From US Squash Play to 11, win by 2.

By Kevin Klipstein

Tony Halstead and I used to play squash in Seattle fairly regularly. I think I’m a better player, but it’s not totally clear. Why? Well first, Tony was never in very good shape. Had he been fit, it would have been a totally different game. We used wood racquets, which he played with all the time, but I only used against him. Oh yeah, we never kept score either. The winner of the point would serve the next, but that was as official as things got between us.

I am as competitive as the next person, but I also really enjoy squash for the workout, the movement on the court, and the strategy within a single point. That being said, when I first heard of the scoring changes the World Squash Federation (WSF) was considering last month, my gut reaction was, as may be yours, is it really necessary?

Much has been written and discussed online on the matter, and what I’ve found is that good arguments can be made on both sides of the issue. At the WSF meeting, where over 40 countries were represented, there was plenty of passionate discussion on both sides, but in the end, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the scoring change.

Somewhat ironically, we have a 104-year history with PAR scoring, so as an Association, we had already been in the practice of sanctioning play using PAR scoring, for hardball, doubles and some softball city league play. Immediately following the WSF vote, some junior tournaments used PAR 11 right away. The College Squash Association  tested PAR 11 at the Ivy Scrimmages and The New England Scholastic Squash Association league (70 high school teams) adopted PAR 11 officially for this season. In testing this fall, some adult tournaments used PAR scoring without a complaint.

By making a swift change, we will reduce confusion and be early in our compliance with the WSF rule. In addition to the reasons the WSF put forward in making the change, primary among them creating a standard scoring system worldwide, there are many other advantages to adopting the PAR 11 scoring system including:

  • Reduced tournament fatigue, lowering susceptibility to injury for juniors and adults.
  • Simplified scheduling of tournaments due to more predictable match times.
  • More exciting and easily understood system for spectators and non-squash players.

In preparing a recommendation for change, we had intended to conduct an online survey with the teaching pros and coaches for their opinions on the scoring, and when to phase in PAR for various players groups (adults vs. juniors). What we did instead was contact them directly and in talking with dozens of pros and players in the last several weeks we found that, without exception, pros and players are for the change, effective immediately.

Some parents of junior players may have concerns about matches being too short for younger players. This, however, may be countered by the opportunity to provide more chances to play. In addition, while shorter matches may be the case in some instances, it should be noted that the change in scoring system takes strategic adjustments which will likely counter this potential impact. On the whole, the sport is left with a simpler, universal, and exciting scoring format for all players.

So for those of you who still keep score, it’s now play to 11, win by 2. For Tony and me, not keeping score gave us the chance to further debate who played better at our post match dinner.