Squash 101

What are the origins of Squash?

Squash originated in the boarding schools of England in the mid 1800s.  There are urban myths that it started in prisons where people couldn’t get exercise, but the sport probably  originated at The Harrow School where kids in the playground began hitting a rubber a rubber ball against a wall when they were bored and the other racquet courts were booked up. 
The sport was named squash because the ball “squashed” when it hit the wall.  From Harrow, the sport spread to the other elite boarding schools and by the end of the 19th century private courts were turning up in England, specifically at Bath, Queen’s, and the Marylebone Cricket Club.
But it wasn’t until after the First World War that squash really caught on, and in the 1020s, courts started showing up in lots of clubs, schools and universities in England.  From England the game spread through the British Empire, to Canada, India, Australia and South Africa.


What are the rules of Squash and how do you win a match?

Squash is played on a court with four walls (a ceiling is unnecessary, but most courts do have a ceiling that’s 18 feet or more from the ground and if the ball hits the ceiling it is “out”). A ball is out if it is hit too high on the front, side or back walls.  The front wall is 15 feet hight, the back wall is 7 feet high and the side walls are diagonal lines that slope from the front to the back.  
The rules of squash are really really similar to tennis (apart from tennis’ crazy/unique scoring system).  You’ve got to hit the ball, in tennis you hit it over the net, in squash it has to hit the front wall above the “tin” which is only 18 inches high.  Unusually, in squash the ball can hit any other wall en-route as long as it isn’t “out” and doesn’t hit the ground before hitting the front wall.  Like tennis, if the ball bounces twice, it is also “out” and also like tennis, you start by serving and have to get the ball into your opponents service box and not have the ball go out in order to start a rally.  
Once you’ve got those essentials under your belt (which are pretty obvious once you are on court) you can start scoring.  Although there have been a few variants to scoring over the years, the standard today is best of five games (these are like “sets” in tennis).  Each of the games are played to eleven points. And (again like tennis) you have to win by two points.  So if the score gets to ten points to each player the game continues until someone has won the game by two (eg 12-10, 14-12 or 22-20).  The first player to get to three games wins.
A unique and complicated component of squash is the “Let” and the “Stroke”.  The basic principle is if you obstruct someone from going in a straight line to the ball it’s a do-over (a Let) or if he or she could definitely have got the ball it’s their point (a Stroke), if their ability to get to the ball is in doubt it’s a “Let” (a do-over). As you get better at the game this becomes more and more obvious but even at the professional level people question the ref’s Let and Stroke calls.  A recent innovation is the TV replay so that you can judge more clearly what the correct call is.  In the professional game a player can request an instant replay if they don’t like the call the ref made which most of us have found highly educational and a great innovation.

If I already play tennis or racquetball, does that make it easier for me to pick up Squash?

Yes!  The racquet skills and hand-eye coordination needed for tennis, racquetball, table tennis, badminton, or any other racquet sport will be helpful in squash.  And athletes that play one can play the other without harm.  Just ask Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic, who are accomplished squash players and also play a little tennis on the side for money.  


What are the differences between Squash and racquetball?

The ball:

This is the biggest difference between racquetball and squash Racquetball uses a large hard bouncy ball, and squash has a small, soft “dead” ball (it doesn’t bounce).

The racquets

Racquetball has squat short-handled racquets vs. squash’s long-handled versions. 

The courts:

The squash court is 1 foot wider and 10 feet shorter. However, the bigger court difference is in the rules. A ball is never “out” in a racquetball court, whereas in a squash court the very bottom of the front wall “the tin” is out – as is the ceiling, and above 15 feet on the front wall and 7 feet on the back wall.

The physics:

In Squash, you can lob or drop the ball (short shot that stays in the front of the court) whereas in racquetball neither of those shots are very effective. In racquetball the ball tends to come back to you sooner or later and so it’s about overpowering low shots. Despite the smaller court, squash is usually more physically demanding as you have to go get the ball vs. the ball the ball coming back to you in racquetball. 

Where and how can I get started if I want to take up Squash?

Squash is the greatest sport on earth.  It just is.  And you can’t argue about it because you’ve probably never played it.  Worse, it’s hard as hell to find a place to play, which is why we launched The Manhattan Community Squash Center (and 99 more facilities to come, courtesy of our parent non-profit, The Squash Center). Our friends over at Public Squash feel the same way and launched a public (free) court in Hamilton Fish Park in New York City.  In doing so they took the game back to it’s outdoor roots.  Once we open our doors in the spring of 2019, we’ll offer free beginner clinics on the weekends so that you can drop by and see if you like squash

We’ll also offer deeply discounted initial month trial membership so that you can see if you like it and get addicted like we have. Once you’ve tried our unlimited monthly trial you are officially allowed to argue with us about whether or not squash is the best sport in the known universe.  Until then, you’ll have to trust us: it is!

Help Support Manhattan
Squash Community Center

We are not yet fully funded.  You can help us in several ways:

  1.   Become a member
  2.  Tell your friends you joined (or at least tell them about us if you are still on the fence).
  3.  We will be selling overpriced SWAG on the site which will get you goodies, a tax deduction and a general feeling of well-being.
  4.  Donate something that we can sell on our site.
  5.  Become a Founding Member – for more details, click the link below.
  6.  For those of you who are really excited, spend some of that hard-earned wealth on naming a court after your hero, a loved one, or yourself.  There are other naming opportunities as well.  My favorite? The Bar (code-named Court 6).
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