By Jay D. Prince
Now that we’ve had a couple months to digest the latest round of disappointment from the International Olympic Committee, it’s time to move on. And judging from the questions I am ﬁelding most frequently, I’d say players are doing just that. Sort of.
The burning question of the day is once again PAR scoring. Surprised? Probably not. I’ve had teaching pros and league players ask me what I think will happen with respect to the scoring system that most of the squash-playing world has adopted. I’ll say this: No topic in the sport of squash has been so galvanizing since the move to softball in the United States! And that itself is still a sore subject for many lovers of hardball. But that’s another topic.
In February I said I was on the fence between traditional (HiHo) and PAR scoring, but leaning toward PAR. I’m not leaning any longer as I’ve fallen clearly onto the PAR side of the yard. I absolutely understand the arguments against moving to PAR scoring (most notably, shorter match times). And I empathize with those who don’t like messing with tradition, especially one that worked for so long.
Our league in Seattle has opted to stick with traditional nine-point scoring. When I heard about that, I ﬁred off an email to our league Czar asking why our league was “stubbornly sticking with traditional to nine.” The response I received surprised me—apparently a survey of our membership (in Seattle) was conducted and “the majority was in favor of HiHo9…those in favor of PAR11 were generally of the opinion that ‘we have to go along with it’ which is not a great endorsement in my opinion.”
Hmmm. Okay. Fine. But while the rest of the squash universe moves to PAR-11, including college squash which is making the switch this year, we in Seattle go back and forth between the two systems. It’s even gotten to the point where we ask two questions at the start of a match: “Up or down” and “9 or 11?” Every time I ask the second question, the response is, “whatever you prefer.”
So I’d like to renew the debate and begin a productive dialogue about PAR versus Traditional scoring. In my view, if tournaments, particularly national and international events, are going to use PAR, then we ought to fall in line and do the same in all of our matches. While I realize that the vast majority of players do not have aspirations of playing in national championship events, should that really matter?
Last week I played a league match, using HiHo9, and spent the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes going back-and-forth at love-all to start the match. My opponent and I must have exchanged serve 10 times, and yet our score had taken us absolutely nowhere.
In that same match, I lost the middle game 9-7 but had a lead of 7-5. Had we been playing PAR, I would probably have won the game since I kept winning back the serve.
As for matches being shorter, does it really matter that much? I’ll readily admit that under traditional scoring, a 45-min– ute court time at my club was usually just enough time to play a four or ﬁve game match. With PAR, many of my 45-minute sessions result in six or seven games. So yes, the “match” of three-out-of-ﬁve is generally shorter, but I’m still playing the same amount of squash with my allotted time. So for me, the fact that the “match” was over in 35 minutes is irrelevant. Or was I supposed to walk off the court and call it a day simply because we had finished our match? I suspect most would keep playing.
Send me email and tell me what your thoughts are on the subject. But do the sport a favor and give PAR a try for a while before slagging it entirely. Maybe it’s not a question of PAR-11 but rather PAR-to-something-else, like 15. After all, one of the exciting things about PAR is that you have to win by two, and a month ago I lost one of my matches 20-18 in the fifth. While it was very disappointing to lose, those watching us play seemed to enjoy it.