Last year, I teamed up with our Board Chair Peter Lasusa to play game of Sunday doubles. All four of us on court were very experienced players, with decades of squash and doubles experience among us. During the third game of a competitive match I went to the back left corner Peter and took a normal swing intending to hit a high rail along the left wall. I framed it and the next thing I saw was Peter, down on the ground, clutching his face. Peter’s eyewear had split into pieces. The area around his eye was already swelling and discolored. Peter opened his eye and thankfully could see. We got ice on it and retired to the locker room. Peter handled the situation as I would expect, graciously, without complaint, and offering immediate perspective. I felt sick to my stomach, and very thankful I had not just blinded my good friend.
Others have not been so lucky. I was in Cleveland this November giving the Hall of Fame induction speech for Jack Herrick at the University School. During the speech I noted one of Herrick’s many accomplishments was guiding the transition from the absence of the use of eyewear to their near-universal use by amateurs. While President of U.S. Squash from 1982-1984, Herrick made sure that the use of eyewear became policy despite the fact that this had been rejected just two years earlier.
After the induction ceremony, a gentleman thanked me for including this sometimes overlooked accomplishment in my remarks. A friend of Herrick’s, he was blinded in one eye in the early 1980’s after being struck by a racquet while playing squash. He was not wearing protective eyewear.
By now you have seen the recent postings and additional information on our website announcing our most ambitious push to fully enforce our protective eyewear policy for sanctioned play. The policy, in summary, indicates that all players and coaches must comply with the U.S. Squash Protective Eyewear Policy, which requires wearing protective eyewear that meets the ASTM-F803 standard, at all times . Standard street wear eyeglasses or spectacles do not meet the guidelines. There is now a Resource section on the website, with an official list of approved eyewear.
For people who only have eyeglasses, I-Mask is a good option, however polycarbonate spectacle lenses should be used if eyeglasses are worn under this. Contact lenses may also be worth exploring, and prescription eyewear that meets the ASTM-F803 standards are available from Hilco and Liberty Sports (F8 and Rec Specs brands and Maxx Series).
We now need everyone’s help to enforce the policy—district leaders, league administrators and captains, tournament directors, teaching pros, high school and college coaches, parents and most importantly, players. We expect push back, and every player who regularly wears eyewear will undoubtedly receive push back from people who are not compliant, especially in the short term. We understand the challenges involved, from first-hand experience.
Warming up for a league match here in New York a few years ago, I politely asked my opponent to use his eyewear. The usual excuse followed, “ I don’t have any.” When I said I had an extra pair, the push back started, “Are you serious?” My response, “Yes, I’m serious. I won’t play you without them. If you don’t wear them, according to the rules, you forfeit the match.”
We know this awkward situation, and other complicated variations, will play out hundreds, if not thousands of times over the next few months. Variations will include a player wearing eyewear to what are clearly not approved—Oakley and Rudy Project brands are not currently documented as ASTM-F803 approved, a player wearing standard eyeglasses without an i-MASK, and a player asserting their eyeglasses are actually compliant with the policy, when the wireframes clearly are not.
As challenging as these encounters are, they pale in comparison to sending someone to the hospital for eye surgery, or knowing he or she will struggle to complete everyday tasks with limited or no vision in one eye for the rest of their lives, simply because we didn’t speak up.
U.S. Squash has a history and reputation of leadership on this issue, it’s time to live up to that reputation.