Many of us know sporty individuals who will claim that the sport they engage in is the toughest one out there and that there is no rival, and you may have even heard this same claim being made by squash players. Plenty of high-intensity sports out there require immense skill and fitness levels to be good at them. So this brings us to our question, “Is squash hard to play?”
Squash is one of the most challenging sports all-around when considering all the components; it offers extreme aerobic and anaerobic exercise and demands many skills. You must be fit and healthy, possess hand-eye coordination, be agile, explosive, and mentally tough.
There is no doubt that squash is not an easy sport, and it is, especially at a competitive level, extremely fast-paced and highly demanding on the athletes involved. Good squash players are well-conditioned all round; they are fast, strong, agile, flexible, and employ other skills required for the game, such as being tactical and having precise technique.
Is Squash A Hard Sport To Play, And How Challenging Is It?
We shall get into the mental game component shortly, but squash is undoubtedly one of the most strenuous sports and was even labeled as such by Forbes in 2003. This might have changed since then, but it does not take away the fact that you will be challenged by engaging in this fast-paced, heart-raising sport.
It is also reported by PSA, in collaboration with Sports Data Labs, that during tournaments, most players will cover, on average, 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) per match played. Now, this distance is not done at a nice steady pace as if you were going for a jog or doing road running, but rather is made up primarily of short, concise, and multi-directional sprints.
Squash is undoubtedly one of, if not the most demanding, racket sports, and it is also the best for your overall health and well-being. So do not allow what you have read thus far to deter you from taking up the sport, but instead realize the potential benefits one can obtain by playing squash regularly, even if only on a recreational basis.
Once players get to a professional level, they will play extensive rallies that last throughout the sets, and what you will often see them doing is merely wipe their hands on the wall (to get the sweat off) and then continue on the rest of the game ahead. At this level, the intensity doesn’t slow over the sets, as in some sports where the athletes tire.
Yes, squash players at this level tire, but they have incredible staying power and can press on and recover remarkably fast; they are always ready to keep on until the match ends. Some people watch these players and assume that the game is easy as they keep going; however, it is a sport that, if taken seriously, will turn you into an incredibly fit individual with great stamina.
We shall touch on some of these traits and skills again, but for now, it is worth mentioning some of the requirements that one needs (or has to develop to be a good squash player). These include speed, flexibility, stamina, physical and mental strength, agility, impeccable hand-eye coordination, and the ability to strategize and be tactful.
Squash Provides An Intense Workout In Just 45 Minutes
Take the running around, changing of directions, and the excessive number of times you will be swinging your racket and striking the ball. You have a primarily aerobic workout that will rival many others. One can undoubtedly get an exceptional workout in the same duration playing other sports, but squash certainly does stand out as one that will give you a run for your money.
A remarkable aspect of squash is you get a full-body workout; no section of your body is left out when playing this sport. Your core needs to be strong and stable while you rotate your upper body to hit the ball; your legs will generate explosive power and need to be able to alter direction instantaneously. Your arms will also be doing significant work to get the ball to the front wall.
If you are unfit and perhaps even overweight, you will find the sport to be a big challenge in the beginning, especially if you play with more seasoned players. But you will not remain in that physical state for very long; if you set a routine and stick to a proper training regime, you will find your body being conditioned in a relatively short period.
At first, many people who take up squash, mainly if they are not used to racket sports, or those which require physical prowess, find themselves gasping for air as they rush about trying to keep up and just make it to hitting the ball before heading off again to play the next shot. But stick to it; your cardiovascular abilities and overall well-being will improve immensely.
There Is A Need To Warm Up Properly Before Playing Squash
When you begin to play squash, you will discover that your rallies will likely not be as fast-paced and extensive, especially if you play with someone of the same level. However, even then, the sport offers a moderate to high-intensity level, and you will need to develop your fitness level. Speaking of which, your aerobic system will be put under strain and need to perform.
As you will see, the sport comprises short bursts where anaerobic physical abilities also come into play, and thus there will be a build-up of lactic acid within your muscles. You will take longer to recover in the beginning. This is why warming up for both forms of exercise is vital before engaging in a game of squash, even if it is just a friendly match, as you want to avoid injury.
Doing things like dynamic stretches and light to moderate cardio, such as ghosting, are recommended pre-game. You can do arm circles, lunges, squats, leg swings, side shuffles, and jumping jacks for stretching. These will not only get your muscles and joints warm but also get you to focus on proper breathing and slowly increase your heart rate.
Skills You Need To Succeed In Squash
As outlined earlier in the post, an array of skills and attributes make someone a good squash player. The sooner you can learn these skills, the better; however, you may find yourself able to pick up some more easily than others, but with time and dedication, you can reach your squash goals. The key is to be persistent and focus on the areas you lack.
Superb Hand-Eye Coordination
At first, being surrounded by four walls where the ball can be played off any of them (below the demarcated lines) is more of a curse than a blessing. You will discover that you are chasing after a ball that careens off the walls and goes bouncing in every direction. Initially, the ball trajectory is unpredictable, and you constantly change direction.
Over time, though, and with much practice, you will learn to anticipate where the ball is likely headed and develop proper hand-eye coordination. Where you would have been swinging and missing the ball in the beginning, eventually, you will seamlessly be able to play the ball. This also comes down to your fitness and mental strength, which we shall get to next.
Suppose you cannot develop hand-eye coordination, even after playing for ages. In that case, you will lack the ability to strike the ball accurately, and resultantly you will continue to lose points and, ultimately, the games you are playing. If you are struggling with this, get onto the court yourself and practice driving the ball down the wall and getting it back to you every time.
Physical And Mental Strength
You must have physical toughness and endurance to play a good squash game and offer your opponent a challenge. Your technique and tactics may be commendable, but they will only get you so far, especially when playing against an equally skilled competitor. Being fitter than the other player will undoubtedly play in your favor whenever you enter a match.
Your primary focus should be speed, stability, power, and flexibility. These are the cornerstones of a well-rounded player in physical conditioning. If you can be physically conditioned, your other elements like technique will endure. You will be less likely to make silly and avoidable mistakes on the tactical side of things.
You could beat someone more skilled than yourself if you are the fitter player. Say they are capable of securing the “T” more; if you can keep up with the running around that they force you to endure and play a smart enough game, you may just have the upper hand and possibly win.
It is comparable to a boxing match. If the opponent is skilled but only fit enough to last one or two rounds, the odds of winning are not in their favor, especially if the competitor can take the punches. Speaking of boxing, this is one supplementary exercise you can add to your training, including sprinting, swimming, and HIIT workouts.
If you are physically fit, the next component to focus on is the mental battle on the court; the game is like that of chess. Every shot you make must have a purpose, and you need to remain focused and not be rattled by what the other player throws your way.
If you can quieten your mind and think clearly, you also manage to stay calm, and this will aid you physically, making both of these aspects vital to dominating the court as they are inherently interlinked. You need to have faith in your abilities and also know what your weaknesses are so that you can approach each game appropriately.
Keeping a cool head is not something that many novices can do; they see how fast the game is, get shaken and flustered, and constantly make foolish mistakes, regardless of how fit they are. This is because they have not developed their mental strength. But with each game, you will learn something new, and soon, you will learn to focus on the current shot and the ones to follow.
Something that many beginners will do is play the easy shot, especially if they are also not physically primed for the game. They are focusing on the immediate result instead of thinking a shot or two ahead of where they currently are; they do not consider the possible returns that their opponent may come with.
Deception is another aspect of the mental game; you need to get into your opponent’s head and be able to fake shots and play in a way they were not expecting. You also need to ensure that your moves do not become predictable as this could be costly; like in boxing, if the other fighter uses the same combination repeatedly, their opponent will note this and anticipate their next moves.
As well as mental and physical strength comes the need to have great tactics. You need to analyze how the game is played out and what habits your opponent tends to have and see if you can spot their weak points and target them. This is on top of the need for good technique, as your technique will enable you to play tactical shots when needed.
But to be tactical in your play, you need to have the other components down, so practice your hand-eye coordination and build up your physical and mental capabilities. You need to understand yourself and what you bring onto the court so that you can be prepared not to be shaken by what the other player throws at you.
Squash is hard to play; there is no doubt about that; however, do not be dismayed as one can learn how to play it quickly enough. The technique will come with practice; the primary difficulty in squash is reaching a level of fitness where you can comfortably make your way around the court and recover quickly enough between rallies. So if you are thinking of starting, we say go for it.