Ideally, every player should have read and should know the rules of Squash; but, there are some rules that sometimes are ignored simply by the fact that none of the players or officials know them. I have read the “World Squash Singles Rules 2014” from the World Squash Federation and here are some of the rules that I believe every player should know, as well as commentary on how they are bypassed or misinterpreted by players and/or officials:
Section 3: Officials
- Subsection 3.3: The correct position for the Officials is seated at the centre of the back wall, as close to that wall as possible and just above the out-line.
From my competitive experience the last part of this rule has not always been implemented. Many times Officials (in this case players themselves) sit behind the back wall but on ground level instead of above the out-line. This can influence, for example, a call on an out-ball where the Official would be looking from below the out-line thus not having a good line of sight on the ball when it is close to or on the out-line.
Subsection 3.7: The Referee
- Rule 3.7.10: must ask the player for clarification if uncertain about the reason for a request for a let or an appeal.
Many times inexperienced players that are refereeing a match find themselves not knowing why a player called a let. Also, most often than not, the player refereeing doesn’t know what to do and takes a decision that may not be the correct one. If a player ever finds themselves in such a situation, they must ask for clarification from the player in order to make a better and fair decision.
- Rule 3.7.13: must apply Rule 15 (Conduct) if a player’s conduct is unacceptable.
Sometimes players who are refereeing do not apply this rule because they might feel intimidated. A referee should never hesitate to apply Rule 15 against a player who is showing misconduct.
- Rule 3.14: must suspend play if the behaviour of any person, other than a player, is disruptive or offensive, until the behaviour has ceased, or until the offending person has left the court area.
Most of the times when there is a disruption by a person, other than a player, it is a player who tells the referee to ask that person to stop the disruption. A referee should never wait for a player to do this. Instead, the referee should suspend play immediately if a disruption occurs and should ask the person to stop or leave the court area.
Section 4: The Warm-Up
- Subsection 4.1: At the start of a match the players go on court together to warm up the ball for a maximum of 5 minutes. After 2½ minutes the players must change sides, unless they have already done so.
This is one of the most misinterpreted rules in Squash. Often, the players will warm-up for as long as they desire without the referee asking for a change of sides and later on for a time-out on the warm-up. A lot of players don’t know the maximum time allowed for warm-up which leads to longer-than-allowed warm-ups and therefore a delay of game.
Section 5: The Serve
- Subsection 5.7
- Rule 5.7.2: at the time the server strikes the ball, one foot is in contact with the floor inside the service-box with no part of that foot touching any boundary of that box.
This is a very well-known rule; but, if broken, a fault must be called by the referee. This is not the case most of the time a player commits this type of fault. The reason is that some referees don’t even pay attention to the serving player’s feet as they serve, hence missing a fault that must have been called.
Section 7: Intervals
- Rule 7.1: A maximum of 90 seconds is permitted between the end of the warm-up and the start of play, and between each game.
Some players don’t even know that there is time allowed between the end of the warm-up and the start of the match. Also, many players take over 90 seconds between games and referees most of the time fail to call the player’s attention on this. A referee must give a 15-second warning (i.e. there are 15 seconds left before players must return to court) and if a player fails to come back to court on time, Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied. Note: it is the players’ responsibility to be close enough to hear any announcement made by the referee.
Section 8: Interference
- Rule 8.2: A striker who believes that interference has occurred may stop and request a let, preferably by saying “Let, please.” That request must be made without undue delay. Notes:
- Before accepting any form of request the Referee must be satisfied that the player is actually requesting a let.
- A request for a let includes a request for a stroke.
- Normally, only the striker may request a let for interference. However, if the non-striker requests a let for lack of access before the ball has reached the front wall, that request may be considered, even though that player is not yet the striker.
Here I will concentrate on the last point since I find it very interesting. The reason is that usually a player will request a let after the ball has come back from the front wall and an interference occurs. But, according to this rule, if a player is the non-striker, (i.e. the ball has not reached the front wall and therefore this player may not hit the ball yet) they can request a let if they believe they don't have direct access to the ball even though they are not allowed to hit the ball yet. Also, another reason I find it interesting is how this rule is designed to keep the players' safety a priority; there is no need to wait for the ball to be within striking distance (and therefore having the risk of hitting the other player) in order to stop the point.
- Rule 8.4: The Referee may allow a let or award a stroke without a request having been made, stopping play if necessary, especially for reasons of safety.
Many times referees will not stop the game even though a dangerous play has occurred. This is due to the fact that, if a player does not stop play even through a dangerous play, the referee may think they don’t have the right to stop the point since a player didn’t stop it in the first place. Referees must apply this rule when necessary in order to protect the players’ safety; especially when dealing with beginners as they don’t request a let as much as more experienced players.
- Subsection 8.6:
- Rule 8.6.4: if there was interference, but it did not prevent the striker from seeing and getting to the ball to make a good return, this is minimal interference and no let is allowed.
This is one of the most commonly misinterpreted rules in Squash. Many players believe that if there was any type of interference, regardless of how minimal it is, at least a let should be awarded. This is not the case. If there is minimal interference and the striker can still play their shot and make a good return, then no let is allowed if the player stops the point. Normally, if this happens for the first time in a match, the referee will allow a let and tell the player that they should play those shots in the future. If the player fails to do so on another point, then no let is allowed and the referee must remind the player once again that they should hit those shots.
- Subsection 8.8: If the striker requests a let for lack of direct access to the ball, then:
- Rule 8.8.1: if there was interference but the striker did not make every effort to get to and play the ball, no let is allowed.
This rule can create a big debate between players and the referee. Sometimes, a player may think that because there was enough interference to allow a let, a let must be allowed. This is not the case since a player must ALWAYS make their best effort to get to the ball regardless of the interference (i.e. a player must show that they would be able to hit the shot if there were to be no lack of direct access). Note: Every effort to get to and play the ball should not include contact with the opponent. If any contact that could have been avoided is made, Rule 15 (Conduct) must be applied.
- Rule 8.8.2: if the striker had direct access but instead took an indirect path to the ball and then requested a let for interference, no let is allowed, unless Rule 8.8.3 applies.
I find this rule very interesting. It could lead to a lot of confusion during a match since there will be an interference; but, in this situation, not let should be allowed regardless of the magnitude of the interference. Rule 8.8.3: if the striker was wrong-footed, but showed the ability to recover and make a good return, and then encountered interference, a let is allowed, unless the striker would have made a winning return, in which case a stroke is awarded to the striker.
- Subsection 8.10:
- Rule 8.10.1: If the striker caused the interference by using an excessive swing, no let is allowed.
This is one of the rules that cause controversy on court. Sometimes, a player will exaggerate their swing in order to request a let. This is called excessive swing and no let should be allowed. Unfortunately, many players, as they referee, don’t know this and they take it as a normal interference thus allowing a let, or in the worst of cases, a stroke. Note: If there was interference from the striker exaggerating their swing in an attempt to earn a stroke, a let should be allowed as stated in Rule 10.8.2. Rule 10.8.2: If there was interference but the striker exaggerated the swing in attempting to earn a stroke, a let is allowed.
Section 14: Injuries
- Subsection 14.3: Categories
- Rule 14.3.1: Self-inflicted: where the injury is the result of the player’s own action. This includes a muscle tear or sprain, or a bruise resulting from a collision with a wall or falling over. The player is permitted 3 minutes to recover and, if not then ready to resume play, must concede that game and take the 90-second interval between games for further recovery. Only 1 game may be conceded. The player must then resume play or concede the match.
In this case, players must be aware of the time frames allowed during injury time. The opponent should be aware of this and tell the referee to implement the rule when the time is over, if the referee forgets or doesn’t know about it.
- Rule 14.6: It is always the injured player’s decision whether or not to resume play.
No player should ever let the referee or opponent pressure them into continuing play when injured.
Section 15: Conduct
- Rule 15.7: A player guilty of an offence may be given a Conduct Warning or penalised with a Conduct Stroke, a Conduct Game, or a Conduct Match, depending on the severity of the offence.
Referees should know that a Conduct Stroke, Conduct Game, or Conduct Match can be given to an offending player before a Conduct Warning is given (i.e. a referee is not obliged to give a Conduct Warning before giving a penalty; a penalty can be given straight away). Any warning or penalty will be given considering the frequency and/or severity of the offense(s).
These are the rules I believe are mostly misinterpreted or not known of at all by players. Any squash player who desires to play competitively should read the rules carefully in order to fully understand them and apply them whenever they must officiate a match. Also, players should keep these and all other rules in mind so that they are able to appeal in a correct manner. A player who knows the rules will be able to provide a better playing experience to themselves and others as well!