know it.

I hope this blog post gets squash people thinking beyond themselves – tennis for example has had a lot of growing pains, but look where it is now.

A mature multi-million dollar “money sport”.

The same can happen for squash – but first and foremost it needs to grow up.

Sooner rather than later.

In case you want to know, I played well, finished 4th in spite of the tournament’s challenges. I could have forced a forfeit and ended up with a Silver Medal when my opponent was late and I might have even ended up a Bronze medal when at 8-8 in the third game, I asked for a let on my way to a ball, was given a stroke that was totally wrong and I overruled it. Unfortunately, my good deed meant I lost the game and match 10-8.

Winning is VERY important to me, but not at all costs – when all is said and done, a medal sits at the bottom of a dark drawer whereas your spirit, integrity and self-worth is something you carry with you each and every day.

It should never become a burden!

3 Responses to “Why squash is a dying sport”

  • I have been a lifelong squashie since age 12. I turned up at the Avondale Squash Club (the day it opened in 1975) in Avondale Heights, Melbourne, Australia and never left the sport for 35 years. I wholeheartedly agree with you assessment of the sport and what is wrong with it. The competition from other more “marketable” sports also helped take away the junior pipeline into senior comps but I think better marketing through local schools would have helped the situation – especially the private schools where squash might have had a more traditional support network (through parental support perhaps).

    Anyway, thanks for getting it out there and sad there weren’t any blog responses. Maybe that is just where it is at. 🙁

    Regardless, keep on Squashing!!

    Kind regards

  • Another symptom of your sadly dying sport is that I know very little about it! I hope that your efforts prove successful at pumping some well needed attention into this anemic sport that could be so exciting if it was handled properly. Good luck, and keep us posted.

  • I agree with Marc. I have played squash one and off on a social basis over 30 years (with a gap of about 15 years).

    Gone are days where you had to ring up and book a court days in advance of the intended day and time. Nowadays, you can turn up and take a pick of which court takes your fancy.

    In my area of Brisbane, facilities with multiple courts have either been bulldozed for some form of non-sporting development or converted by the gymnasium consortium(s) (where a better ROI is garnered from the floor space). The nearest courts used to be just a few blocks away now are 30 to 40 minutes away some of these have a terminal date.

    I don’t if politics at the club level is the main issue (in Brisbane anyway). What seems to be lacking is united body to represent squash as a national sport (or is there one?).

    I started getting more serious with the game in the last 6 months to keep myself fit (just a year to 50) and personally I enjoy the game. I’ve also yet to meet an opponent that I did not like (even the ones that wipe the court with me). I’ve started getting my kids (10 and 8) to play as well and they love it.

    The game has got potential to thrive but as Marc states until there is a combined front to get the younger generation into it (using schools etc) the game will die out with the current generation…

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