Sunday, February 25, 2024

Why squash does NOT need the Olympics

Few, if any benefits would accrue from a place at the tainted top table COMMENT: By A Squash Professional On the eve of the 2016 Olympic Games, with the event already mired in the usual allegations of crime, corruption and drug-related controversy, a former professional squash player, now a leading coach, debates whether squash needs to […]

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  1. I agree with some of the points above.

    I think some of the allure of the Olympics is the simple feeling for squash fans world wide is ‘Wouldn’t it be great to sit back and watch the top players over the next 2 weeks in Rio’. Many of us have played other racketball sports – badminton, tennis etc – and will think that when they turn on the television and see them being played: no squash, such a shame and injustice that athletes just as fit and skillful as Djokovic and co aren’t there competing, entertaining. Obviously, for the top players such feelings are greater: wouldn’t it be great not to watch, but to play. Such feelings intensify every time the Olympics come around and there aint no squash. Then there’s the angst of rejection: the more you get knocked back, the more you can want it. Added to that, there’s the growing frustration with WSF. I haven’t seen an analysis of just how useless the WSF has been, but if squash in the Olympics has been a key objective, then it’s failed miserably – obviously. Without knowing the figures of the latest vote, squash has got further and further away from Olympic inclusion in terms of IOC votes for 20 years now, not closer.

    So, given this, and leaving aside the arguments of ‘A Squash Professional’, there is a case for saying let’s just end this cycle of rejection with inevitable feeling of not just failure but inferiority (you can see the comments on squash websites: ‘The game just isn’t televisual’ etc etc – like climbing is going to be more exciting than, say, Ramy v Shorebagy for the gold medal?!). The danger is that the failure will become both obsessional, distracting as well as very boring. Perhaps it already has.

  2. Anthony Ricketts may be an exception, but my guess is most squash pros failed at tennis somewhere along the way and would gladly trade sports.

    • Ted Gross, your comment is woefully inaccurate. If you speak to most of the pros, they took up squash because their parents etc played – hanging around the courts, then eventually having a go etc. Tennis wasn’t even a consideration. Anyway, I’m not feeding a troll anymore.

      Back to the real discussion; The IOC clearly don’t want squash to feature in The Olympics. Fine. Get over it and move on. Squash aren’t the ‘cool kids’. We’re the nerds at the back of the class. Nerds don’t get invited to the popular parties. Once nerds grow up, they throw their own parties and have a way better time. Please can we stop begging for an invite and just do our own thing?

  3. I think you make some really points here, but for me, the crucial (if cynical) reason for squash to get into the olympics is M.O.N.E.Y.

    Here in Canada, sport funding is very closely tied to the Olympics; the sports that Canada stands a chance to win at (ice hockey, speed skating, rowing) are well supported by local and national governments.

    I’m the point you making, but the bottom line is that squash (at least here in Canada) is shrinking at the grass roots level primarily due to the fact that courts are disappearing left right and centre. The increased level of funding that Olympic inclusion would provide might tip the scales in our favour and encourage the financial viability for more courts to be built in public facilities.

    That said, in tennis, the Olympics carry very little weight when compared to the prestige of winning a grand slam. The health of the tour is what defines tennis, not its role in the olympics. Given the upward trajectory of the tour, maybe squash players of the future would consider the Olympics as a lesser achievement than a World title or British Open

  4. SP makes some good points in placing in context the lack of a tangible qualitative or quantitative impact of finally having Squash included in the Olympic Movement. Including, (1) the unlikely enhancement of revenue for the individual champion, (2) an overwhelming preference for Squash by its players rather than for becoming an overpaid Sports Personality in another Sport , (3) perhaps even the overvaluation of Olympic Gold relative to e.g. the World Championships in elevating the immense physical and mental intensity of the training regimens of Squash Players. A regimen which has already placed them in the highest tiers of Athletes/Racquet Athletes as determined by multiple and independent measurements. Squash is an All Court game with multiple tiers of training underpinning an unmatched range and density of variables in Racquetwork, Footwork, Spatial Dimensions, Movements, mental toughness, tactics/strategy, etc…!

    In agreement with Anthony Ricketts – only a small fraction of Squash Players that we either knew or knew off, began with Tennis! They represented nations on the Indian subcontinent or in Asian, African, and South American continents. The US and Europe may have different numbers? But perhaps this needs a careful measurement!

    However, there are however far more persuasive, if intangible, reasons for persevering with having Squash included in the Olympic Movement! The Olympic Movement originated in Greece as long as 2792 years ago, in 776 BC, remains at the accepted Pinnacle for all Sports! It is one in which all 200 Nations representing all 7 billion people i.e. Humankind participates (directly or indirectly), and so accepted as the Pinnacle of Sport!

    This says much about Heritage and History of the Olympic Movement – more than can ever be matched by that of any individual sport or nation! It is why the Mega Sports of Golf, Tennis and Soccer craved inclusion into the Olympic Movement – despite their revenues of $10 of millions or even $100s of millions! It is the lasting and quadrennial reason why all Global Chasms are bridged – including those of the East and West during the Cold War, Developing and Developed Nations of North and South, Gender, Age and Ethnicity (within reason) !

    Squash is striking it its absence from this Pantheon at the Pinnacle of Sport. And justifying its absence with ‘their loss’ summed up by the reasons listed above is not only a disservice to its Racquet Athletes and the Squash Community but also to the Global Sports Communities!

    Especially, when one considers that the barrier that Squash faces is an eminently solvable problem! How? Through cooperation between the Squash and Scientific communities. Cooperation which will not only allow Squash to enter the Olympic Movement – but also correct the inbuilt limitations to communicating the game and so to its growth!

    It is only a simple matter to look at the facts! As has been repeatedly pointed out Squash as a Global Participant Sport is thriving! The numbers estimated by most Administrative Organizations in the Sport are 25 million Squash Players in 188 countries – with the game having grown over 140 years from its roots in England! Where is it failing to make the connect to the World of Sports and the Global Community? Squash fails in the televisual communication required for any Spectator Sport to thrive. This requires the communication leading to building a commercial TV audience – and the revenues it brings! Once established non initiated Viewers become ‘educated and gain access’ to the hidden complexities of the game. In turn bringing the Economic and Political clout – thus improving acceptance and entry into the Olympic Movement. It will take time – but this is well within the realms of possibility! And certainly not justifying the current doubt, dismay, lack of cognizance with social media and resiliency that are the Hallmarks of the Squash Community!

    This does not mean that the flip side does not exist!

    The latest announcement by the PSA in expanding the numbers of Sports Television Stations/Channels that will carry Squash, is of course, encouraging! However, these outlets are mostly located in developing markets and the basic limitations of televisual communications are unsolved! One only has to remember that Squash did make Cameo appearances on BBC TV in the nation of its birthplace where (along with the Australian Sports Scene) it had thrived at one time! We hope that the current emergence survives the attention span of the uninitiated viewership needed to generate a market!

  5. Well said Alan. WSF has long focused on getting into the Olympics while ignoring the grass root development of the game. Prize money at the top of the game may be growing but numbers are dropping at the bottom.

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