How to start squash without looking like an idiot
Jules Walters • First published: Jun 14, 2023
Twenty years ago, Forbes rated squash as the world’s best sport for fitness, ahead of rowing, rock climbing, cross-country skiing and swimming. It rated playing squash for endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and a low risk of injury.
Since then, other fitness magazines have given squash the thumbs up – so, during the pandemic, I decided to give the game a try.
I’m a very average tennis player and, when I say average, I mean really average. Starting squash, I thought, must be easier. It’s a smaller court. There’s less running about chasing lost balls, and it’s inside, so you don’t need to worry about the weather.
Well, two years on and I can definitely say that squash has got my vote over tennis for all the reasons above, plus more.
I find it’s more fun than tennis. It’s faster, and – in just 30 minutes – you get a great workout and you’re done.
I’m not sure it’s an easier game than tennis, but I think it’s a game with longevity. There are male squash champions over 80 but very few women still playing over the age of 70. So, if you’ve never won a sports competition, this could be your chance.
Top 10 tips
- Buddy up: Like most things in life, it’s easier to start something new with a friend or partner.
- Warm up: Although there is less risk of injury on a squash court than in other sports, it’s important to warm up your muscles before you start running around. Jog up and down a few lengths of the court and stretch those hamstrings.
- Take a few lessons: Although squash looks like tennis, it’s a different racquet action. It’s less about power and more about placement. A coach will show you how.
- Watch how the pros do it: Good players can read the court and figure out where the ball is likely to go next. It’s a little bit like chess, but with a ball.
- Join a club, ideally with a women’s group: Squash is traditionally a man’s game but more and more clubs are investing in women’s groups. It’s a much gentler start if you play with other women, and not all about thrashing your opponent from the get go.
- Invest in a squash racket and shoes: Although you don’t need much kit, you do need shoes that won’t mark the court and a squash racket. It’s smaller than a tennis racquet.
- Watch your opponent on court: In tennis, it’s eyes to the front to watch the ball coming over the net. In squash, part of the magic is in reading where your opponent is going next.
- Find your local court: US Squash has a helpful court locator state by state.
- Give yourself a break: You don’t have to be a natural to get better. Like most things, your skills will improve over time.
- You can practice on your own: A lot of squash players will book a court and just practice different shots on their own.
And don’t be put off if your local club just has a lot of men playing. There will be a club that is developing squash at the community level for everyone through US Squash’s Community Initiative.
There is a lot to celebrate this year in women’s health. We’re living longer and we’d like those years to be healthy ones. I’ve written before about 101 ideas to live a longer and healthier life, and regular exercise is at the top of the list. So, even if squash is not for you, it’s worth the experiment to find a sport that suits you.