Don't Let Squash Ruin Your Racketlon!

Just as there are very special fascinations with the game of Racketlon there are also special challenges. One such obvious challenge is the fact that each player, or indeed referee, needs to be familiar with four sets of rules rather than just one if he were playing just one of the four racket sports that constitute Racketlon. Or actually five since Racketlon itself also has a set of rules. Combine this with the cultural differences and language barriers that exist on our world tour and the fact that our world ranking events accept players on a beginner level and it should not come as a surprise that there are sometimes disagreements on court.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on the squash court due to the subtle judgement often needed to decide the difference between a "no let" and a "let"; or a "let" and a "stroke". Everyone who has been following matches on the tour, even on the Elite level, knows that these diagreeements sometimes have a tendency to deteriorate into nothing short of an unattractive feature of our sport. Many of us have sometimes felt that something needs to be done!

In cooperation with (for whom this text was originally written) is therefore pleased to welcome a contribution from Lloyd Pettiford, a very experienced British squash player, who entered his first Racketlon events this autumn. Below he addresses some of the problems that have caught his fresh eyes.

Not everyone loves squash; I only started Racketlon because I'd got bored of squash and too often angry. But it can be crucial in the context of Racketlon, making or breaking a match, and by its nature throwing in some punishing rallies and awkward decisions. My recent experience in Gothenburg (where I was asked to referee several games) suggest there are a few major problems with its inclusion in the sport, but the explosive fitness it demands is certainly important in the overall mix - and I think there are solutions to the problems.

Christian Wall and Rickard Persson fighting it out on the squash court in the Gothenburg Open final a few weeks ago; a picture that can safely be used in this context since both players are among the best examples of fine sportsmanship on the Racketlon tour. They are both part of the solution - not the problem!
Photo: BMM

Refereed Matches
Like in boxing where some referees reward accuracy and some reward aggression, no two squash refs are the same. Furthermore 'levels' of squash and different geographical areas may develop 'sub-cultures' with different nuances of interpretation. The problem here is that in a normal game of squash one can quickly adjust to the preferences of the referee and/or establish some rapport. But in Racketlon it's all over very quickly and all the decisions might seem to go against you. The answer here has to be respect for the referee and never to stop the game if you are simply seeking to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, the world's best two players, refereed by the world's best marker will still have arguments, so we can only accept that there will always be close calls and try to focus on the next point.

In fact, few players do seem to seek an advantage by 'fishing' for strokes; in Gothenburg many rallies continued past a point where, if asked, I would have given a penalty stroke. This must mean that many Racketlon games are actually dangerous. I think the FIR should consider some basic training at some events and I think, recognising the inherent dangers, goggles ought to become compulsory as they are in junior squash, especially below the Elite level. The major arguments against goggles are to do with them steaming up, but a single Racketlon set is usually too short for this to become a serious issue. Without goggles, the potential for a detached retina is, alas, quite large I fear.

Unrefereed Matches
Alas, not that many players know the rules, especially at court level! I have played for 30 years, watched world championships and taken marking courses but I will still misinterpret the rules and have no formal qualifications. Where a neutral opinion is not possible, players need to be prepared to agree to make decisions by spinning a racket rather than letting a decision/argument spoil their game; this will provide good practice in the Racketlon mantra of focussing on the next point! In essence if you could not play the ball to any point on the front wall and/or your swing is impeded, that's a stroke. If you bump into your opponent or ask for a 'safety' let because you aren't sure of their position then these are usually lets. Safety must be paramount in such a fast game.

Finally, in a warm up of just 3 minutes, the squash etiquette of no more than 3 consecutive hits is even more important than usual to observe. I have asked top markers at the British Squash Open what their stance on this is and they say they would warn players who frequently or excessively infringe this 'rule'. So the player I warned in Gothenburg for hitting the ball 10 times in a row may 'not want etiquette' as they put it, but they ought to try. Mind you, squash brings out the worst in most of us, so my hats off to those who always play with dignity and grace; it is something I will try to aspire to :-)

Intercultural Communication
PS From Austria: My efforts to be a nicer human being on court hit another snag. That of what to do when you don't have a common language to discuss points in! In this respect I am fortunate to speak English as a first language, but I have also played squash 'in Spanish' so I know the frustrations of trying to make myself understood in a second language when short of breath while a native speaker shouts at me! The lack of a common language ought to be accepted as a reason for asking for a ref, at whatever level, and to the extent that anyone agrees with anything I write here, I ask them to translate it into a version for their own national website. Many thanks for your time.