Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two players (or in doubles 4 players on court at a time) in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Squash is recognised by the IOC and remains in contention for incorporation in a future Olympic programme.
The game was formerly called squash racquets, a reference to the “squashable” soft ball used in the game (compared with the fatter ball used in its parent game
Squash has been featured regularly at the multi-sport events of the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games since 1998. Squash is also a regular sport at the Pan American Games since 1995. However it is still not recognised as an Olympic sport.
Squash players and associations have lobbied for many years for the sport to be accepted into the Olympic Games, with no success to date. Squash narrowly missed being instated for the 2012 London Games. It was again up for consideration for the 2016 Summer Games along with baseball, softball, rugby sevens, karate, golf, and roller sports, but missed out again as the IOC assembly decided to add golf and rugby sevens to the Olympic programme.
The Benefits of Playing Squash
There are several variations of squash played across the world. In the U.S. hard-ball singles and doubles are played with a much harder ball and different size courts (as noted above). Hard-ball singles has lost much of its popularity in North America (in favour of the International version), but the hard-ball doubles game is still active.
There is also a doubles version of squash played with the standard ball, sometimes on a wider court, and a more tennis-like variation known as squash tennis. The relatively small court and low-bouncing ball makes scoring points easier than in its American cousin, racquet-ball, as the ball may be played to all four corners of the court. Since every ball must strike the front wall above the tin (unlike racquet-ball), the ball cannot be easily “killed”.
Squash provides an excellent cardiovascular workout. In one hour of squash, a player may expend approximately 600 to 1000 calories (3,000 to 4,000 kJ). The sport also provides a good upper and lower body workout by utilising both the legs to run around the court and the arms and torso to swing the racquet. In 2003, Forbes rated squash as the number one healthiest sport to play.
However, some studies have implicated squash as a cause of possible fatal cardiac arrhythmia and argued that squash is an inappropriate form of exercise for older men with heart disease.
The History of Squash
Squash is a sport developed from at least five other sports involving racquets, gloves, and balls having roots in the early 12th century in France. Religious institutions in France, such as monasteries, developed a similar game. Monks used gloves that were webbed to hit balls against a fishing net strung across the middle of the courtyards of the monasteries. This developed the early “racquets” used in tennis and squash.
Then in late fifteenth century, tennis was developed and spread to other European nations. The next major development of squash took place in England where the game of “racquets” was developed in Fleet Prison, a debtor’s prison. Similar to tennis, it involved racquets and balls, but instead of hitting over a net as in tennis, players hit a non-squeezable ball against walls. A variation of rackets that also led to the formation of squash was called fives, similar to handball. Fives was essentially the game of racquets, without racquets. It is played against a wall or walls.
These games gained popularity in schools, and squash itself was developed at Harrow School in England. The first courts built at this school were rather dangerous because they were near water pipes, buttresses, chimneys, and ledges. The school soon built four outside courts. Natural rubber was the material of choice for the ball. Students modified their racquets to have a smaller reach to play in these cramped conditions.
The racquets have changed in much the same way as those used in tennis. Squash rackets used to be made out of laminated timber. In the 1980s, construction shifted to lighter, carbon-based materials (such as graphite) with small additions of such components as Kevlar, boron and titanium. Natural “gut” strings were replaced with synthetic strings.
In the 20th century the game increased in popularity with various schools, clubs and even private citizens building squash courts, but with no set dimensions. The first squash court in North America appeared at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire in 1884. In 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the earliest national association of squash in the world was formed as the United States Squash Racquets Association, (USSRA), now known as US-Squash.
In April 1907 the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association set up a sub committee to set standards for squash. Then the sport soon formed, combining the three sports together called “Squash”. It was not until 1923 that the Royal Automobile Club hosted a meeting to further discuss the rules and regulations and another five years elapsed before the Squash Rackets Association was formed to set standards for squash in Great Britain.
The sport spread to America and Canada, and eventually around the globe. It was founded in 1924 in New York as Metropolitan Racquets Association, or MSRA. Players such as F.D. Amr Bey of Egypt dominated the courts in the 1930s. Heather McKay of Australia dominated the game during the 1960s and 1970s, winning sixteen consecutive British Open titles between 1962 and 1977. Another Australian, Geoff Hunt, won a record eight British Open male titles between 1969 and 1981.
During the 1980s and 1990s Jahangir Khan of Pakistan won the British Open a record of ten times and Jansher Khan of Pakistan won the World Open a record of eight times. No list of squash champions is complete without referencing the legendary Pakistani Hashim Khan, winner of 7 British Open championships, and his son, Sharif Khan, winner of 12 North American Open titles.
According to the World Squash Federation, as of June 2009, there were 49,908 squash courts in the world, with 188 countries and territories having at least one court. England had the greatest number at 8,500. The other countries with more than 1,000 courts, in descending order by number were Germany, Egypt, the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Malaysia, France, the Netherlands, and Spain.
As of June 2009, there were players from nineteen countries in the top fifty of the men’s world rankings, with England and Egypt leading with eleven each. The women’s world rankings featured players from sixteen countries, led by England with eleven.
The men’s professional squash tour and rankings are run by the Professional Squash Association (PSA). The equivalent body for women is the Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) and also (WSA).
Recent measures taken by the Government as well as the efforts made by the officials of the federation have resulted in the growth of popularity of squash in Bangladesh. The Government has proposed to provide a land where the main Federation headquarters will be built. Already two back to back tournaments have taken place in Dhaka Club. On June ,2011 there was the Grameenphone open squash tournament, where Swapon Parvez of Basundhara group emerged as the champion of the premier division beating Shaheed of Gulshan Club.
Another talent that was observed during the tournament was Iman from Gulshan Club who became the champion of in U-18 division. After just one month on August another tournament was held which was Digital Auto Care Open Squash. In this tournament as well Swapon Parvez rose as the champion beating Raju Ram of American Club, who is one of the rising stars of squash in Bangladesh. The secretary of Squash Rackets Federation has also promised to hold another national tournament in the coming month of September.