Balls to the Wall: Hell hath no Fury like a Woman scorned . . .
by Alan Stapleton

March 18, 2015

We all know that old adage, and some men (those with a smattering of wisdom) for safety, sanity and to protect their bank balances, still apply it to their daily living. But scorn or abuse a Squash Player, with a No Let, or, even worse, a Stroke, and you are equally as likely to be the receiver of ear bashings, eye drillings, and curses that may  threaten that mortal coil that Shakespeare mentioned somewhere in his wonderings

The schizophrenic nature of Squash Players is never more clearly illustrated when you compare the Friendly Game with no Marker/Referee to the League or Tournament game with Marker/Referee.  In the friendly , players are happy and smiley. Double bounces, and clipped tins are volunteered while lets and strokes are offered with gay abandon. But, let (scuse the pun) a Marker in their life. And you endure eternal strife. Now, the mere refusal of a let, invites a torrent of questioning, gesturing, and comments about how idiotic the marker is, and how paraplegic the opponent is. Glowering glares, mumbled mutters and sarcastic treacle-smeared threats spew from the mouths of two players, who just 30 minutes before were heartily chatting about their golf over the weekend.. 45 minutes later, they will probably be gulping down a beer,  planning a friendly “hack” next week and laughing about that imbecile who marked their game. That same idiot who had a far better view of the whole court, was not emotionally involved, and was not plagued with perceptions misted by competitive testosterone, fatigue and desperation.

The position of a Referee and Marker – (to most folk, this position is one and the same, but there are distinct differences in function) – is not one to be envied, and will seldom be found in one’s “still want to do” lists. Either, he is a lonely soul, sitting on a baby-like High Chair, similar to those medieval petty thieves in stocks, waiting for a verbal torrent of rotten eggs and tomatoes. Or, he will find himself ensconced in the gallery or in the stand, amongst the partisan crowds, supporters, parents and coaches. Whichever decision he makes, will be 50% wrong, and will be met with head shaking, mumbles, mournful moaning and criticism.

Consequently, the scene before League matches frequently follows this scenario. Two players emerge onto the court, stretched and bristling with competitive fervor. They start bashing the ball around. The area outside the court evacuates. The two, who have just played, limp off to stretch, shower, or grab a beer. The other “team-mates”, quietly snicker off to send an SMS, answer a call, or check to see what talent is playing down at Court 7. After 5 minutes, ( the official time allocated for the warm up), nobody has returned ,and the 2 combatants, now eager to tear into each others’ physicality and psyche, are left , searching the cold corridors for someone they can abuse over the next 45 minutes.

Clearly, very few people like Marking or Refereeing. But it is a function and part of Squash that is not going to go away. The sooner we embrace it, and become better at it, the easier our lives will become. It is also a very sad fact, that squash will not be part of the next Olympics, partially because the Olympic officials could not believe how badly  players behaved when relating to the Markers and Referees.

So how do you become a good/respected/accepted Marker or Referee? The best place to start, is by reading the Rule Book. I would guess that less than 5% of league players have ever read this ‘best seller”, and an even lower percentage of “normal” league players will have paged through the little literary wonder. The rules have been made fairly easy to understand, but it is when you come to the interpretation of these rules at a stressful point in a match, that the squishy entanglement of guts and bones and intestines of this animal become a blur. Sadly, most players’ understanding and interpretations of the rules have come from garbled post-match discussions amongst a group of ill-informed participants which have resulted in a whole batch of Urban Myths which now populate our courts.

I doubt that you are going to scurry off to read the rule book, but at worst, try to read through the rules which deal with Interference, and then look at  the Duties of the Player: A little bit of information can also be dangerous but a clear understanding of the 4 Freedoms to which the striker of the ball is entitled, will probably take you closer to that Holy Grail.

As we head into League season, accept that nearly all rules concerning strokes vs. lets are subject to interpretation and discretion, and therefore, you will not agree with every decision. In many  cases, the Marker and the Referee are usually the same person, but when a Let or a Stroke is awarded, that poor individual is wearing his Referee’s Hat. The Referee’s decision is Final. He cannot change it so there is no point in ranting and raving. Accept it and move on, and hope that he applies that rule consistently

If you are going be that idiotic imbecile who climbs up into the baby’s High Chair,  use a pen and paper to keep the score, speak clearly and loudly, commit yourself to the game, and concentrate on what is happening, despite the fact there is some scrumptious social secrets  being discussed by that beautiful blonde at the bar. And finally be consistent. Your understanding and interpretations may be faulty, but if you are consistent, at least the clever player will be able to work out how you see the game, and adjust his game to your calling!!

Love all. LET’s Play

Alan Stapleton – a passionate sports-mad squashaholic , who was introduced to the game by bribery of chips and Coke while his father dabbled with dobbly trickle boasts, and then converted at a clinic held by the legendary Jonah Barrington. While never reaching dizzy heights as a player, he did play representative/provincial and 1st league squash, and via a combination of playing, and coaching at all levels , and administering, he has become addicted to the beautiful highs that this amazing sport can take one to, day, or night, without fear of rain, wind, heat, hail or snow, and irrespective of the level of skill. Now, through his love of writing, he tries to “spread the word” and some nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his squash journey. Married with 2 children, this former teacher, now Marketing Manager, lives in Port Elizabeth, South  Africa.