BEGINNERS' GUIDE TO SQUASH
So you want to try your hand at playing squash, but you don’t really know where to start? Check out our beginners guide below for all the tips and things you need to start having fun playing squash.
Things you need to start playing:
#1 - Squash Racquet
These are a slightly different shape to a tennis racquet, a bit longer and a bit lighter. There are a number of online retailers you can buy a decent one from, but we’d recommend checking out one of the local Pro Shops that can be found at some Squash Clubs so you can test them out first and get an expert opinion.
- Alternatively they can be picked up cheap second hand if you just want to try out the sport first without splashing the cash. Some clubs will even lend you one while you test out your skills.
#2 - Non-marking Sports Shoes
You’ll soon be running around so fast on the court you are going to leave burn marks on the floor, so one way to check if your shoes are "non-marking" is to place a piece of clean white paper on the floor, then rub the sole of the shoe against the white piece of paper with force, but do not tear the paper. Look for a scuff mark on the paper and if you don’t see any then congratulations - you have non-marking shoes.If your shoes leave a mark on the paper, then consider finding yourself a pair of "non-marking" shoes before you step onto a court. These can be found at a Pro Shop in a squash club or most sports retailers.
#3 - Squash Ball
For beginners you'll probably want a squash ball with a single yellow dot on it. Or a blue or red dot if you can find them (these are even bouncier). These ones will bounce up nicely for you, so you don’t have to do as much running to start with and you’ll find it easier to get a rally going.What’s a rally you ask? That’s where you and whoever you are playing hit the ball back and forward to each other a couple of times. Once you get faster and more powerful then you progress to double dot balls which slow things down a bit.
- Hot insider tip: not only do you have to warm up yourself before a game, but you have to also ‘warm up’ the squash ball. This just means you have to hit it quite a few times hard against the wall. Or you can cheat, and put the ball under your shoe and roll it between your shoe and the floor until it gets nice and warm. This means the ball should be nice and bouncy. A cold squash ball will ‘die’ when it hits the ground so it makes it hard to play with.
#4 - Squash Court
There are loads of squash clubs all over Auckland. There’s typically two ways to be able to access a court.
- Casual Court Hire – if you and a mate or family member are ready to jump straight in and give it a go, there’s a number of public squash centres and some clubs where you can hire a court without needing any kind of membership. These are all listed here
- As a Member – if you are committed to your squash journey, or you’ve discovered the great benefits of playing squash, you might want to consider a club membership, which can give you all sorts of benefits such as unlimited bookings and/or 24/7 access. Check out the full list of clubs in the Auckland region here.
#5 - Someone to Play
Many of our Auckland clubs run “Club Nights” which is a fancy way of saying ‘just rock up and we will pair you up with someone of a similar level to have a hit with’. Club Nights are a brilliant way to start out, meet some of the other people at the club, and players who you can organise regular hits or games with. Some clubs charge a small fee for club nights (e.g. $10) to cover admin costs if you are not a club member.
- Hot insider tip: If the thought of rocking up to a club night scares you, then maybe some squash coaching or a programme would be more up your alley. There are heaps of different coaches across Auckland who can teach you all the basics to get going. There are also specific ‘Woman in Squash’ programmes which are designed for beginners. In the programme there are six beginners all learning and getting coaching together, making it lots of fun. The 'Women in Squash' programmes start from $60 for 6 weeks. Private coaching starts from $40 per lesson. Find more info on coaching options here
#6 - The Rules
Knowing a few of the rules will probably help and the great thing about squash is that unlike other complicated sports with offside rules, and rules that have rules (not looking at any sports in particular….) the rules are incredibly simple.You win a point by serving the black ball directly to the front wall, and aiming to land it within the back quarter of the court - opposite to the side you’re on. Your opponent gracefully lunges across the court to try and return your magnificent serve, but they don’t get there in time, the ball bounces twice. Point to you. The ball can only bounce once before it needs to be returned.
Let’s take that same scenario, of the magnificent shot you played, your opponent manages to get to the ball, but their return shot doesn’t make it above the piece of tin along the bottom of the front wall. Point to you.
If by some miracle they manage to make a good return of your magnificent shots, then it’s their turn to serve and so on until one of you fails to make a good return.
- Hot insider tip: The first player to 11 points win the ‘game’. A game is like a set in tennis. The only exception to the ‘first to 11’ wins rule is if it gets to 10-10. Then you keep going until someone gets a clear two points ahead.
- First to win three games wins the match.
- Get the full low-down of the rules here.
Other handy tips to know:
What is a let?
A let is a way to keep everyone safe on court. If you are in the midst of a game, and are about to play a shot and you think you might hit the other person with your racquet or back swing, you can call a 'let' by stopping and putting your hand in the air and saying "let please".
What do you do if someone asks "what grade are you?"
If you have never played squash before, the answer to this question is “ungraded”. It’s just means your talents are as yet undiscovered, like a diamond in the rough, an unpolished gem. Most beginners will start in F Grade.
Benefits of playing squash
Apart from being able to boast to your mates that you are now playing the world’s healthiest sport, research has shown that playing an equivalent of 30 minutes of squash can burn 517 calories, and has also been proven to help you live longer. This means squash is the perfect sport to provide lifelong total well-being - no matter if you are five, thirty-five or sixty-five.
Hot insider tip:
Squash people it seems are very social beings, and love sharing an after-game beverage. In fact, it’s an unwritten rule that if you win the game you shout your opponent a refreshing beverage after the match.
I remember my first club night like it was yesterday. I was paired up with a guy who was an absolute gem called Barry, who was about 77 (I am not kidding), and he was taking it easy on me. The guy was a machine. You should have seen him move on the court like a gazelle, he should have been called ‘Lighting Barry’. Anyway we had a great hit, loads of fun, and I even got a couple of cheeky points off him.
I guess what I am trying to say is squash is a sport for one and all, play it socially, play competitive, play it however you like, but just get out there and play. So enough talking, time to get my non-marking shoes on and go give Barry a hit.