Coaches can learn from the honesty of pros like Jonathan Kemp and Steve Finitsis
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Comment
My mind has been wandering this week between the wonderful sportsmanship and honesty on show in the recent Kent Open squash final and the cheating and diving on display in football’s World Cup.
Dutch footballer Arjen Robben’s dive against Mexico resulted in a totally undeserved winning penalty.
If I had been the Dutch coach, I would have instructed the penalty taker to balloon the ball over the bar, bash it wide of the goal, or tap it straight to the goalkeeper.
At the highest level, you have a right to expect sporting contests between the world’s greatest players to be decided by the skill of the participants, not their ability to cheat and con referees.
To benefit from such disgusting antics is akin to making money from criminal activities.
Robben’s dive did far more damage to the beautiful game than the latest cannibalistic act by Luis Suarez in Uruguay’s match against Italy.
Children copy what they see on TV in the playgrounds the next day. Thankfully, most children know that biting is a bad thing to do.
But cheating and diving to win a penalty for your football team? That’s the kind of thing that seeps like poison into all sports when being demonstrated by international players in front of a worldwide audience of millions of people.
Suarez was sent home and banned for four months for his appalling behaviour. But Robben escaped without punishment.
That illustrates the eccentricities and weaknesses of football’s governance procedures. The wrestling contests that follow the award of every corner is so mind-numbingly predictable, and thoroughly childish, you wonder why referees don’t brandish more red cards to put an end to this moronic behaviour. You also wonder why coaches don’t instruct their players to put a stop to it.
I will not apologise for comparing the recent Select Gaming Kent Open final with football’s World Cup in Brazil.
The World Cup features the leading few hundred footballers on the planet, and the Kent Open featured many players in squash’s top 100, so I feel fully justified in making this comparison.
If I could distil the essence of that match and bottle it, I would urge all squash players to drink a pint a day.
The quality of the squash was phenomenal, and so was the sportsmanship on display.
When Finitsis politely queried if one of Kemp’s shots was down, the Englishman looked through the glass backwall and, when a spectator (me) gave him the thumbs-down sign (on the advice of one of our leading junior players with much better eyesight than me) he instantly conceded the point and threw the ball to his opponent.
Isn’t that the best kind of example to set to the many juniors who were in the audience?
Watching the World Cup on TV a fortnight later, I felt that Robben’s dastardly dive was the equivalent of picking up a triple-bounce in squash.
Football clearly needs a better video review system to help referees deal with such incidents. Unfortunately for squash, our own review system does not extend to dodgy pick-ups and tins.
Perhaps the PSA’s Lee Drew might offer his services to football when he has sorted out some of the gobby sprogs who need to learn some manners in our own game.
When I see young squash players arguing, throwing tantrums and acting aggressively towards referees, I always wonder what role their coaches have played in allowing this ugly behaviour to develop.
The children I coach are told very early on that squash is a hard, fast, aggressive sport, but you never, ever cheat.
Let’s define the meaning of the word “aggressive” in a sporting context.
I want my pupils to play aggressively, meaning that they hunt the ball down, never give up, and play controlled squash at a high pace, but it doesn’t mean dangerous play, picking up double bounces, or snarling at referees.
Ultimately, squash is all about control. How you control your feelings is just as important as how you control where you put the ball.
An absence of mental control will have a deep and lasting negative effect on your ability to control a tough rally.
Pictures by KIM ROBERTS