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The Origins of Squash

Squash, formerly known as squash racket, is a racket sport played in singles (two players) or doubles (four players) modes in four-walled court. And you did read that correctly, the original game was called “squash racket”. The ball used for the game is small, hollow and made of rubber. Players must alternate in hitting or striking the ball with the racket. Unlike some other racket sports the squash court has four walls unlike racquetball that is played with one wall. Each player must hit the ball onto the playable surface of the four walls.  Since you can play off of 4 walls the game itself requires each player to be very strategic using different shot tactics. Squash is recognized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), but it is not yet approved as one of the Olympic Games.  The necessary squash equipment is simply a squash racket, squash balls and preferrably squash glasses.

For more than a thousand years, people have been playing a variety of games which require them to hit a ball either with their bare hands such as in “fives” or with equipment called rackets. In the 11th century, the French played something called “la Paume” or “the palm of the hand” which developed into Real Tennis or often referred to simply as Tennis. Taking almost eight centuries since the game was first played that game spawned  off into a distinguishable variety started in the Fleet Prison located in London.  How, why and what did it become? First of all many prisoners in The Fleet tried to exercise by hitting a ball against walls using rackets. Through some complicated routes the game eventually made its way to the Harrow Schools in 1820 and some other schools in England as well. From these schools the game of Squash began its journey to fame.

According to World Squash Federation (WSF), squash is played in about 185 countries worldwide on nearly 50,000 courts. As recognized by the IOC, WSF is the only Internal Federation for the sport and it maintains responsibility for many aspects of the game including rules, court standards, coaching, refereeing, and squash equipment specifications. The federation also maintains calendar of all official events all around the world. Moreover, the WSF is responsible for organizing and promoting World Championships for all classes or groups including Men, Women, Junior Men, Junior Women, and Masters age group in both singles and doubles modes. The federation must guide all the member nations to take part in the development of squash.

Squash has been played for more than 140 years and it still continues to grow in popularity. The first courts built at Harrow School were considered dangerous because the location was in close proximity to water pipes, chimneys, ledges, and buttresses. The school responded by building four more outside courts. The material of choice for the squash ball was natural rubber. In the early days of development the rackets were short to accommodate cramped conditions.

Squash Development

Squash Equipment

Squash was gaining recognition from other schools and even outside England in the 19th century. New courts were made not only in other schools, but also in private and club properties. In North America the first squash court appeared in 1884 in St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Despite the fact that the game developed from England the earliest national association of squash was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1904 called the USSRA (United States Squash Rackets Association). Now it is known simply as U.S. Squash .  The standard for squash games were set by a sub-committee of the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association in 1907. Rules and regulations were refined in 1923 in a meeting hosted by the Royal Automotive Club. Five years later standards for squash in Great Britain were finally formed by the Squash Rackets Association.


Squash Rackets or Squash Racquets

In many respects, the development of the game of squash was similar to that of the tennis racket. The first popular material was wood or laminated timber. Construction began to shift to stronger yet lighter materials such as aluminum and graphite in the 1980s. Small additions of boron, titanium, and Kevlar were also used. Natural gut was the main material to make strings however synthetic materials soon replaced it.



Squash Balls

The diameter of a squash ball must be between 39.5 and 40.5 mm and weigh between 23 and 25 grams. Two pieces of rubber compound are glued to form a hollow sphere; it is then buffed to a matte finish. Different balls are available for both beginners and experienced players. The former commonly use fast balls with more bounce, while the latter use slower ones.

Some balls, due to their rubber compositions tend to bounce more when played in a high temperature environment. In a squash game the balls also require a warming up phase to optimize its bounce ability. Players may hit the ball many times before it is ready to use. Manufacturers use colors to distinguish bounciness levels of balls so players can easily choose one that suits their level of expertise. Recognized color-coded squash balls are as follows:

Player Level Speed of Play Bounciness Color
Experienced Extremely Slow play Very Low Double Yellow
Advanced Very Slow play Low Yellow
Medium or Advanced Slow Low White
Junior or Beginner Fast Very High Blue


Squash Glasses

According to many experts including the American Academies of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics, the American Optometric Association, and eye care professionals, the risk of eye injury in some racket sports including squash is high. When playing on any U.S. Squash accredited events including singles, doubles, hardball, or softball squash, all players and coaches are required to wear approved protective squash eyewear.

Approved protective eyewear is any eye wear that exceeds the current American Society for Testing and Materials Standard (ASTM-F803).