What’s On My Mind
by Richard Millman

January 18, 2014

Staying Alive

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and sixpence, result misery."
Mr Micawber - in Charles Dickens's, David Copperfield.

The difference between being ahead and being behind in life and in Squash is usually marginal.

As Mr Micawber says in David Copperfield, whether you are 'sixpence' ahead or 'sixpence' behind is the difference between ' happiness' and 'misery.'

Anyone that has ever played a game of Squash where they could never get ahead knows the stress and misery of that situation and likewise on those heady occasions where everything seems to work and you are in control you feel the elation of that experience.

The point is that the two sides of the coin  are incredibly subtle and often difficult to recognize.

Currently the vast majority of information available to those wishing to learn about our game is piecemeal rather than holistic and as a consequence the pieces garner far more attention than is warranted, leaving the overall picture as a nebulous and vague concern.

What do I mean by this? Have a look at any of the modern advisory sites or listen to most accepted authorities in the game and you will mostly see and hear an endless series of either ' this is how to play such and such technique' or worse still you should play like this because ' this is how I did it.'

On the one hand the assumption is that readers understand the theory of the game and on the other hand that students can replicate the behavior of an athlete that has abilities and physical capacity that is in the 99th percentile.

In nearly forty years of teaching the one constant in my experience is that students have little idea of the overall concept of the game and that this is the help that they need the most. Once they understand the theory, fitting in the details is much easier and more logical. In point of fact my experience is that the brilliant young men and women that fall in love with Squash and aspire to play our sport professionally are almost worse off than the ordinary student and that their technical abilities and athleticism draw them into the game without really understanding what the basic concept is. Any PSA or WSA pro that sits down and discusses the theory of the game with a wise head that understand the basic theory and can help them to understand, will improve their performance by leaps and bounds over the subsequent months in my experience.

If the players are confused about the game, how then can the poor referees and markers who are trying to make sense of the game possibly regulate a sport where everyone involved is at best cloudy as to their overarching theory and purpose. If you think this point misses the mark, treat  yourself to a five minute review and see if you can write a simple description of the theory of the game. I'm not trying to offend you. Really, I think you will find it enlightening.

This year US Squash showed some tremendous leadership along with the President Fry of Drexel University and Delaware Investments the sponsor, at the US Open. By offering equal prize money for both men and women they sent a message and elicited a wonderful and wholly healthy discussion in our world.

Recently at the US Junior Open I had an equally healthy twenty minute conversation with US Squash CEO Kevin Klipstein about the state of the game.

I passed on my concerns that the game is currently languishing in a world of confusion as refereeing and marking and the understanding of the game by players is creating conflict most of which, in my view, results from a lack of education of both groups.

I was absolutely delighted when he told me that he was in agreement and that the association is going to make rules education their top priority in the near future.

Of course this will cost money and there are people, myself included, that have felt that US Squash has been pumping the well dry by going back to the same people for more and more money.

On this occasion I believe that Mr Klipstein and US Squash are right on the money( no pun intended). We must encourage the understanding of the game and we must fund this development.

My good friend Mike Riley has been carrying on the cause of excellent refereeing along with great leaders such as John Massarella from Wales and Wayne Smith, a Kiwi transplant living in Canada.

These folks walk the line between penury and abuse all for the sake of the good of the game. PSA and WSA can barely provide for their own, never mind referees and rules education - although there is a strong case that PSA and WSA members should be made to pass a detailed rules test before being accepted as members. This would help the players with their performances and decrease misunderstandings. Would the administrations and players of the PSA and WSA be prepared to show that sort of leadership and so send a message to the world?

So when US Squash step up and implement a policy for all players to become qualified referees and the accompanying fees associated, on this occasion I say Hooray! Only when we have more rules education for everyone will we have a chance of everyone better understanding the game. And that is what will be required for debacles like the Golan/Gaultier game in Qatar to become a rarity rather than a frequency - which if you talk to the professional referees - happens much more often that is satisfactory. Also as we fund rules and referees, professional referees will receive the respect and funding they deserve instead of, as one pro ref recently told me, " being treated like dirt by ES&R."

So when you find you are being charged $45 by US Squash for your refereeing exam/qualification, take a moment to reflect that this is ( so far as I know) the first time that any National Association  has made rules and refereeing their number one priority.

Well done again US Squash! Way to step up!

By the way, if you are still working on your simple theory of the game you can get a great clue from Mr Micawber and the title at the top of this article.

Here's a hint - it's all about you. Your opponent, your skills, your fitness, your strategy, your technique, your rest, your diet - they are secondary. Important, but secondary. They are all vehicles for achieving the theory/purpose of the game. If they become the theory/ purpose they are a distraction.

Now can someone please rewrite the rules so that they are logical?

But that's another story........

Richard Millman is an international lifelong squash professional - and husband, dad, grampa, writer, coach, player, referee, innovator, maverick, mentor, team player, thinker, listener, promoter, developer, retailer - who lives squash.

What's On My Mind is a column by rotating authors.
Contact: DailySquashReport@gmail.com

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