Clubs instructed to fully engage in assessing the risks and managing a safe return to play
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
England Squash have published a comprehensive – and cautious – set of guidelines to enable squash clubs to reopen and return to play.
The guide is published on the England Squash website and allows members of the same family or “support bubble” to play a full game of squash.
All clubs are urged to appoint staff or volunteers to oversee risk assessments and make sure that all players follow the necessary hygiene protocols when courts reopen.
Keir Worth, CEO of England Squash, said: “We are thrilled that clubs and venues finally have the green light to reopen from 25th July. England Squash has been busy behind the scenes developing practical guidance and resources for clubs, venues and coaches to facilitate a safe return to play.
“There is still a long way to go and we will continue to support the community through this challenging period as the game transitions back to full play and competition.
“We are very grateful to the squash community for their ongoing patience and support during this unprecedented time.”
With squash rated as a high-risk activity by medical surveys conducted in a number of countries, it was inevitable that the guidelines would be highly cautious.
The danger of a free-for-all, with players squeezing past each other in narrow corridors, failing to observe safe-distancing guidelines or hygiene protocols, is too great a risk.
With new outbreaks of the coronavirus resulting in various cities undergoing renewed lockdown legislation, and the UK government now instructing all shoppers to wear masks, we are clearly a long way from following other parts of the world where a return to near-normality has been achieved.
The greatest risk for squash clubs, of course, is that the two players on court, whether safe distancing or not, are entering an enclosed space with limited facilities to extract potentially contaminated air. Many experts feel it is inevitable that both players will inhale the tiny droplets of moisture exhaled by each other with each outward breath taking the form of an aerosol mist. The harder the work-out, the heavier you will be breathing.
Generally, clubs have reacted positively to the guidelines, with a number of supportive messages on social media praising England Squash for their thorough attention to safety.
However, one recommended training routine, called “Sides”, appears to have caused a note of confusion.
Joe Magor, from Canterbury Squash Club in Kent, said: “Firstly, I was a bit surprised they initially allowed two from the same house and support bubble to play singles and two from different houses to play “sides” (cue the confusion).
“The problem I see is two players not allowed to play singles will see that two other players on the same court before or after are part of the group that can play singles and out of temptation will try and find a way to play singles or simply do so if the coast is clear!
“Secondly, a lot of people don’t know what a support bubble is, and will find ways to include their regular playing partner in their support bubble. So ES could have done with defining what is a support bubble and who can be in your support bubble (I’m doing that for CSRC).
“Thirdly, the situation about playing “sides” has done the rounds all day today! I’ve had two players from the club that are C/D grade standard who aren’t from the same house. They asked me ‘Do we have to play sides or can we do boast and drive as we are miles away from each other doing that?’
“They don’t realise that sides is a conditioned game and think they can only play sides and that it’s a type of modified game of squash and only that can be played.
“Paul Selby from Off The Wall Squash has produced a fantastic poster with 20 drills you can do two metres apart. ES could have done with defining it as social distance routines including Sides and a link to examples like Swiss Squash (see Squash Mad article here) have done or a poster similar to OTW.
“A committee member and I trialled “sides” behind closed doors last night for five minutes. In those five minutes, we were within 1m of each other six times due to wayward crosscourt shots. We then did boast and drive for five minutes and we never got within 2m of each other.. not once. Would be good to hear comments from others.”
Squash Mad has published more than 60 articles on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the game, so please take a look through our recent archives to see how various nations have coped with the issues arising and plotted a safe return to play.
England Squash guidelines here
Off The Wall Squash website
Readers are invited to share their thoughts below on the plans to reopen squash clubs.