Friday, May 21, 2010

Slicing Up My Feet With Razors

The squash equipment we use today has gotten a lot better.

I was reminded of this by a great old video you can check out here on SquashZAG that shows Mohibulla Khan and Geoff Hunt engaging in a long, old-style point that involved less shot-making than you would see today and more attritional back-and-forth play. The difference of course is in the rackets they used then and the rackets we use today, which among other things have higher racket-head speed and larger sweet-spots. I can remember playing hardball way way back when with a (in hindsight perfectly ridiculous) metal racket that was significantly heavier than normal. This racket was soooo heavy and made of non-breakable metal, and thus it was great for a guy (that would be me) with very little money, because it would last a really long time. It was only after several months, when I realized my wrist was developing tendinitis, that I threw out the still-unbroken racket. I think that was the one and only time I ever threw out a racket that had yet to break.

Happily, racket technology has advanced. We also used to build up the top of the racket with tape in order to reduce the possibility of breakage as we scraped the racket head along the wall; nowadays, not many people do this, because the racket heads come with sturdy build-ups and don't seem to need it like they used to. 

Another important advancement has been with shoes. I can remember limping home after a tough match, filling the bathtub with water, and soaking my feet for a half hour or so. I would then take a razor and cut out the bumpy calluses and blood blisters that had developed on my soles, sometimes shearing off 2-3 square inches of hardened skin at a time. 

My wife, a psychologist, was concerned....

I told her I wasn't sick, just in love.       


  1. I agree the equipment is much better today but it seems that you are better off learning with the older heavier equipment. I've played for 30 years and I have a policy of taking on all comers. (this is because many of the greats played me at least one game --- I'm returning the favor) I usually keep an old racket in the bag for a newbee to use and after using the heavier old racket players begin to understand how to produce a better stroke.

  2. That is some hardcore foot treatment. Today's squash shoes are so comfortable I wear them for tennis.

  3. It's true that today's racquets enable the average player to hit harder than 30 years ago, but many top pros hit the ball very hard then too. I recall watching a video of a 1990 Mennen Cup (Canada) match between the two JKs who were using racquets with small, round heads that must have been 300 sq cm in string space (or whatever most racquets measured then). They hit the ball with as much power as today's male pros (and many female ones hit as hard). Granted, they took loopier swings with larger arcs than what is now taught at the top squash institutes. Back then you had to use more rotational force in the backswing to crank up the racquet = bigger loop.

    An equally significant change that lighter racquets have partly enabled has been the practice of taking the ball earlier. I think this is owing to the lower tin in the professional game (17 ins. high vs. 19 ins). The tactic has gradually filtered down from the top to the average player. Again, lighter racquets enable players to prepare and swing faster with smaller areas of preparation, allowing them to cut off the ball before it reaches the back wall, more frequently.

    The only disagreement I have with Squashist here is in how long racquets last for the average player. In addition to being larger and lighter, today's racquet heads are made of stiffer material than the ones of 20 years ago, so they are more brittle. Circular racquet heads of yore distributed shock from impact on the walls and floor more evenly that the larger, more oval ones do today. Other factors determine breakage: skill in picking a shot off the wall, the angle at which the racquet hits the wall, the speed of the racquet and the composition of the walls: plaster is more likely to break a racquet hit with a given force than panelboard and wood.


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....