Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The 5-Let Rule: FANtastic News

Several times in my career as a squash enthusiast I have dragged uninitiated sports fans to pro squash tournaments, assuring them that squash is a great spectator sport and they'll have a blast. 

Some did, but some didn't, and in the latter group a major reason for this less-than-stellar result has been irritation over the repeated entreaties to the ref, with players childishly begging for a Let, like a toddler whining for candy. Some players routinely whine more than others because it is literally part of their game-plan, and some matches devolve into a whine-fest that renders this great game into a stuttering, spasmodic, episodic, unflattering denial of the many athletic attractions that should exist in a top-flight match. 

I have several friends who are excellent squash players, and even they -- who should know better -- argue that squash is a bad spectator sport because of all the starts and stops that one is subjected to in many matches. 

So the news that the US Pro Squash Tour is actually doing something about the over-abundance of Let calls is, for me, fantastic news -- with an emphasis on the first syllable, for it's the fans who will be the big winners from this change. You can see the full press release here: 5-Let Rule Announcement.  John White, one of my favorite players of all time, is quoted in support of the rule: "By limiting the Let calls to 5 per match, players will have to start playing and clearing the ball a lot more. There are too many Lets for minimal interference. Once players know that it could come down to a Stroke or No Let they will start to play the ball." After 5 Lets have been awarded, the referee will be limited to awarding only No Let or Stroke decisions.

Change is always hard. We need only remind ourselves how difficult it was to transfer over to the PAR 11-point scoring system -- many opposed it, and some still do. So this new 5-Let Rule will likely be opposed by some, but my feeling is that if squash wants to attract more attention, both from players and the media, it has to relentlessly focus on the fan experience. This is a very good, hugely welcome, and major step forward which was made with the fans' interests uppermost in mind.  

1 comment:

  1. If there are no lets, what does a player actually ask for when "Baulked"?


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