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?
The first, taken from the 2016 tournament, is from a match between the eventual champion, France’s Mathieu Castagnet, and England’s Joe Lee. The second, from the 2019 tournament, also features its eventual winner, New Zealand’s Paul Coll, and England’s Tom Richards.
Neither rally lasts for much more than 60 seconds but both include a range of shots which could easily form the basis of a ‘how to play’ guide for beginners. If you take forehand and backhand shots separately, I counted over twenty types of shot played from the ‘T’, the front and back corners of the court, and mid-court. There are even back wall boasts and flying (attempted) volley-drops as a bonus.
Apart from the shots displayed, the ways in which the two rallies unfold lend themselves nicely to higher level analysis for learning and coaching purposes. For example, positioning, footwork, speed around the court and the sheer persistence needed to turn a losing position into a winning one are all on display. The need to retrieve is as important as the desire to dominate a rally.
And what about the value of the rallies in teaching markers or referees? Noticeably,there’s not a sign of an ‘out of court’ shot, a tinned shot, any body contact, or even a possible let or stroke. All players involved just get on with the game leaving the officials free to keep an eye open for anything which could affect their safety.
All that in two sixty-second snapshots. I never realised how easy it was.
I can’t say I’ve ever had the opportunity to review a book on squash so when one came along I made like Peter Marshall and grabbed it with both hands. The volume in question, Dick Hawkey’s “Squash Coaching and Refereeing”, was gifted to me by a retired diplomat who, in a previous existence, had made his living selling antiquarian books. Knowing that I was an aficionado of the game he was certain that I would be the best person to provide a home for the book, particularly as members of his family had started to pressurise him, for safety purposes, into reducing the mountains of memorabilia (‘junk’ in their terminology) hoarded in his one-bedroom flat.
The paperback book, originally published in 1975, is one of several written by R.B. (“Dick”) Hawkey who served as Director of Coaching at the UK’s Squash Racket Association in the 1960s and 70s. Most of them can still be obtained via archival book services such as OpenLibrary and Alibris, and even from Amazon.
Split into separate ‘Coaching’ and ‘Refereeing sections, the overwhelming majority of the book’s content is as relevant today as when it was written almost 45 years ago. In fact, with the exception of references to the marking system (‘hand-in’ rather than ‘point-a-rally’ is mentioned throughout), the information, insights, advice and guidance presented are as clear and concise as any coach, marker or referee could want. I particularly liked Hawkey’s statement as to the purpose of coaching squash, i.e. to help players enjoy the gamemore. Having fun was clearly part of Hawkey’s approach to the game as was its social side, from watching matches, chatting with others (players and non-players alike) and drinking at the bar.
The purpose of refereeing, states Hawkey, is three-fold:
to prevent injury; to prevent the “unpleasantly ruthless player” from having an
unfair advantage; and, to ensure a “fair result” for every match. Safety, on-court
manners and fairness are the watch-words.
On the subject of playing style, Hawkey is definitely not a purist. He observes that “virtually
every player who has reached the top in any sport has his own idiosyncracies,
his own pet shots, strokes of his own invention, things he can do that others
cannot and shots he plays a little differently.”
“If,” he continues, “the correct and orthodox way were always the best for everyone, it would automatically follow that every champion was the perfect example of complete orthodoxy.” He goes on to name several great sporting champions (including Mohammed Ali) whose styles clearly disprove such a hypothesis. “In squash,” writes Hawkey, “the greatest of all time, hHashim Khan, was a complete novelty in the game. He held the racket nearly halfway up the shaft and as he raced around the court at unbelievable speed, he would improvise shots at will.”
In summary, Hawkey’s squash philosophy is based on enjoyment, sociability, safety, good manners, fairness and improvisation. Not a bad message to pass down through the generations.
Thanks to Wikipedia for entries on Peter Marshall and Hashim Khan.