Friday, May 7, 2010

A History of Squash

Squash, a game that derived its name from a small soft rubber ball, is gaining much attention throughout the world as being a both intellectually and physically challenging game, but few know of its less noble routes. In this first SAC Squash blog edition, the history of squash; from prisoners to politicians.

Games of hitting a ball against a wall with ones hand had seen many forms for nearly a millennium, with documentation going as far back at the twelfth century, but it was not until the early nineteenth century that racquets began to gain popularity in a very unlikely place – a debtor’s prison in London known as “The Fleet”.

The prisoners within Fleet Prison took to exercise by hitting a ball against a wall with a variety of racquets. At the time, having no game standards or specific set of rules, the game was dubbed with the name “rackets” and eventually gained enough notoriety to be picked up by an even less likely source – English school children.

While how or why the sport transcended from prisoners to private schools around the year 1820, it was the children who pioneered squash as it is known today. The first recorded history of the game “Squash Rackets” was to be at Harrow School in England in the year 1830 after the children had devised a way to change the game forever.

By puncturing, or placing a hole in, the ball it was discovered that the resulting ball deformation causing the ball to “squash” on impact. This created a greater variety of shots and required much more effort, as the ball would no longer simply bounce back to the relatively static player positions. This variant gained popularity over the 30 years and the first four squash courts were constructed in 1864 in Harrow School.

Over the next century Squash, as it became known, gained popularity throughout England eventually making its way over seas to North America, where the United States would become one of the first countries to hold a national tournament in 1907, while England would trail another 13 years before its first professional tournament in 1920. By 1994 over 46,000 courts existed throughout the world with almost 15 million known players and continues to gain popularity today. And while the International Olympic Committee recognizes the sport, it has yet to see its first inaugural game during the events – a very likely future for the sport.

Written by Ayub Khan and Kevin Kramer
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1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 18, 2010

    Thanks for the history lesson. Very interesting.