Why Isn’t Squash Popular, Despite Being The Healthiest Sport In The World?
In 30 minute sessions (if you do 3 of these a day, you are more likely to be sorted for the week), it is a high-impact exercise that can cross off all the fitness and well-being requirements, and in a Forces Magazine survey, it was ranked the healthiest sport in ‘terms of cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, calories burned in 30 minutes and risk of injury.’Similarly, a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that racket sports decreased by 47 percent the risk of death from diseases, and the only way to prevent this was daily squash.
Why then is it not a sport that helps all of the above to develop in a similar direction to tennis or even badminton (which is currently much larger than tennis) in such a short span of time?
There are quite a few explanations for this, and you just have to log into Facebook and enter some squash groups to see the endless debates among passionate fans about expanding the game.
Some people believe, and this could very well be a suggestion, with a bit of reality to it, that Americans never dominated the game and thus, without Americans at the top, the game was never likely to achieve commercialization the way Tennis claims to have. In terms of viewership and numbers, football (soccer) and cricket, the two biggest sports in the world, however, are not ‘American sports’ and thus this claim is invalid.
Squash’s Isn’t Much Popular?
The most probable explanations have to do with entry barriers for athletes, inadequate promotion, and the ‘form’ of sport, as well as the lack of Olympics. Let’s break down each of these.
In general, squash courts are located in athletics centers, private apartments, or clubs that only the elite of society can really use, and sports clubs also charge a lot of money (this varies depending on which country you are in), making it difficult for people to take up the sport.
Secondly, since squash is an indoor sport, this affects viewership, meaning that people would not see you playing spontaneously as you walk through the courts, and the lack of exposure has allowed outdoor sports or sports that can be played outdoors to catch the imaginations of people quickly and encourage them to play.
Thirdly, in terms of viewership, people have always suggested that squash is just not appealing to watch. In a cube-like court, two-to-four individuals smacking a rubble ball is not very enticing to a digital audience and they would rather watch other more visually appealing activities. I’m not a fan of this claim, however, as technology and smaller cameras have made it possible for the game to become very exciting to watch, particularly when you get instant replays from inside the court and other shots of great volleys, etc.
Finally, squash has failed to make the Olympics despite its recent attempts and thus does not receive the kind of government funding in smaller countries that helps athletes to make a living, and neither does it reach a broader audience through the Olympics network.
Not all, however, is blue. In promoting the sport, the Professional Squash Association and the World Squash Federation, which work in tandem (similar to the WTA and the ATP in tennis), do a fantastic job.
Their social media networks are busy than ever, working with SportsTech companies to develop the sport and use technology to further develop it. They have also engaged with external organizations and are working in all capacities to support the game’s development.
Similarly, there are growing discussions about providing open-air squash courts and using materials such as steel to build outdoor courts that allow individuals to come in and get a hit.
World Squash Day also began after the 9/11 squash terror attacks, to honor some of the squash athletes who died during the attack and do something tangible to develop and encourage the sport as well. This has only increased in momentum, both with participants but also with social media, and it has been a massive success in 2020, being largely social media-oriented.
So, while the game has seen a lot of struggles and difficulties, there are a lot of good things coming out of the sport, and with the development of the fitness industry and people’s awareness, it is likely that the game will continue to expand as well.