Well, more precisely, Al Pacino in the role of Aldo Gucci, chairman of the Italian luxury fashion house in a scene from the recent film “House of Gucci”. Or, even more precisely, Al Pacino etc. being arrested by US Department of the Treasury agents on a New York squash court on suspicion of tax evasion.
Still, what’s not to like if you, like me, are more than happy to see squash culturally referenced in TV programmes, films, plays and, oh I don’t know, operas? You never know.
Truth be told, the entire sequence showing Pacino in squash kit takes up less than ten seconds of screen time, most of which shows the Feds marching up to the court then marching away with their Gucci of interest in custody. On the other hand, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had from the rest of the ‘House of Gucci’ not least the jaw-dropping over-acting and the, er, uneven English-language script delivered with comedy Italian accents by the principal cast members, Pacino, Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek and Adam Driver included.
Which begs the question, why don’t we get to see Lady Gaga on a squash court? In terms of Twitter followers alone, that really might have been something that could help raise the profile of the game. Just a suggestion.
Readers of The Squash Life Blog will be familiar with the development of squash in Iran, particularly the inclusion of women in the sport at both national and international level. Now, here’s Masoud Ghareh Ziaeddini – the head coach of the country’s national squash team – to describe a new initiative to attract more people to the sport. Three-wall squash uses a scaled-down, open-air court to give children and adults alike a racket game experience as close as possible to the four-wall, indoor version. Costing US$700-800 to build, the bright courts can be blue placed in locations where people are already gathering for recreation and, equally as important, watch others playing and enjoying themselves.
With a population of over 85 million, a young demographic distribution and a border with squash-cultured Pakistan, Iran is well placed to develop a ‘feeder’ network of the three-walled courts to attract the players of tomorrow. So far, 100 courts have been built in just 3 months with a first-year target of 300 well within reach. Next month, with the involvement of the Iranian Squash Federation, a national three-wall squash championship will be held in Zahedan, a south-eastern city with a population of 500,000.
With squash lovers keen to attract others to the sport, the Iranian initiative is both imaginative and low-cost. Most importantly, it also looks fun to play which, as squash emerges from its enforced pandemic hiatus, is perhaps its most promising feature of all.
A month ago, Scottish Squash confirmed that the game would return without Covid-19 restrictions, in all clubs and facilities in Scotland. Just the time, you might think, for committed players of all ages to refresh their squash skill-sets with a spot of one-to-one coaching.
Fast forward a few weeks and, conveniently, the UK’s National Robotarium presented the world’s first robot squash coach. The robot, developed in collaboration with industry partner RacketWare for on-court use, utilises motion tracking sensors and interfacing technology to collect data from players practising a variety of shots. The data is then analysed in real time and interpreted by the robot in order to communicate with players.
To date, communication strategies have been developed for twelve coaching exercises by observing one-to-one sessions between qualified squash coaches and players. Artificial intelligence software then enables the robot to give instructions about what each solo player should practice next, using hints, tips and positive reinforcement encouragements. Research has shown that solo practice, typically used by professional players and committed amateurs, increases the skill and motivation levels of players of all abilities.
Promisingly, a new National Robotarium facility is due to open in Edinburgh in 2022 housing three distinct research and development areas, including Robotics & Autonomous Systems (RAS), Human & Robotics Interaction (HRI) and High Precision Manufacturing.
In my opinion, the sooner the next generation of squash coach robots can help me perfect a backhand cross-court volley nick off the serve the better.
It’s not often I stumble across squash artprojects although it’s always gratifying to see the game being used to inspire off-court artistic creativity. I’ve written previously about American artist Carlin Wing’s ‘Hitting Walls’ series of squash-themed art installations. Now here’s another ambitious multi-media project in the form of German artist Matthias Fritsch’s ‘Music From The Masses’.
Between 2008 and 2014, Fritsch created a series of 16mm film clips each
of which was the length of a typical music video. The clips were made available
online and could be downloaded by musicians, composers and sound designers anywhere
in the world who wanted to create ‘soundlayers’ for them. Over the course of
the project, 10 clips were produced, the first being “Squash”, a collage
of on- and off-court video sequences.
The soundlayers for ‘Squash’ reflect different genres of music including electronic, jazz, pop and singer-songwriter. The ‘techno’ contribution below is from Taiwanese artist HANHAN and is called ‘Body Attack’, a feeling I’ve certainly experienced on a squash court.
Over the entire course of the ‘Music From The Masses’ project over 300
soundlayers were created by participants who were then able to use the resulting
High Definition videos for their own commercial and non-commercial purposes. ‘Music
From The Masses’ was intended for distribution on video portals such as YouTube
as well as for exhibitions in museums and galleries. The work takes the form of
an ‘open edition’ project and it’s possible to add new compositions and
variations indefinitely. This generic model of recycling and generating new videos
is intended to resemble ‘YouTube-Reality’ where material is added continuously
and is in constant flux.
If you’re interested in how Matthias Fritsch conceived and executed ‘Music From The Masses’, take a look at his 2011 lecture below.
And, if you’re interested in creating your own soundlayer for ‘Squash’, why not visit the project’s ‘Open Call’ web page? You never know where ‘Squash’ will take you.
More ‘Squash’ Soundlayer Videos
Squash Art– A mashup of four pieces of music by Benjamin Fetscher and Dana Hocker (Leiphaum, Germany).
Kingsize – An electronic soundtrack by HIBISCUS (Murcia, Spain).
Der Gegner – An Independent – Jazz – Pop soundtrack by Müller und Die Platemeiercombo (Braunschweig, Germany).
Wegweiser – A singer-songwriter / Liedermacher soundtrack by Fabry (Germany).
Genre Fusion – A soundtrack by Daniela Schmidt (Los Angeles, USA).
I Need Your Voice! – A soundtrack by Martin Horu25et (Germany).
Fordham University is a private research institution whose campus is located in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York City. Established in 1841, the university is the third-oldest in New York State and, together with Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School, the base for activities organised by City Squash.
Founded in 2002, City Squash is a not-for-profit after-school programmewhich helps young people from economically disadvantaged households develop strong characters, improve their academic performance and become competitive squash players. The success of the programme can be measured in terms of national squash titles, 110 of them to be exact, the last three being won at the SEA Team Nationals in March 2020. As part of the programme, Fordham provides City Squash with access to its classrooms and squash courts. Also, dozens of its students volunteer every year as City Squash academic tutors and squash coaches.
As recently as 2010 City Squash partnered with Fordham to replace the university’s five North American standard courts with four international standard squash courts, complete with spectator viewing facilities. Fordham’s original ‘narrow’ courts had been used for the hardball version of squash played by notable alumni such as then Queens resident Donald J. Trump, later to achieve success as a businessman, television personality and, er, President of The United States of America.
In a 2018 article in The Fordham Ram, interviews with fellow alumni paint a picture of what the current POTUS was like during his two years at the university. Many remembered him fondly and many more didn’t remember him at all. The consensus among friends, acquaintances and observers of Trump described him as an affable young man, even if he did keep his distance from other students. Some admired Trump’s abilities in sports, including football, golf and, during his freshman year, squash where he played on the team.
One interviewee, Brian Fitzgibbon, said he was friendly
but not friends with Trump. They both commuted from the same area of Queens,
and they would say hello whenever they bumped into one another.
“He was a bit of a loner all those years ago and I really
can’t recall his being close with anyone,” said Fitzgibbon. “He complained to
me on one of our rides to school that there were too many Italian and Irish
students at Fordham. He wanted me to know that I was excluded from that
Although, whether anybody else was the article doesn’t say.
Thanks to The Fordham Ram, Fordham University, Poly Prep
and City Squash.
Running from 1994 to 1997, with specials in 2000 and 2014, The Fast Show was a BBC comedy sketch show relying on stereotypical characters, recurring running gags and catchphrases.
Played by Simon Day, Competitive Dad has to be the best at everything, tormenting his long-suffering children, Peter and Toby, with constant challenges they can never live up to. Sport is Competitive Dad’s biggest interest; from cricket to tennis, fishing and, yes, squash.
Watch, in horror, as he beats Toby 9-0 (it was hand-out scoring in those days, remember) without serving a single returnable ball before boasting about his victory to his wife on the telephone.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that Competitive Dad’s serves at 2-0 and 4-0 didn’t land between the cut and out-of-court lines so Toby should have become hand-in. However, I’m not sure that the result would have been any different.
Stumbling across stuff on the internet can help you unearth a wealth of interesting information. Not only that, it can send you off on a voyage of discovery leading to other interesting (and not-so interesting) information tenuously linked to your original stuff-stumbling experience depending on how far you want to go.
Take this one minute squash-themed video from 2013 by Aroneus Shorts. It’s one of a series of entertaining short videos, some of which feature “Wally”. After watching the videos, I am none the wiser as to whether Wally is: a) a person or b) a dog. Neither am I any the wiser as to the identity of any of the performers appearing in the videos or their directors, producers, video photographers or music directors. And does Aroneus Shorts even still exist?
Despite the mystery, let’s just hold onto the image of a squash ball with attitude clinging to the backhand side wall and a public information sign depicting a pair of shorts. That should be enough to be getting on with.
As someone with his finger on the pulse of world squash (no, really), I have to admit that a recent article in The Times came as a bit of a surprise. It drew my attention to the existence of the multi-event sport of racketlon which not only incorporates squash as one of its four racket-based activities but also has a global governing body vying for its inclusion in the 2024 Olympics. Not only that, but a bit of digging around the racketlon press revealed that the 2019 World Team Championships had just been held in Germany.
Well, so much
for fingers and pulses.
players compete individually, or as part of doubles pairs, in each of four racket
sports: table tennis, badminton, squash
and tennis. One ‘set’ is played in each sport, the sequence of sports beginning
with the smallest (table tennis) and ending with the biggest (tennis) racket. Squash slots in at number three in the
matches each of the four sets is scored to 21 points, with a margin of two
points needed to win a set tied at 20 points all. In team competitions, sets
are played to 11 points with setting coming into effect at 10 points all.
of a match is the player or doubles pair accumulating the highest number of
points in total. If the score is tied after all four sports, a single extra
tennis point is played to decide the
match winner, the server being decided by drawing lots.
In doubles matches, the squash set is played by one member of each team until one player reaches 11 points; the set is then completed by the two remaining team members.
Racketlon originated in 1980s Finland and Sweden but it wasn’t until 2001 that its first international tournament was held in Gothenburg. Now, its governing body, the Federation Internationale de Racketlon (FIR), oversees a World Tour which, in 2019, consisted of 20 tournaments held at venues in Europe, the US and Asia. These included an inaugural London Open, held in August at the prestigious Roehampton Club, and, in November, the World Singles and Team Championships in Leipzig. And it was in Leipzig that Great Britain lifted the World and Nations titles for the first time with India winning the Challenge Cup tournament.
Racketlon has obviously come a long way in the thirty years since its first appearance. With its format modelled on other combination Olympic sports such as the triathlon and pentathlon, and with squash again being passed over, perhaps racketlon can help to raise the profile of the soft-ball game.
What does it take before somebody’s resilience breaks? Sam Halford is tested when his coach pushes him and his classmate, Matt, to their limits. But when does pushing somebody beyond their limits become too much to handle?