Sunday, December 30, 2012


This year I’m determined to better my squash game by focusing on the following:

  1. Be much more aggressive cutting off loose lobs and going for the front-court drop-shot. I’m 6’ 4”, for Christ sake, what the hell am I doing letting so many lazy shots float by me to take off the back wall? Can someone please answer me that?
  2. I resolve to hit many more rail shots, and when I do hit a cross court, make sure it is wide and long, thereby reducing the opportunity for my opponent to hit a lazy shot out from the wall, as in #1, above. 
  3. I resolve to hold as many of my shots as I can. Sometimes the rail shot -- which I will be hitting more of, as per #2 above -- can be surprising if you hold and show the more typical cross-court. Try to make the opponent think, and double-think. 
  4. I resolve to think about every shot, as in #3, and not just hit an automatic response. I vividly remember a match I played at the University Club in NY several years ago. It was a quarter-final in the Bs, which, since there were about 90 contestants, was a victory in itself. My opponent and I were very closely matched, with the match see-sawing back and forth. I remember thinking really well that day, and one thing I did was I always hit a certain shot when put in a particular position. Every time I was stuck way in the backhand side with only a little room to hit the ball off the back wall, I would loft it up and hit it back deep on the backhand side. Every time that scenario came up, I had the same response. In the fifth game, I noticed my opponent was anticipating this shot and edging over just as I was hitting it. Next time the scenario played out, I waited and waited as the ball dropped off the back wall, and then hit a drop to the right front wall that had the guy flat-footed. I won by a whisker (that was as far as I got in that tournament), but remember in the shower afterward thinking that I had done so much cogitating out on the court that my head hurt! It was, in truth, a wonderful feeling. 

I resolve to have more squash-induced headaches, of the good kind, in 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Everything I've heard about the recent presentation before the Olympic bid committee, on December 19 in Lausanne, Switzerland, has been positive, and the production qualities of the two videos that were played at the bid meeting were great. They featured Ramy Ashour and the stellar Nicol David, who is not only the greatest female squash player that ever bounded across a court but also its greatest proponent. She will receive my vote for President of the World, should that vote ever come up... US Squash should take a bow as it has had quite a lot to do with the increased professionalism evident in this latest bid to the Olympics committee, but most of this work has occurred behind the scenes and, due to the politics of the bid, will remain that way.

James Willstrop was at the meeting and he said two things that I've been hearing a lot lately: "Squash represents the essence of Olympic sport. It’s gladiatorial given that we are the only racket sport where players share the same space, and to excel requires a mix of mental strategy, skill, athleticism and fitness..." 

Two things: First, I would think that racquetball players, whose numbers are still in the millions, might object to squash depicting itself as the only sport played in a box. This description of squash as being the sole boxed racket sport is being repeated all the time now, by various proponents of the game, and it is flat-out wrong. Being wrong bugs me; people should stop saying this.

Another thing that people keep saying lately is that the sport is "gladiatorial." Willstrop is not the first to say this; he is echoing someone in the squash establishment who, months ago, when trying to market the sport, had the word 'gladiatorial' pop into his or her head and the darn word got stuck there! 

When I read that word for the first time in the context of squash I thought, Wow, what a stretch, and how silly! Now, I keep seeing that word and I think, Jeez, enough with the gladiators! 

My point: There are lots of words that correctly describe squash that marketers, whose job it is to puff things up, could use to accomplish the task. When you use a word like 'gladiatorial,' the message gets lost in the medium. People stop and ponder the word, rather than the intent of the word. 

It's a fantastic sport; you'll find no stronger proponent than I. But its not the sole this or the gladiatorial that. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Which is More Important, The Grip or the Racket?

I know many squash players who, while having their own favorite racket brand and model, nonetheless aver that rackets are so marginal to play that it almost doesn't matter which racket one uses.

I think there is a lot of truth to this. Unless a racket is strangely heavy or very light a player with good experience can fairly quickly make accommodations and play at or near the level he or she usually plays. 

I would argue, however, that the grip is not as forgiving. 

For almost a year now I have been playing with an unusually fat grip. My grip is made up of the factory-placed grip, plus a spongy Karakal grip, plus another Karakal grip. I started doing this when I realized I was getting a bit of wrist tendonitis; a fatter grip is easier on the wrist. For those of you out there that occasionally have this problem, i recommend the fat grip for easing wrist discomfort -- it has worked for me.

However, today I played a certain podiatrist friend of mine, whose name will remain unmentioned, and much to my dismay the racket I had in my squash kit did not have this extra karakal grip on it. The grip is, after all, the part of the racket that serves as the intermediary between the human hand and the business end of the racket. We squash players make subtle changes to the grip as we play; either opening or closing the head of the racket as we are striking the ball, or perhaps choking up on the racket when we get into the back corners. In reality, there is quite a bit of movement along the grip, and I found the difference in grip size disconcerting. I could not quickly get used to it, as I might with a strange racket. As my podiatric opponent took the sixth game in a row (some were close, one went into overtime, but there were also a few blowouts as my issue with the grip caused a growing malaise that eventually sank into psychologic cataplexy), he voiced the opinion that the racket and grip were both ultimately not important, and that I just was playing like an idiot. While being fully cognizant that idiocy does strike the Squashist from time to time, I beg to differ; I think the grip is more important than the racket. What do you think?

PS: I was going to write a blog on the importance that this week's Hong Kong Open will play in our sport's Olympic application, but Alan Thatcher, always a step ahead, already has done that, HERE. I hope that the players in Hong Kong do not engage in endless discussion and complaints about Let/No Let/Stroke calls. That type of behavior will not do the sport any credit when it comes to the Observers sent to the match by the Olympic committee. Play, players... Don't talk, play.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yummm, I Smell Schadenfreude!

Interesting match this morning, against a player who overall I am probably 50-50 with. He wins a match, I win a match, back and forth it goes. We are both quite equal in ability, and we play a very similar game.

So the result is we play a lot of 5-game matches. And someone walks home with a smile on their face, and someone walks home not so happy. 

Lately I have been on a winning streak with this fellow, having won 4 of our matches in a row. Unprecedented! So I knew that this morning he would be gunning for my scalp.

Luckily, I started strong, winning the first game 11-8. The second game was tight throughout, and went into overtime, but again, I pulled out a win, so now am up 2-nil. 

The third and fourth games see-sawed back and forth, he's up, I'm up, into overtime, with some good running and great gets by both of us, but lo and behold I lose both games. 

We're tied at 2-2. Final game, a situation we have been in many times before. And he wants the win, bad.

Fifth game, like the others, is tight throughout. No one wants to give a point away. Its 1-all, 2-all, 4-all, 7-all, and finally an unforced error into the tin puts me up 10-9, game ball, and my serve. I tell myself to just do a mid-speed overhead serve into the side wall by the service box, nothing special. The ball goes where I wanted it, and my opponent decides to not hit it off the wall but rather take it off the back wall. 

But the ball hits a backwall nick and rolls out unplayable. 

Have I mentioned I love this game....?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Epic Failure at Norwegian Cruise Lines!

Sad to point out, everyone, but Norwegian Cruise Lines' boat, the Epic, has turned its once perfectly nice squash court into a storage bin for a bunch of fitness crap:

The Epic has succumbed to the all-too-frequent madness that fitness clubs fall prey to, and that's thinking that the more people they can stuff into a particular space the better off everyone is. There are a lot of reasons why this isn't true for fitness clubs -- here's one: squash members are a LOT more loyal to their squash club and will remain members for years if not decades, as opposed to flighty fitness seekers -- but some of these reasons should also hold true for a Cruise ship. If I were trying to design a top-notch cruising experience I would want to have in place some unusual treats for the cruising public, not what they have done here: provide bouncy balls you can get in your own home or the dirty smelly fitness club down the block. What is so special about this picture? Nothing! Remove all the crud and put two squash players in there -- now that's special. 

Therefore, those of you who are interested in cruise ships -- I am not one of them -- you may no longer ride the Norwegian Cruise Line until they fix this mess. Let's hope they do it right away. 

Also, just a note: I had provided two chapters to the Club From Hell, the world's greatest collaborative squash novel. That novel ended up being quite a good read, and it has just published its final chapter on Daily You can read the whole sordid tale right here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Thoughts on Whirled Squash Day

Grumbling from a few squashists about perceived inattention on the part of US Squash towards World Squash Day, including my own humble thoughts on this blog, has led US Squash to provide a list of the things they have done. That story is located here.

Seeing the list, I think they have done a pretty good job after all. I have my quibbles, but I won't bore you with them. 

I think the lesson here is perception versus reality. The reality is the organization had done quite a few things, and for me to say they hadn't was incorrect. But the perception of that inattention was not mine alone, so I think some thought should go into why that perception was out there.

One thing I noticed was this: Much of the activity on World Squash Day emanated from the site, whose name implies coverage of a sole tournament. Not being able to go to that tournament, I didn't spend too much time on the site. US Squash has, however, put a fair amount of content on this site that is not specifically related to the tournament, and some of that content involved World Squash Day. There was much less going on at the US Squash website  -- hence, my perception was of minimalistic effort.

All that being said, I want to reiterate that I am a strong supporter of US Squash and always have been. I've said as much in several of my blogs. They have done a terrific job advancing the sport in the US with limited funds and with limited personnel. They have many constituents that they must try to help, and sometimes those constituents can't help but feel a bit abandoned. In addition, with the Olympics bid once again heating up, US Squash has done considerable work aiding the worldwide squash community's efforts to get into the quadrennial games. Much of that work has been behind the scenes and under the radar of the average fan.

So, the reality is, good work US Squash.  And my perception has improved.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts on 'World Squash Day'

World Squash Day was a success, having generated much-needed publicity for our game and providing a great excuse for the squash-infatuated public the world over to get together and play some squash. 

The publicity aspect is very important. Heightening the profile of this often subliminal sport should be the principal focus of everyone who really cares about the game, including local clubs, regional and national squash associations, squash equipment marketers, and those whose job it is to impress the Olympics committee to give squash entree into the quadrennial games. 

There were a lot of clubs the world over who participated, indeed in all continents except Antarctica. It shows once again the universality of this great game

But, writing as an American, i was less than impressed with US Squash's commitment to the day. Barely a notice on their website, only one last-minute mention as the day was nearly upon us. 

For an organization that usually gets things right, I was underwhelmed and surprised. I'm not sure what the the motivation was behind the lackluster involvement, but the results showed. There were not a lot of US clubs who participated in World Squash Day, and that number surely would have risen if US Squash had made an effort. Is there something wrong with publicizing your sport worldwide? Please let me know; I don't get it.

Other national squash foundations were also absent or nearly absent, while, fortunately, others were more fully involved. I personally feel that an effort like that of World Squash Day could only serve the sport well, and hope next time national squash foundations will get off their butts and get behind it.

As for my actual squash on World Squash Day, I had an interesting match. I was playing a fellow who closely matched my abilities. We played a tough first game, which he ended up winning 11-9. In the second game i started strong and maintained a lead all the way up to 10-8, game ball to me, but my opponent serving. His serve is a lazy one, well off the wall. In those cases I will often hit a hard shot into the front side wall corner, which sends the ball whipping around and bouncing twice before my opponent can get to it. I hit this shot, and I hit it well. Really hard, just above the tin, no chance to get it, game The Squashist.

Oh no, says he, he heard a bit of tin. What? I couldn't believe it, tin? The ball was hit smoking fast, any tin that might have been hit would have made itself a lot more apparent. Plus the ball's bounce would be deformed. But he insisted. He heard tin. There were about 10 people watching our game. I opened the door and asked, Anybody think that ball was no good? Nobody was willing to say either my shot was definitely good or the shot had definitely tinned. I could not believe it. But I thought, well, this is supposed to be a friendly match, i'm not going to get upset about it, let him have his tin. 

Then, rather cheekily, he takes the point -- not a let, he just gives himself the point -- and serves again to me from the other side. It's a better serve, a little off the wall, so I let this one drift by, thinking I'll get it off the wall. But, lo and behold, the ball hits a perfect backwall nick, and rolls out unhittable. He laughs, as do a few of his friends watching. 

I felt a synapse in my brain collapse, as did the rest of my game. I lost 3-0.  I was as irritated by that match as i've ever been on the squash court. 

Later, after i calmed down, I joined a foursome and, for the first time in probably 6 years, played doubles. Now THAT was fun.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

World Squash Day

C'mon, there's still time to get off your arse and arrange to go to your local club and participate in World Squash Day this Saturday. I'll be at the CityView Racquet Club here in NYC; you go over to your club and participate in this promotional event that seeks to highlight the international scope of our great game. Now go on..... 

Also, today I submitted my second and final chapter in what has rightly been called the world's finest communal novel about squash, The Club From Hell. Check it out here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Schumacher Knocks Me Down a Peg

My arch-nemesis Dr. Schumacher has been laying low for quite some time. The last match we played was all the way back in late May, when I beat the poor man 6-2. 

Yep, 6-2, because we were playing tennis. At the end, Schumacher stalked off the court, darkly vowing revenge. 

But, perhaps fearful of another ignominious beat-down, the good doctor maintained an unnerving quiet. Not a peep, not a growl. Nothing.

Then suddenly, last week, a challenge. Schumacher invited me to play at a new club he recently joined. The club is out in suburbia where he takes his kids to play. Three nice new courts, a lot of exercise equipment, and loud and annoying thump-thump music as a gaggle of initiative-challenged knuckleheads did spinning, heedless of the effect of all that silly music on the squash players just around the corner. Not a bad place over all, though, despite a remarkably surly reception booth attendant who should be immediately fired.

So, we played. For a variety of reasons I had had a 2-week hiatus, and the first game was a bit ragged. He won it, although not by all that much. The second game saw me claw ahead in the early going, hitting a few nice drop shots that were too tight for old Schumacher to get. But to his credit he bounced back, doing what I have to admit is a great roll corner shot that leaves me paralyzed every time the bastard does it. Arrrgh. We ended up 10-all, but through perhaps divine intervention, yours truly won in overtime. Sweet.

But the next game was not so sweet. In fact, it sucked. I took a little mental holiday and admired the beeches and palm trees at a wonderful resort in my head while Dr. Schumacher performed surgery on my game. I think it was a lobotomy. I think I amassed a total of 4 points... 

Well, down 2-1 in games, I tried pretty hard in the next game, but Schumacher, sensing victory, would not give up, carrying the day for all Schumachers the world over, 11-8. The doctor wins!

Oddly, later in the day, a tennis buddy of mine asked if I wanted to play. I demurred, having just played squash and feeling a bit sore. But, being a sucker for a decent rackets game, he eventually prevailed, so off we went, and I played tennis magnificently. Hit nice forehands with good top spin and highly undercut backhands. Ran pretty well too, if i say so myself. Serve a bit off, though, although that's far from unusual.

Oh well, the ups and downs of the Squashist.... I never promised you perfection!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Some Unsolicited Advice for My Fav Nicol D!

I watched Nicol David's match against England's Alison Waters at the recently concluded Weymuller Open. I switched on the web-streamed event expecting to watch Nicol deliver some kick-ass to the recently injured Waters, who despite the fact that she has been out of action for what I believe has been an entire year has roared back to competitiveness.

Waters has never been a push-over, but Nicol has beaten her consistently over the years and I figured she had her number.

But from the start, I could see something funky was afoot. Waters was almost as good at retrieving as the legendary Nicol, and her shots were as dead-on accurate as Nicol's. I figured this was going to be an unexpectedly good match. And when Waters actually took the first game, I sensed some frustration from the Malaysian superstar.

One thing Waters was doing well was going for the occasional unexpected shot. On several occasions, for instance, Waters countered a dropshot with a return drop to the other side of the front court, always an unexpected shot selection that had Nicol scrambling. On the other hand, as I watched the game, I started amusing myself by trying to guess where Nicol was going to hit her shot, and I think I was correct about 95% of the time. Waters, on the other hand, was trickier.

In the end, Waters won, and hats off to her. A very big win to a woman who has only recently re-emerged from a long injury break.

But as some unsolicited advice for Nicol, she should increase her trickiness factor. I didn't see any holding of her shots, I didn't see her setting up for a drop and then suddenly hitting a lob, or showing a cross-court only to hit a rail shot. Nicol's shots are so good, so tight, partly because she is so quickly on the ball that she has the time to get her body in exactly the right position to get that perfect length, or hit that ball right down the wall, but the downside of this is that her set-up makes the shot she is about to hit too predictable. Mix it up, Nicol! Next time I'll see you in the winner's circle!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pay to Play ... Well, a Little

I figured would be a "game-changing" website and, once again, the Squashist was correct! Truly, I have been very impressed with both its concept and  execution and strongly recommend players out there consider forking over the relatively few bucks to learn from this terrific site. 

Why is it so good? The two principals, Peter Nicol and Jethro Binns, share a ton of very specific information about how to play this devilishly difficult sport. You can go get a pro lesson every week, but for a whole lot less you can get these two great players to share some of their secrets. And everything is covered. They already have a ton of videos that cover many of the specifics, and they will keep going, because there is endless depth to our game and these guys are the masters. 

The site has other pros offering their expertise as well. Two of my favorites: Lee Drew and Chris Walker. I suspect we will see many other pros offering their opinions as time goes by.

They also use a video analysis program called Swing School to illustrate how the player's body moves through space to most appropriately address the ball. It's very detailed and should be viewed more than once to fully grasp the information. 

There is also quite a bit of fitness information, offered up by Peter's girlfriend Jess. I've since done some of her workouts and have concluded that I need help. Desperately. 

Playing squash can be a bit expensive, most notably in finding a good club that doesn't break the bank account. But if you want to play up to your potential, you really need this site.

Indeed, other than Squash Skills, you need to strongly consider two other items that also cost just a bit but return quite a lot. The first is your local squash association. Being from New York, I gladly pay the fee to maintain my membership in US Squash. It is the backbone of the game here in the US; it is the straw that stirs the drink. I also happen to think that you can learn a lot by watching the greats play the game, so paying to join the PSA's Squash TV site is money exceptionally well spent.

In any sport you have to pay a bit to play. With these three sites, you pay a bit to play the sport really well. Go ahead and live up to your potential. If you can afford it, it is a wise investment indeed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One Word, One World

Down the streets of old Portugal where some speak Mirandese,
Or in the towns of Singapore, where tongues wag Cantonese.
In the Northern Island seas where the Danes speak Faroese
And some foreigners, I’ve heard tell, speak Chinese and Javanese.
Or along the Egyptian delta, where Arabic is king
It’s a worldwide phenomenon, amazing is this thing!

This polyglot world of ours is thoroughly awash
With lots of words, but there’s just one word for squash.

You could walk down the road speaking Uzbek or Manx.
You could say ‘Merci Beaucoup’ or ‘Tack’ or just ‘Thanks.’
It could rain in Sussex, so one puts on galoshes.
Then what can one do? Why, one goes and one squashes!

Scottish Gaellic’s heard along the Firth of Forth.
In Sweden it’s Sami that is spoken up North.
In South Africa its Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu,
And Pakistan speaks Pashto, Punjabi and Urdu.

But when these people feel they need a squash game
They all speak the same tongue, it’s all the same name!

In India it’s Bengali, Bhojpuri, and Khasi,
Plus Dogri, Sanskrit, Tamil and Nepali.
Italy has Friulian, Sardinian, Sicilian,
Catalan, Slovene, and, of course, Italian.

But all have just one word when it comes to this sport.
Say it and soon you’ll be on a squash court.

In Malaysia where the great Nicol David does play
They speak both English and a lot of Malay.
The Netherlands speak Dutch, West Frisian and Limburgish
And in Luxembourg – where I played once – there is Luxembourgish.
And the Russians have so many they’re too numerous to list
But by now, dear readers, I’m sure you get my gist.

If the world were one big squash court, I’m sure there’d be peace,
Acrimony, misunderstandings, and aggression would cease.
The next time soldiers, their bullets, and bombs are all set
Perhaps a squash player at the UN should yell ‘LET!’

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Chapter in 'The Club From Hell'

I've just contributed a chapter in The Club From Hell, a communal effort among some squash writers (or, writing squash players). You can check it out here on the DailySquashReport site.

Meanwhile, just yesterday I was playing a game, ran up to the front left corner to pick up a shot, which I easily got to, only to feel something go POP in my right knee. Not good...

I'm not hurt (much), not limping, no swelling, etc., so it seems relatively minor. But the POP thing was a new one for me, and unnerving. I have an appointment at the orthos next week, but until then, no squash for the Squashist. Merde.....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Smartest Commentary I've Read All Year ...

... about squash is right HERE, in which squash novelist Aubrey Waddy discusses the televisual pitfalls of the sport. I completely agree....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Psssst, They Did It Again

The fan-centric PST has once again made an excellent call. Joe McManus, the tour's commissioner, has announced that henceforth there will be a "zero tolerance policy" regarding dissent among players who disagree with a ref's decision.

Thank god for that. I noted sometime ago on this blog that the litigious discussion that ensues when a ref makes a tough call is a cringe-worthy pox upon the game of squash. Here I point out a BBC commentator's negative view of all the rancorous discussion. Though he liked watching the game, he probably felt at times that the greatest muscle being exercised at the tournament was that of the jawbone.

The PST will now have to live up to this decree. Will the ref have the testicular fortitude to stand up to one of the Tour's stars -- David Palmer, for instance -- and charge him a point when he starts complaining? They should, but we shall see.

In the end, the PST understands that it's about the squash.  If we want to go see people complaining we can go visit Washington DC.

Please god shut up! Players ... play!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Binns of the Tousled Hair Teams with 'The Great One' To Create a Kick-Ass Site

Peter Nicol, he of everlasting squash glory, has teamed up with the good-natured and chronically tousle-haired Jethro Binns to launch There is every indication that this site will leap right to the top of your internet viewing list, so get your bookmark button ready. 

This is in fact a relaunch. The earlier site was already good, but there was not enough to keep the Squashist's interest, which is at times as focused as that of a hyperkinetic, diarrhetic flea. So a high bar indeed .... 

But this relaunch will have a library of over 100 videos, with a new one added daily! This quotidian blast of squashy goodness will make a terrific impression on squash browsers the world over. Other squash luminaries will appear on the site as well. 

Indeed, I offer this prediction: This site will fundamentally reset the internet expectations of the squash-loving public -- it's a game changer! Other sites will have to step up or risk becoming obsolete.

Here's their site: bookmark this if you haven't already done so.

Good luck to them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Squash is Dying in the US! Oh Wait, No It's Not....

From time to time there erupts on the squash scene much ado from doom-and-gloomers who are convinced that squash is dying a slow death in the US. They point to court closings (an unassailable fact in cities, alas) and bemoan the old days when clubs abounded. Their conclusion: the sport is doomed.

But my own experience argues against that. I see a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of players. 

So I was interested when the PST's e-zine noted that the Sporting Goods Manufacturer's Association had found a significant uptick in squash participation.

This was a professional, accurate analysis, with a total of 38,172 completed surveys. They found more than 1.1 million US residents had played squash during the previous year (2011), with about 400,000 of these being more frequent, 'core' participants. Most -- 64% -- of these core squashists fell between the ages of 25 to 44, putting a lie to those who say the sport falls off after college. 

The findings show a nearly 40% jump in some squash participation between 2009 and 2011, demonstrating that increasing numbers of folks out there are interested and giving squash a try.

Which is an important point: Whenever I meet someone interested in trying out the game, I always get them on the court and give them an introductory lesson. I make it a point to use the easier beginner balls, and anyone who is a true squashist should do the same: get them out on the court and have a few beginner balls handy. 

The true squashist is a squash evangelist who not only loves the game but makes it a point to transfer his or her own enthusiasm for the game to others.

So get out there and play. And no, chicken littles, the sky is not falling....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Squash in the Fourth Dimension

The 4th dimension is of course Time, and time, in publishing, can throw a wet blanket on things.

I just received, on June 5, the April/May issue of Squash Magazine, the official publication of US Squash. The fact that I received it late, not even within the extra-wide 2-month window of its publication date, was noteworthy. Why would a publisher do that? Well, being in publishing myself, I can guess that the answer is probably related to ad dollars. The publisher and editor, Jay Prince, was probably holding out for a few more ads before he put the magazine to bed. Jay gets some money from US Squash to put the magazine out, but he relies heavily on ad dollars to keep the enterprise afloat.

I can completely understand. We have had to do that a few times when advertisers have turned uncharacteristically impecunious (ie, cheap!). But it is dangerous to do that when publishing a news magazine, because it puts in jeopardy the usefulness of the very thing that constitutes the reason for the publication in the first place: news....

In the April/May issue there are four feature articles. Each one reviews the results from a squash tournament. And all four of the tournaments on display in this issue were from March.

So I received the issue in June, and am to read a series of articles about tournaments from March... In the age of the internet, this is not a winning formula.

The issue has a few other head-scratchers, like an invitation to attend the CitySquash 10th-year party at the University Club in NYC, which had already taken place nearly a week before I received the issue.

Now, this should not be read as criticism of the management of Squash Magazine. I am sympathetic to the problems of publishing under financial duress.

But I think it might be time to change the model. Forget publishing a print magazine; printing and postage costs are too expensive anyway. Prince and his editorial staff can publish the news about squash and run all their feature articles online as quickly as possible so that the information on their website is still fresh. I visit online squash sites all the time, so Squash Magazine's current articles about the US Junior Championships, the adult US Championships, the US Doubles Championships and the US Skill Level Championships were no longer of interest to me -- I had read about them months ago!

US Squash gives Jay Prince money to help fund the magazine because receiving it is a benefit of membership in US Squash, so if the magazine were to resort to an online-only presence, then some significant additional information on the site should be closed to US Squash members only. That could be easily done by setting up a password-protected part of the site. In this section would be additional articles, association news, and enticing visual items, including images and videos from tournaments as well as podcasts, blogs, and other online-only offerings.

The internet is perfect for covering a sport. You can talk about it all you want, include some pictures and diagrams, but actually watching it is always going to have the most impact. But above all, the internet respects the dangers of the fourth dimension when it comes to the dissemination of news. It's time Squash Magazine made the digital leap. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Winning the Knock-Up

Over the years I have had a boatload of interesting squash matches, but looking back I've also had my fair share of interesting knock-ups. You know, the warm-up period when you hit back and forth, hard and soft, to and fro, forehand and backhand, to get you and your opponent ready for the main event.

There is definitely a psychology to the knock-up. I remember playing in an A level tournament about a decade ago. I got on the court early because I had heard that my opponent had "terrific hands" and since I knew I was going to have to do a lot of running I wanted to get thoroughly warmed up. I was doing court sprints when, turning around, I saw my opponent, in street clothes, just staring at my through the glass wall. I gave a little wave and tried to look deadly serious as I went back to my workout. The opponent, smiling, walked off to get changed. A bit later I stopped the running and started to hit, very very hard, working my arm and shoulder to get as much power as possible ready so that my "guns" could rifle a shot away from Mr. Super-Hands. While doing this I did some over-hitting, letting the ball purposely bounce off the back wall so I could blast it back to the front wall. Lo and behold while doing this I looked around and saw him again, staring at me, while engaged in a pleasant conversation with a friend.

What the hell is this guy doing, I asked myself, panicking..... He should be warming up! Doesn't he care? What am I dealing with here?!

Finally, he got on the court. Very politely introduced himself, hit about 3 shots from the forehand and then 3 from the backhand, and declared himself ready.


Mr. Super-Hands had won the knock-up by a knockout. He also won the match 3-0. I'm here to report he did indeed have great hands.

I've also played my fair share of opponents who go about the serious business of the knock-up in odd ways. I've played plenty of people who use the time to hit blisteringly hard shots, but absolutely no front-wall drops. Then, when they play, it's drop drop drop like a Chinese water torture.

One guy mostly just practiced serves. I couldn't figure that out. Several people have hit the ball back to themselves, once, twice, thrice, up to 6 or 7 times, thereby violating an unwritten rule of squash sportsmanship. A hit or two, maybe three, but then hit it back to your opponent. But by hitting more than that, they instantly put an edge on the upcoming match. It's like they're saying, "Hey, I like things my way, and you are in my way, so get outta my way, OK?!" 

Other times the knock-up is used to display supreme confidence, as was done with Mr. Super-Hands. One memorable knock-up occurred in another A tournament. I had somehow passed the first round and then found myself up against the best player around bar none. My goal wasn't to beat him, that was not possible, but i wanted to at least get a respectable amount of points from the man. I didn't want to go home triply bagled, awash in shame. So I got out there as soon as possible, hitting on the court and trying to warm up, hitting indeed past the start time while I waited for my opponent, when he finally arrived. He apologized and said he only had about a half hour so he would skip the knock-up and just go straight to the match.

That of course sent the gray matter between my ears into a neurologic spasm..... The guy had won the knock-up by not having a knock-up....

We started to play the match although this great player seemed strangely disengaged, but happily so. We traded points a few times, until we got to about 6-all. At that point he quite clearly looked down at his watch, obviously realized he better get going to finish things off within the allotted half hour, and then opened up a blistering attack with the hardest struck squash balls I have ever been witness to in my life.

I didn't win a point after that, losing the remaining games 11-0. But to this day I still tell people I took 6 points off Kenton Jernigan. Hah!