Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sex and the Squash Player

OK, kids, look away now, this one ain't for you....

Back in 1995, Austin M. Francis, an avid squash player and marketing guru, wrote a very important book for the squash community in the U.S. called "Smart Squash: How To Win at Soft Ball." It was important because the great tidal shift from hardball to softball squash was under way, and many players were going out on the new international courts with the strangely squishy ball and didn't have the foggiest notion how to play the new game. Most players, me included, started out by playing hardball tactics with the softball, and that, friends, doesn't work. So he set out to teach us a thing or two, and he did. It was a very important work in the history of U.S. squash.

Francis also added a brief chapter towards the end of his book on the eternal question raised by participants in athletically demanding sports: Is it okay or bad to have sex before playing the game?

He only briefly raised the question, and quoted only from one unnamed pro player who had 'scientifically' tested his physicality after sex and after no sex, and had decided that abstinence fully 48 hours before a serious match was advisable.

This is called an N-of-1 study, and while it certainly has its place, it doesn't pass much muster among the scientific community. Indeed, there seems to be wide agreement that the physiological evidence for abstinence before squash is just not there. In fact, science has found that testosterone levels increase following sex, not diminish, so loss of power -- except for the brief recovery period directly after sex -- is not an issue. The psychological effect of the sex, however, could vary greatly among the participants, so it might provide a tremendous psychological boost or wreak havoc on the ego, or somewhere in between. Thus if the sex distracted an athlete, for example made them feel poorly about themselves for some reason, then that would likely not be a positive influence on their game.







The advisability of sex before competition has been argued for millenia. Pliny the Elder wrote in the year 77 that "Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by love-making." I note that he was "the Elder," so he must have succeeded in creating "the Junior," and hence may have known what he was writing about.

Boxers have mostly taken a hard line in favor of abstinence, believing by doing so that they get meaner and more aggressive for the trials that await them in the ring. It's been reported that Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer ever, would abstain for six weeks before a bout. He apparently didn't realize that having sex can actually reduce the sensation of pain, by blocking a neuropeptide pain transmitter called 'substance P.' Apparently, Ali didn't have to worry about reducing pain, since his opponents often had a hard time hitting him. But still....

Since the majority of pro athletes have historically been men and the science behind this question has therefore mainly focused on male athletes, women who wonder about sex before competition will have to keep on wondering. However, I offer this quote, from an article on BBC.com, which I suspect will be heartily endorsed by female athletes the world over:

" ...And then there's Israeli physician Alexander Olshanietzky, who's all in favour of sex -- for female athletes, at least. "We believe that a woman gets better results in sports competition after orgasm," he said in 1996, before the Atlanta games. "... The more orgasms, the more chances of winning a medal. Coaches generally tell their athletes to abstain before competition. In the case of women, that's the wrong advice."

And finally, there is the rather rare question of whether sex during a competition is advisable. This would not be possible in a squash match, since there are literally seconds between games (unless you are a gerbil; they're fast), but the question, I suppose, has to be raised. Here's a quote from "The Observer" that addresses whether this athletic tour de force is advisable:

"What about sex during an event? There isn't scope for it in most sports, but the experience of snooker star Paul Hunter suggests it can help. Trailing 6-2 to Fergal O'Brien in the final of the 2001 B&H Masters, Hunter retired to the Wembley Plaza Hotel with girlfriend Lindsey Fell. 'Paul's manager told me he was under pressure and that I should relax him,' explained Lindsey. 'So I stripped down to my lacy g-string and bra. We made love and he didn't think about the tournament for a second.' Hunter returned and notched up four centuries in six frames to win the final 10-9."

3 comments:

  1. Squash has a high in antioxidants and vitamin C and very few calories. Is particularly suited to help circulation, diabetes, diseases of the stomach and its diuretic effect, against the retention of urine. For this reason I try to eat ti frequently.

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  2. you're a retard kimberly

    ReplyDelete
  3. The message from the (fictional) thriller, "Sex and Drugs and Squash'n'Roll", would be mixed, but all night before a big game? And with your opponent's girlfriend? For the hero, Jolyon Jacks, that was a definite NO!

    ReplyDelete

Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....