Friday, March 1, 2024

Back to the future if and when squash courts reopen

Richard Millman wears the iMask that could be compulsory to protect players when squash courts reopen

How we can approach a ‘new normal’ in squash: with masks and gloves compulsory to start with
By RICHARD MILLMAN – Squash Mad Correspondent

While we are hunkered down, staying home to allow our amazing front line workers in the hospitals, ambulances, police, armed forces etc to do their brave and essential work in combatting this terrible virus, we cannot but cast our worried minds toward the survival of our beloved game.

We don’t yet know if we will have vaccines, anti-body testing, plasma donations or indeed whether or not we will be able to become reinfected having once had the Covid-19 virus.

We do know that unless we meticulously take steps to protect our fellows and ourselves, whatever activities we engage in outside our own homes could, potentially, lead to spread of the disease and a spike in infections and – horrifically – deaths.

But. We must prepare our sport for the day that we can begin to approach the ‘new normal’ in the history of squash.

I have been talking with multiple NGB’s about how we can make a limited return to the game as safely as possible.

Towards this end we have adapted the iMask face shield to create a full-length version that can be used to provide a barrier to infection both from the user to the outside world and the outside world to the user.

We are hoping to help out-of-work coaches earn some revenue by giving them commission on sales to their networks of club members, players, students and friends. Announcements will be made shortly.

Discussions about precisely how to return to squash are in very early stages. But here are some initial thoughts:

1. Players will not be able to tarry in and around courts and clubs. We will have to turn up at an appointed time, play and leave.

2. Players will need to wear a full face shield, a quality cycling or running anti-pollution mask (designed for athletic breathing) and likely lightweight waterproof gloves (to prevent spread via sweat on the ball or on walls and doors).

3. We will have to play a version of the game that is called ‘Sides’ or the ‘Crosscourt Game’. The rules are very simple. You must play all your shots across the court to your opponent’s side of the court. To win a point, your ball must bounce twice in your opponent’s half. If your second bounce lands in your own half, the ball is out. This is a tremendously fast and athletic version of the game because, while the court is half as big, the game is twice as fast as a consequence.

4. Once we can begin the ‘new normal’ and we have at least some play, our out of work coaches can begin to do some socially distanced coaching (boast drive, drop drive, drop lob, short games, crosscourt deep game, boast crosscourt games, diagonal games, volley games etc) and in doing so, revitalize participation with their energy and enthusiasm.

5. We must be careful of air conditioning systems. We may have to suffer in the hot weather rather than recirculate the virus. Be prepared to sweat.

6. We will have to clean and ‘bomb’ courts before and after every game with disinfecting mist. 

7. We can begin self-scheduling tournaments of the ‘Sides’ games. I would recommend first club championships, with winners going on to city or district or area championships. Players should send videos of the matches to the organisers and organisers should ask all members of the club or association to vote on the best rally. Since no one will be there to watch, we can achieve community with video.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Just some of the things we have come up with so far.

My friend Rob Eberhard in Canada is developing some really innovative software to help people return to club life and interact. Look out for that – he is really on the ball.

I believe the next World Squash Day will perhaps be the most important World Squash Day of our existence.

We must proceed extremely carefully and safely.

But we must proceed. Or squash will not survive.

Stay well, my friends, and stay safe.

But prepare.

Because whenever World Squash Day comes and we begin the ‘new normal’ we must be ready.

Richard Millman


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