Hey Ref: October 2017

HEY REF Other than the marker making calls like “out” and “down,” is it permissible for the referee to stop play?

It’s allowed, but it’s rare and usually for safety reasons. An intervention would typically happen with interference, where—without a request for let having been made—the referee suddenly interrupts play to award a let or a stroke. This is more likely with lower-level players (who are often oblivious to the opponent’s whereabouts) when the ref fears that a player is about to be hit with the ball or racket. Another example that would qualify for such a mid-rally interruption is dangerous aggressive play; intervening helps reduce the risk of injury and lessens the chance of further poor behaviour. Finally, the ref must stop play when realizing that the marker has failed to make a call (e.g., “out”).

HEY REF I was told that if a player hits a loose shot that results in interference, then the proper decision should always be a stroke against that player. Is that true?

That’s not a good idea. Labeling a return as loose (or bad or poor) should only serve to describe what happened; it should not serve as a standard for punishing a player. The rules contain nothing advising a referee to consider the quality of the (now) non-striker’s previous return in terms of issuing a penalty decision to that player. Previous editions of the rules did indeed reference such a consideration, but it was actually the opposite; it cautioned against denying a let to the striker on the sole basis of that striker’s poor previous return that caused him or her to now be in a disadvantaged position. It never applied to the non-striker. To make a fair decision when interference occurs, you must consider the usual criteria specified for a given form of interference. Those are things like: the effort to play; the effort to clear; the amount of interference; the potential for being hit with the ball; the potential for a winning return, and so on. Whether the return was loose is not one of them.

HEY REF Why is squash sometimes referred to as a gentleman’s game?

Male in its expression, but generic in its application, that classic phrase is meant to reflect a spirit of fair and courteous play—with minimal reliance on a referee to resolve issues. Thankfully, most players are fair and polite; others not so much. If you’d like to qualify for the first group, here are some suggestions:

Your faults: Call them all—the double bounces, double hits, scoops, tins, not ups and outs. Act as you would like your opponent to act.

Your efforts: Make them honest—meaning that there’s no good reason to artificially widen a swing, trying to coax a stroke out of it. Neither should you contrive a bogus path to the ball to create a collision—possibly trying to avoid going for a tough return, or because you might be tiring. Accept and play through an amount of interference that will not compromise your return.

Your requests for lets: Just because you’re allowed to request a let, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. So, don’t ask if you don’t think you could have made the return, hoping the ref doesn’t know the right call or might be uncertain. Similarly, don’t appeal a ball you know was good, but close to the line or tin—hoping the ref is unsure and therefore obliged to declare a let.

Your words: Maybe you didn’t like the decision; it happens. Sure, ask for an explanation, but with civility. And if you don’t like the reason either, you can politely disagree, but any comments should be about the decision itself, not the person who made it or your opponent. Then play on.