by Sheldon Anderson, US Squash Pro Tour 2 Official
US Squash is unique in that we require our professional officials to participate as referees at our national and junior events. This helps implement changes we make at the professional level amongst the broader membership.
Over the past year, for example, we have highlighted the importance of ensuring free flowing play. This is important to how the game is broadcast, communicated and played. In particular, we have increased our emphasis on Rule 1.3: “Play must be continuous as far as is practical.” We interpret this rule to include ensuring outgoing players provide access to their opponent to play their shot and equally that the incoming player is making every effort to go to and play the ball. The desired outcome is to reduce unnecessary stoppages in play and ensure rallies continue fairly to their conclusion.
Because of our efforts, we are seeing fewer stoppages in play for decisions by the referee and longer, more exciting rallies as players work to ensure a fair outcome. At tournaments, referees are directing the players to provide a path to the ball or to their ability to take an inside or outside line to the ball when explaining a decision. These words are used to better communicate the application of free-flowing, continuous play. We want officials to ensure both players understand their role in providing access to their opponent and in turn ensuring the incoming players are making genuine attempts to go to and play the ball.
At the professional level, the PSA sends communication directly to the players regarding new areas of influence and focus for the sport and its officials. When applying the rules in the front corners of the court over the past year, we saw an increase in penalties (strokes and no lets) and fewer lets. Professional players learned through this application that they were being penalized for moving directly back to the T area from the corners. As players adjust, the application of this rule allows the game to continue with less interruptions. Players make more effort to provide access, change their shot selection and increase effort to genuinely play the ball and continue the rally.
US Squash has increased our efforts to communicate changes to the game and areas of influence for all of our officials. This year, US Squash began conducting officiating clinics at all of the JCT events open to parents, coaches and players. These clinics include screening recent broadcast footage provided from the PSA prepared by the world’s top officials and demonstrate areas of focus and development for players and officials at all levels. These clinics highlight free flowing play.
The focus on continuous play improves the experience of playing the game at all levels. Ensuring both players make every effort to play their shot and get out of the way maximizes the opportunities to conclude rallies fairly inside the court with minimal interruptions.