From a school yard to Dubai Opera, squash has come a long way
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad International Correspondent
Squash has a fascinating history, and the game’s leading historian, James Zug, has published a major new work on the origins of the sport on the World Squash Federation website.
From a school yard to the opulence of Dubai Opera House, squash has come a long way. The two new additions to the WSF website begin with a 6,000 word essay on the history of the game at www.worldsquash.org/ws/a-sport-with-history.
Zug connects the parents of squash – real tennis, racquets and fives – with the origins of squash at Harrow School in England in the 1850s. He goes on to show how the game spread around the world; the emergence of a professional tour; the development of doubles; and the game’s position today as a global sport.
History of Squash Timeline at www.worldsquash.org/ws/WSF-timeline begins at Harrow in the 1850s and identifies the first court built in USA in 1884, making it the second of the current 185 countries where squash is now played. The first book on squash is listed (1901), as is the formation of various national federations, including South Africa in 1910, Canada in 1913 and Egypt in 1931.
In 1965 the first window in a solid court wall appeared; the viewing revolution in the 1980s is detailed (a decade in which legendary Pakistani Jahangir Khan’s five-and-a-half-year unbeaten run ended, in 1986); and, later, scoring and tin height changes are also covered.
“There was a time when squash rackets were made of wood, there was no such thing as a glass backwall, never mind an all-glass showcourt – and even further back there were no standard rules of the game nor defined court dimensions,” said Andrew Shelley, CEO of the World Squash Federation.
“Squash has a long history that began in the 1850s and to be able to scroll through the many dates helps us remember game’s key milestones. James Zug has ensured that while we look to the future the past is not lost.”
James Zug is the executive editor of Squash Magazine, the New York-based publication; he blogs at SquashWord.com; tweets at SquashWord; leads the squash podcast Outside The Glass; and is the author of six books, including two on the game: Squash: A History of the Game (2003) and Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear (2010).
Alan Thatcher writes: Jim Zug and the WSF are to be congratulated on collaborating on this project. Last week I held two pieces of squash history in my hands after a colleague discovered two old wooden rackets in his loft.
Close inspection revealed that the handmade rackets were created for the former RAC coach Oke Johnson, and had his name on the shaft. The rackets were also adorned with an RAC Club logo and a sticker which revealed that they had been made by Grays of Cambridge. They are probably 80 years old and both were preserved in their original racket presses.
It was my pleasure to hand them over to Daniel Zammit-Lewis, coach at the RAC Country Club at Epsom. Hopefully they will find a home on the wall at the RAC headquarters in Pall Mall, where squash has thrived for more than a century.
I was delighted that when I handed the rackets to Dan, he in turn presented me with a book called 100 Years of Squash at The RAC Club.
The book was written by John Hopkins, the former golf correspondent of the Sunday Times, who was one of the original players when I launched the Fleet Street League at Cannons Club more than 30 years ago.
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