Squash is a simple game to learn but a tough one to master. It’s been popular across Europe and especially in the UK since the 1980s, but the number of players in the USA has been growing steadily over recent decades.
How Do I Learn To Play Squash?
One of the most appealing things about squash is how easy it is to learn. Beginners can quickly get the hang of the rules, and it is relatively cheap and easy to book a short session on public courts at local leisure and sports centres. Equipment can usually be affordably hired too.
The best place to start on your squash journey is having a friend to spend a little time on court with to go through the basics. It’s certainly not essential, but there’s no substitute for the acceleration you get from actually seeing someone hit the ball and explain the rules at a friendly interactive pace.
If you don’t have the luxury of knowing someone who knows the sport and has the time to join you, fear not. You’re in a great place right on this page to learn a little more, and certainly enough to get started.
Find A Court
First and foremost, find out where to play. There are an estimated five thousand courts in the UK, and Squash England have a handy tool if you need to find your local centre. Better than that though, try your local council run leisure centre in the first instance, as most of them will either have one or more on site, or have an arrangement with a local centre.
Council run facilities are great, as they run public services without a primary focus on cost. While private companies do offer facilities to play squash, they’re businesses that exist to make a profit.
We all know what happens what you take out a gym membership in January after the Christmas excess, some of us manage to use them for at least a few weeks before continuing to pay for the perks without using them for the rest of the year. The same goes with paying for a year’s squash court use.
A better approach is to pay as you go for a while as you get started, just book courts in short blocks as you play. By all means look into the membership options once you’re past those first few games, but first it’s important to find out whether it’s a game you’ll enjoy playing!
Learning The Courts
Getting used to the court is a relatively simple process, and fortunately all courts are very similar in layout. Just like most sports, the measurements and positioning of boundaries and walls are broadly set to specifications, and while there will inevitably be a small variation, it shouldn’t be noticeable between courts.
That’s not to say all courts are identical though, some are very visible different. The most obvious variation is that the most modern courts often use a glass back wall, and occasionally side walls too. This helps spectators get a vastly improved view, compared to older courts which are enclosed in solid walls with rarely more than an elevated viewing gallery at the top of the back wall.
You can learn more about courts in great detail on our page about squash courts.
The Court Lines
On the floor, a squash court has a short line, which runs from the left wall to the right, forming a T in the centre of the court to divide the two receiver boxes at the back of the court (also referred to as the back left quarter and the right left quarter). Each receiver box has a service box it the corner where the short line meets the side wall. The remainder of the floor between the short line and the front wall is called the front half.
On the walls, the highest line is the out line, running horizontally high across the front wall, diagonally falling along the side walls, and horizontally across the back wall. The next line below the out line on the front wall is the service line, and finally the lowest line runs across the top of the tin, the bottommost section of the front wall, called the tin line.
Here’s the biggest part that catches new squash players out, especially if they’re used to other racket and ball sports like tennis, if the ball hits the line, the ball is out. In other words, you must play shots with the ball making contact with the court and walls between the lines.
Learning The Rules
Squash rules are very simple in principle, and even the quirks are relatively few compared to other ball and racket sports (racket or racquet is a debate for another day).
To very briefly summarise, the game starts when a player serves from a side of their choosing, with at least one foot in the service box on their side of the court. They have to hit the ball (without touching another wall or the floor) between the service line and out line on the front wall. The ball must then travel back and make its first bounce (unless volleyed by the opponent) in the other player’s quarter.
For clarity, this means that the serving player serves from the service box in the back right quarter, if the ball bounces, the ball must bounce first in the back left quarter and vice versa.
If the serve is out, the point is won by the non serving player and serve changes to the non serving player for the next point. There are no second serves in squash.
If the serving player wins the point, they get the point on their score and make their next serve from the opposite side for the next point, and continue to alternate sides until they lose serve or win the game.
If the serving player loses the point, their opponent gets the point on their score and serve passes to the opponent, who chooses which side to make their first serve and continues in the same way.
Points And Scoring
A squash match is usually the first to win three or five games. In tournaments this will be decided by organisers, but for informal games just something that’s decided before the match between players.
Each game is first to eleven points. Whoever wins the game serves first in the next game (unless the match is won).
For a more detailed run down of the rules, the England Squash page is here.
Squash technique is something that you develop over years of playing. As a beginner playing squash, you’ll start by simply getting used to hitting the ball with the racket consistently. In fact, it’s arguably the biggest step to overcome, as you need to warm up the ball to really learn how the ball moves through the air during games and start to develop the instinct for moving to where the next shot needs to be played.
The mere process of warming up the ball is going to require repeatedly playing shots, so don’t feel caught in a catch 22 if you’re struggling to get used to the real basics. We’ve all been there, and typically after a bit of determined practice it will suddenly click.
Once you’ve got the hang of hitting the ball and a few forehand and backhand swings, you’ll be well on your way to holding your first game together. We won’t go into too much detail here as we’ve got a whole page dedicated to squash shot swings here. For the moment, just get the hang of hitting the ball and getting consistent with your first few simple rallies with a partner.
The Squashy Summary
Getting started with squash is remarkably simple, although there is likely to be a little bit of frustration in hitting the ball initially to get the ball warmed up enough to make some real progress.
As we’ve talked about on this page, the detail that you need to know is really straightforward, so you can be up and running at a basic level in no time at all. Learning the rules is a doddle, and now you’re familiar with what a court should look like and the terminology to describe it, you’re good to go!