How Squash Has Changed ...
I'm back into squash after a 13 year absence and there have been lots of changes. In the same way that the metaphorical boiling frog doesn't notice the gradual increase in temperature, some changes aren't always obvious to those who have lived through them.
So, I'd like to write about some of those changes and see if you agree with me.
In some ways I'm a squash purist, but in others, I welcome advances. I am so happy that players are now allowed to wear coloured clothing. Not long ago I tweeted that I was once refused entry onto a squash court because of my black and orange shoes. I was flabbergasted. Nowadays, it's getting harder to find white shoes! Of course, it's not just shoes it's clothing. Peter Barker springs to mind immediately, with his full set of kit all one colour.
But it's not just the colours of clothing, it's the materials. Back in the day, we thought that having a cotton white t-shirt drenched in sweat was the ultimate reflection of a hard-working player. Some players wore grey shirts specifically to show the sweat.
I'm now playing with a wicking base layer, with a t-shirt that if I were to believe the marketing spiel could help me beat Ramy.
It's not just advances in clothing, it's actually new types of clothing. I recently purchased two items of compression equipment; some under-shorts and, I can't believe I am typing this...some calf sleeves.
Sure, long socks have been around years but only football and rugby players really wore them. I've yet to wear the calf sleeves but the under-shorts are great.
Squash players are generally nice people. I feel confident that I could go anywhere in the world and visit a squash club and say I'm visiting and receive a warm welcome. Whilst that is still true now as it was when I was more involved in squash, some things seemed to have changed.
The first is the knock-up/warm-up. If somebody hit 3 shots back to themselves they were considered selfish. It seems now that more than 5 is common. I really lose out here because I hit one straight and one crosscourt and the other guy has 3 times the number of shots per side. I just can't bring myself to keep the ball.
I've made it my mission (my "one-man mission" as David Campion used to say) to re-educate those around me to a more civilised knock-up.
Next is how players request Lets. I've seen way too many players ask for "Lets" and simply assume that the ref will give the decision to them. They demonstrate this assumption but either taking the ball or by moving into position to either server or receive server depending how they think the call should go.
I was taught and taught it to my pupils, to turn and look at the ref, verbalize "Let, Please" and wait for the decision.
I understand the psychology behind trying to influence weaker refs, but it's just a cheap trick in my mind. Sport should teach youngsters about respect and honour. I now I probably sound like an old fool to younger readers but I stand by those principles. Let's teach THROUGH sport.
This one surprised me and I'm only really thinking about the professionals here, but the style of swing and wrist has changed. No doubt due to the improvements in racket technology but players seem to use less upper arm, especially on the forehand. My elbow is much higher than many other players just before I start my forehand swing.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the new crop of players are doing anything thing wrong, because I accept that multiple techniques work.
The cocked wrist also has gone and watching Ramy and Nick you can see the forearm and racket form a straight line before a full swing is made.
It looks like I have some adapting to do before that T-Spiel comes true.
Lastly, let's talk tactics. I could be imagining it now but I feel the crosscourt has become narrower. Again, I'm not saying players are doing it wrong, that would be crazy. But I am saying that due to the increase in hitting speed, players can get away with a fast but less narrow shot that they used to in the past.
These crosscourts are always going away from you into the corners but the downside is that if it's too narrow then the can be volleyed.
Another shot is the body shot. Player from the front of the court, players are now hit shots that are half-way between straight and crosscourt; directly at the opponent. It's a very clever shot and reminds me of the tennis lob.
The tennis lob was first played in competitive matches almost 30 years after the modern game became popular. Did nobody think of it or was it considered "ungentlemanly"? Either way, I'm thinking "Damn it, why didn't I think of that?".
Well, there you have them. Perhaps I've missed some, in which case, please add them in the comments. Maybe you think I am seeing things that aren't there, in which case, tell me in the comments.
Thanks for reading!