DERIVED from the game of rackets, squash has changed a lot since its origins in 19th century England.
Around 1830, boys at Harrow School in London figured out that a punctured ball worked better for rackets, as it “squashed” on impact.
With the added variety of their punctured rubber ball that worked better in confined spaces, the schoolboys spread their idea to neighbouring schools.
In the 20th century, squash increased a lot in popularity, as courts were set up in more schools, and clubs were established across England. In 1884, the very first squash court in North America was set up in St Paul’s School located in New Hampshire.
The United States Squash Racquets Association was formed in 1904, making it the oldest national association in the world. Now known as U.S. Squash, they are based in New York City, and license the U.S. Open and the North American Open.
In 1912, the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association in the US established a subcommittee to set out the standard rules of squash, a significant landmark for the sport.
The RMS Titanic was fitted with an onboard squash court on G-Deck, in first class. It was available to book for 50 cents and could be used for up to an hour.
In 1923, Britain finally set out to create their own rules and regulations for the sport. Five years later, the Squash Rackets Association (now known as England Squash) was created and set standards for not just Britain, but also for international squash.
The rackets to be used in Britain would be made from English ash, leather, and natural gut.
The old oval shaped squash rackets were replaced by the elongated teardrops we know today, as racket production moved to China.
With the Chinese finally opening their economy in 1978 and putting an end to their policy of autarky, the Cambridge rackets factory was closed, as the old wooden rackets were superseded by the modern graphite variation.
Interestingly, the squash ball used differs, depending on the playing level, altitude, and temperature. Each ball comes with a different bounce level, with the colour used to distinguish between each one. Blue dot is the starting ball.
It is incredibly bouncy and used for beginners or junior players. The next up is red dot, which has a less exaggerated bounce, while green is around average and used by intermediate players.
Yellow is for advanced squash players, while double yellow was introduced as the competition standard at the highest level. There is also an orange dot, which has even less bounce than the double yellow, but is generally only used for games taking place at high altitudes.
Squash games are played to 11 points, but the game must be won by at least two, like table or lawn tennis. Competition matches are played in a “best of five”, meaning that the first player to win three games wins the matchup.
There are a few different variants of squash that are played throughout the world.
Doubles squash exists, which is essentially the same but with four players instead of two. Hardball squash exists in America, although its popularity has declined over the last few years, as the internationally recognised squash has proved to be more favourable.
Racquetball is another variation that came about in the 1950s, with the biggest difference being there is no tin (out of bounds area).
Founded in England, 1967, the World Squash Federation (WSF) was created. With 123 national squash federations all members, the organisation runs the development and promotion of the sport, while its partner, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) runs the professional competitions.
Irish Squash was established in 1935, and although the sport declined in popularity after a period of strength in the 1970s and 80s, it began to prosper again in the 2000s, particularly after the Women’s World Championships took place in Belfast, in November 2006.
With the Irish Open mostly held at Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in south Dublin, the squash community here is certainly thriving, and continuing its steady growth each year. The season runs from September to May, and with competitions catering for all levels and ages, there’s something in it for everyone.
Despite Squash’s global popularity with around 50,000 courts across 185 nations, it is yet to feature at the Olympic Games, despite being recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Several applications have been submitted from the WSF, but all have proved unsuccessful.