Squash is usually thought of as a bit of a niche sport. It’s played in a large cube with a little rubber ball which both players alternately hit against the wall until one of them wins the point. Put like that, it probably sounds a little pointless. But there are so many different levels to squash, and at every level of play there’s something to enjoy. At the higher levels it’s often described as physical chess. It’s fast, fluid, intense, and tough. International squash players run approximately 1118 metres in the 16 and a half minutes the average squash game takes them to complete, with well over 500 changes of direction, whilst hitting the ball at speeds of up to 175 mph. During this they’re trying to outplay, outmanoeuvre, and outthink their opponents, so the description seems apt. But even as you filter down through to the beginner levels or are just playing for fitness, squash is challenging, enjoyable, interesting, and a little different to the standard fare.
Squash at Oxford is an ever growing community. The college leagues, club ladder, and club box leagues are thriving, enhanced by the fact that a large proportion of Oxford colleges possess squash courts, and the club sessions run by members of the university squads provide a good source of coaching. Most colleges have teams and anyone interested in playing need only ask their sports reps for how to get involved, or go to the Oxford Squash website. However one of the most interesting developments is the new Big Hit scheme. This is a nationally funded scheme which gives people access to 6-8 weeks of professional coaching for just £15! Aimed at beginners this is a really great initiative and a brilliant way to try and get people involved, allowing them to have a go at squash (and racketball) in a fun, friendly environment. This has had a great reception nationwide and, with enough interest, will run here at Oxford, so anyone interested please get involved by emailing [email protected].
The Oxford squash teams have had mixed terms so far, an unfortunate side effect of the Oxford terms starting partway into the BUCS season. The Men’s Blues have played 5 and won 2, whilst the Women’s Blues have been more successful, playing 4 and winning 3. Both second teams have played 2 and lost 2. The standard of play has been high throughout though, with squad places well contested and hard-earned, and top class coaching from Ben Rosec meaning that the squads will only keep improving on the road to varsity.
It’s a shame that squash doesn’t get the international recognition of sports like tennis, and the prize money and funding to match, but the introduction of portable glass courts have made it much more of a spectator sport and gradually interest is increasing again. Why wouldn’t it when you can play tournaments in front of the pyramids of Giza, in Grand Central Station, New York, or on a beach in the Bahamas. While our recent Olympic bid (Squash2020) narrowly missed out, we’re ever hopeful that we’ll be successful next time, and we’ll keep trying until we get there because we deserve to be there. As much of a cliché as it is, squash really has changed my life. I’ve played since I was 9 years old and I’ve loved every minute. It’s given me confidence, helped my fitness, and provided an outlet for the stress of work and life in general. Even after an injury stopped me playing for almost 4 years, I went straight into coaching at my local club without hesitation. I think it’s a brilliant sport that offers something to everyone, and I want to give back to it as much as I can. Anyone that’s interested in trying it, please don’t hesitate to have a go, I promise that you won’t regret it!