Squash– Day 69
If it hasn’t come across already on my challenge, I am a big fan of racquet based activities. My father was a league playing, squash player back in the day, which meant I spent a lot of childhood weekends twiddling my thumbs at local leisure centres whilst he played his matches. So coupled with my predisposition to hitting a ball about and a possible genetic connection, I have high hopes of nailing this sport.
I badgered Tom, who works at my children’s primary school and who also coaches squash in his spare time, to give me a training session. I have heard rumours that Tom includes 3-year-olds in the punishment lap at school football practise on Saturdays, so I knew he wasn’t going to take any kind of pathetic behaviour from me.
Tom handed me a racquet as I excitedly reeled off my tennis pedigree. He sniggered at my reference to my prized two-handed backhand. Something told me that it wasn’t going to make a showing today. Tom also introduced me to Aidan; he would also be joining us as his “assistant.”
Firstly, we kicked off with some simple forehands and again I was discouraged out of my typical tennis stroke. All was going well, until the ball veered too close to the wall. There seemed no feasible way to get to the ball without smashing the racquet against the wall. Tom went up to the wall and gave it a bit of a smack and explained that it happened and was part of the game. I accepted it and the next time it veered near the wall, I followed suit, whilst wincing at the noise.
Next, we moved on to the backhand, which is usually my strongest side but my powers would be halved with the use of only one hand. To reiterate the point, Tom told me to put my redundant hand in my pocket. I was really enjoying hitting these balls about, even if I couldn’t always judge the bounce. I managed to perfect three methods of returning; firstly, running to the ball and then watching it bounce lower than I had judged, which left me swinging into the air, secondly, I would majestically return the ball and then just stand rooted to the spot as I admired the shot or thirdly and most annoyingly, I would hit it right back at myself and thus foul my competitor.
Tom felt that it was time to step it up a notch, as he told me he would be feeding in a forehand drive on one side of the court and Aidan would be feeding in a drop shot into the other corner of the court. My job was to get to both, 10 times each. This was obviously exhausting, so I had to play tactically and try and hold them up by returning the ball away from them, thus buying me a bit of time while they retrieved the ball.
A young lad called Owen made an appearance just in time for “winner stays on.” I sized him up and felt I could take him on. I cobbled together my own version of a serve and the four of us rotated the points. I really appreciated how fit you would have to be to be a good squash player, as I got to play a point and then watched the pros play – it looked pretty brutal. I felt like I held my own, apart from when the ball was played behind me towards the back of the court. I was completely flummoxed as to how I would be able to play that ball. Owen, sensing a full on weakness, persisted in playing it there.
We finished up the session and I was completely puffed out and also confused. Squash seemed to pull on my heart strings. Was I cheating on tennis by flirting with squash? I have been loyal to tennis for so long and we have a lot of history together but squash has come along with its ball which almost winks at you. Add badminton in the mix and I seem to be turning into a racquet based floozy! Maybe that is the point about sport – you don’t have to be monogamous. Maybe it is a relationship where you still have to be committed, yet not fully loyal but if you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you can get hurt. That’s enough pondering; I feel like Carrie Bradshaw in an episode of Sex and the City.
Sofa Dodger; One Woman's Quest to Try 100 Different Sports and Fitness Classes in a Year is available on Amazon, please click here