Monday, July 26, 2010

“Let” It Be

We all know it: Squash is a brutal sport. It’s vicious on the body, cruel on the lungs, challenging on the mind, yet somehow when all of these aspects are melded together, it’s emphatically euphoric and addicting. We suffer through the agony of oxygen deprivation, the misery of lactic acid build up, the torture of sore muscles and joints, and keep on coming back for more and more. However, as much as we all admit to being squash junkies, the one single theme that members grumble to me more about than anything else is… refereeing.

Never do I see our members get more incensed with each other than when arguing over a ‘let’ call. Since you play just about every single match at the DAC without a ref, I am often called in to make a decision over a situation I haven’t even witnessed, based on the ‘biased’ testimonies of both players pleading their cases and are unable to even agree where they were standing on the court at the time of the interference, let alone where the ball was. The “he-said-she-said” conflicts are literally impossible to resolve, especially when both players are as stubborn as my wife who insists on putting broccoli into every meal. And this happens during practice matches as much as it does in league.

Ultimately, the only solution to this ‘dilemma’ lies with you, the player. The ‘unwritten’ rules of squash have to apply here, etiquette needs to take over, honesty must come to the fore, and compromise is a requirement. Otherwise, the player who can shout louder for longer will win.

You all know when your opponent is in your way and prevents you from making a ‘normal’ shot. You hold back with your swing or you have to run around them or you have to change your aim; either way, some form of interference has occurred. Given that you would have retrieved the ball had your opponent not been standing there, you are at least entitled to a “let”. When the shoe is on the other foot - you are the one causing interference - arguing that you are not, is entirely futile. The “let” would not have been asked for in the first place if your opponent didn’t think you were in the way. So the ‘discussion’ is one of “let” or “stroke”.

I am not getting into the written rules of squash – to learn more about the ‘real’ rules, I will be conducting a refereeing clinic late September. This is about avoiding the heated debates that go on court all the time and cause nothing but bad sentiments and leave a nasty taste in the mouth afterwards.

Squash is ruthless enough without having the added burden of having to make a case after every other rally. Even if interference is slight, squash etiquette demands that the gentleman thing to do would be to offer your opponent the “let” or, if the obstruction was severe enough, a “stroke”. Your (hopefully honest) opponent would then either take one or the other, or decline a “let” altogether if they think they didn’t deserve one. Using this tactic – a ‘preemptive strike’ so to speak - should circumvent any squabbles that otherwise may arise. Generally, compromises are reached quickly and painlessly. You may think to yourself that you have been ‘robbed’, but always understand that how you see the circumstance from your angle is not the same as how your opponent sees it from theirs. What makes you think that your angle is the correct one?

From my own personal experience, practicing with fellow pros, this happens all the time. Almost to the point of being too nice about it, but it keeps the game flowing, the disputes non-existent, and the camaraderie alive. And I can always count on being asked to play again when the opportunity presents itself. Because no one wants to play you if continuously butt heads and carry-on like a four year old every time a “let” situation pops up.

The attached poster is a list of the DAC 20 Commandments of Squash Etiquette. Common sense stuff? Sure. But I am sure all of you have seen at one time or another at least one of these rules broken. How many are you guilty of?

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