What Is Squash?
Squash is a fast-paced racquet sport most commonly played by two people on an indoor court using a squishy rubber ball.
This form of the game is sometimes referred to as singles squash or softball squash, to distinguish it from less-common varieties of the sport such as doubles and hardball squash.
Here are some interesting facts about squash, the sport (as opposed to the vegetable…)
How Many People Play Squash?
- Over 20 million people play squash regularly worldwide
- Squash is played in over 185 countries
- Thousands of junior squash players compete around the world
- College squash is played at over 130 US schools
Source: US Squash
Aside from the numbers:
- Squash is fun to play and has an enthusiastic and devoted community of players of all ages
- There is a professional squash league for men and women (the PSA World Tour), with top players coming from all corners of the planet
- The sport continues to grow in popularity globally and is often short-listed for inclusion in the Olympics (though squash is not an Olympic sport)
Despite all these positives, many people have never heard of squash. Or maybe they have heard of it but don’t know how squash compares with other sports. So, what’s it all about?
Fitness Benefits of Squash
In a recent study, Forbes Magazine named squash as the world’s healthiest sport, beating out rowing, rock climbing, swimming, cross-country skiing, basketball, cycling, running, and boxing — now that’s distinguished company! The study looked at each sport’s impact on your endurance, strength and flexibility. Of course, the quality of your workout depends mostly on the effort you put into it, but this does give you an idea of the inherent physical benefits of playing squash.
The Forbes study noted that squash burns 517 calories per half hour of playing — more than every other sport in their survey. This means you can get a great workout in a short period of time.
The sport of squash encourages lots of running. You’re chasing the ball all around the court. Squash might not look too difficult when you’re watching from the gallery, but trust me, after moving forwards and backwards and side-to-side for just 30 minutes — all while swinging a racquet — you will probably be exhausted.
Squash vs Racquetball
Squash and racquetball are similar concepts, but they’re quite different sports as far as aficionados are concerned! They are both racquet sports played by two people in an enclosed court using a rubber ball. But here are some key differences between squash and racquetball:
- A squash ball is smaller and slower than a racquetball
- Racquetball rackets are shorter than squash rackets
- Squash has a “tin” — a metal strip on the front wall that acts similar to a net in tennis*
- You can hit the ball off the ceiling in racquetball, but not in squash*
*I’m talking here about the North American version of racquetball. In some places, racquetball is played on a squash court, so these differences do not apply. The game of racquetball on a squash court is called Squash 57.
Here’s what all these small differences boil down to: squash points tend to last longer than racquetball points. It’s simply much harder to kill the ball in squash.
The bottom line: squash is a better workout! For many people, this is a plus.
Squash Sport Basics
You’ll need a few pieces of equipment to play squash: a squash ball, and a squash racket for each player. It’s best to get some squash shoes that do not mark the courts, and some protective eyewear too.
Each point starts off with a serve, and then the players alternate shots until someone wins the point, either by hitting a winner or forcing the other person to make an error. The first player to 11 points wins the game, and the first player to 3 games wins the match. Read my squash rules and scoring summary for more information.
If you’re looking for tip on how to improve your game, check out my guide on how to play squash.
The history of squash is pretty fascinating. It was first played in the mid-1800s by English schoolboys at the Harrow School, outside London. Gradually, the game caught on in popularity, and squash courts started sprouting around the world.
Today there are several variations of squash, such as squash doubles, which is played by teams of two on a larger court, and hardball squash, which was played widely in the US until the 1990s. There are also my kids’ squash rules, which involve rolling lots of balls around on the floor and chasing after them in all directions.
Squash is not a “big-money” sport like so many others, though it continues to grow steadily simply because it’s fun to play and great exercise! Give it a try, and please let your friends know about this hidden gem of a game.
Is Squash the Best Sport?
Why yes, yes it is. Of course, I might be a little biased 🙂 but here are some reasons why squash is a good sport to play.
Easy to Organize
To play squash, you only need two players and a few pieces of equipment. This makes it easy to organize a game, especially compared with team sports that require a large number of players or tons of equipment. And when it’s easier to organize a game, it’s easier to stay in shape.
A typical squash match lasts around 45 minutes. This means the game is convenient to play, even if you don’t have much time.
Of course, you need to find a court — fortunately, squash is played in almost 200 countries around the world and is growing in popularity worldwide, so chances are there’s a court near you.
Bring Out Your Competitive Side
Squash is a competition. You are playing against another person. For me, this is much more compelling than simply exercising by myself on a treadmill or exercise bike. It means I’m more likely to get out there and play, and get a good workout as a result.
365 Days a Year
Squash is played indoors. That means unlike some other sports, squash can be played year-round, and in any weather. It’s great to have a sport that burns tons of calories, but if you can only play a few months a year – or if bad weather forces you to cancel your plans – then you won’t get the regular exercise you need!
Stay Fit for a Lifetime
Squash is a game you can keep playing as you get older. In many clubs, you’ll find active players in their 70s or 80s.
Why do people seem able to play until they’re old and gray? Perhaps because of all the factors mentioned earlier in this article — squash is quite simply a convenient way to get a great workout! And the longer you can play a sport, the better it is for your long-term health.
Watch Squash on Video
Hopefully, all the words spilled above have given you a bit more information about my favorite sport, squash. But there’s no substitute for watching the game on video. So without further ado, here’s one of the greatest squash matches ever played: