Squash 57: On The Rise
SQUASH 57 has been in existence since the mid 80’s, rebranded to SQUASH 57 (SQ57) in 2016, and is now being played in over 40 countries (according to the WSF’s 2020 annual survey).
The most active nation is England where UK-Racketball (with England Squash’s blessing) runs over-subscribed regional singles & doubles competitions every month. The chairperson of the recently re-invigorated WSF SQUASH 57 Commission, Patrick Osborn, answers questions on what the future holds for SQ57.
Q: Patrick, some of our readers may not be very familiar with the game SQ57, will you briefly describe SQ57 and why it may be of interest to this audience.
Patrick Osborn: SQ57, singles and doubles, is played on a squash court using what is most commonly known as racquetball rackets and a ball that is the same size as a racquetball ball but less bouncy. When compared to squash it is less technically demanding and less stressful on the body but equally aerobic with longer rallies and more smiles. The same is true for SQ57 doubles but, unlike squash doubles, players hit the ball alternately.
The level of entry is lower than squash, in terms of technical and physical ability, so SQ57 appeals to the most diverse of audiences from grass root juniors to lateral ‘converts’ and all the way up to the greats of squash including Nick Mathew, Daryl Selby, Sarah-Jane Perry and Peter Nicol. There are clear financial drivers for squash facilities to adopt SQ57, the game requires no incremental outlay and results in a significant increase in social court bookings and associated revenue streams. For squash ‘clubs’, SQ57 has huge potential, not only tapping into new demographics but also extending the playing careers of existing players.
SQ57 is ‘a lifetime sport’ that is ‘easy to start, hard to stop’.
Q: What are the main initiatives that the SQ57 Commission is working on?
PO: Our commission has been working on a many initiatives, the three main ones at present being:
- Balls: During the 35+ years that the game has been played there has been a divergence of ball specifications, quality and consistency. We are partnering with ball manufacturers to ensure that our players can access the highest quality equipment and new ball specifications are expected to be released this summer.
2. Coaches: We are partnering with the WSF’s Coaching Commission and UK-Racketball to develop a SQ57 coaching framework, fast-track for existing squash coaches, and this will include modules on how to pro-actively grow and maintain the participation levels.
3. Referees: we are partnering with the World Squash Officiating (WSO) commission to develop a SQ57 refereeing framework using the WSO’s recently advertised platform.
Q: What does the future hold?
PO: The world is living in unprecedented COVID-19 times and we wish everyone the very best as nations work their way through their peaks. We have used this ‘down time’ to grow our global network and have identified new pockets of enthusiastic SQ57 players that are now cooperating to grow SQ57 in their nations. During isolation the world has had to creatively think of new ways to keep fit and we have discovered many innovative ways to play squash, as indoor facilities start to open up, we have the opportunity to tap into these open-minded individuals and communities looking for a new source of aerobic fun.
The future for SQ57 is looking very bright but we will need to pro-actively engage at the right time to fully realise this opportunity for squash as a whole.
Q: If you were granted one SQ57 specific wish then what would that be?
PO: The potential growth for SQ57 is unquestionable and with it will come significant health benefits for our communities as well as greater financial stability for our clubs. My wish would be for the world of squash to seize this opportunity and, for example, showcase and/or include SQ57 on the existing tours such as the national open squash masters events where to date ‘only’ Malaysia has taken that logical step.