Today I am going to talk about something we should all already know (but very few do!). Today I'm going to talk about the importance of knowing the rules. I'm not going to go through the rules one at a time explaining them. I know that some professional players don't even know all of the rules. They just rely on the ref to run the match. It's hard to believe seeing that it's their job. How many know when they are allowed to as for a new ball even if it's in perfect condition? So don't thin just because you've played for so many years you know the rules. If I was to guess I would say under 5% of squash players know the rules. Maybe even under 2%. No wonder we always end up with a poor ref..they likely don't know the rules, and neither do we!
I'm always amazed when I sees people playing and the continue to ask me for what the call should be. Even the refs look my way to see what the call is. I continue making the call how will they lean? I know it can be more difficult when you're on court without a referee. In these situations it can be difficult to take a stroke or what not. But for any important match there should always be a ref. The important thing here is that it's a capable ref.
Okay, so it seems obvious to me that knowing the rules is extremely important. I see many people get the turning rule incorrect, they don't know the blood rule, how long they get between games, after injuries (self-inflicted or not), and so on. Unless you have a certified ref I see very few conduct warnings after flareups. And I also see some unofficial officials misinterpret the rules completely. This is why I feel it is not only important to know the rules, but to understand how to apply them.
Let's start off with a link for you. If you haven't already done so, take a read over the rules at worldsquash.org/ws/rules. At all squash clubs there should be a posting of an overview of the rules for members to look over if they have any questions. On this site you can also purchase a DVD called 'Calling The Shots.' This gives you video of actual matches and you record what you believe is the correct decision. They then go through this afterwards and you can learn where your mistakes are.
The tricky thing about squash is sometimes a call can be 50/50 with no clear cut more correct decision. This is true on all levels even the pro tours. How do you know if a swing is effected or prevented? Was it an excessive swing? The person didn't clear, but would the opponent have been able to reach the ball? Was the ball going to the front wall? Did the player make enough effort? When was the let actually called for? Some of these are judgement calls and left up for interpretation. This is why the main thing is to be consistent throughout the match. If someone has a tendency for not clearing properly they may get a stroke against them early to set the tone and to make them clear and give their opponent the direct path to the ball.
Okay, so you've read the rules. Well take an officiating course and I bet you'll learn even more. These don't take too long and can be helpful getting some of the calls explained in plain english. In Canada we have a new online certification officiating course. You can log in to take it here http://www.coursepark.com/squashcanada. It takes under half an hour and has a brief overview of the rules and 30 questions that follows. You can get your basic level of officiating certification from taking this.
Understanding and knowing how to implement the rules is extremely important. Even in friendly league or ladder matches every club has some player that takes advantage of certain rules. If you've done your homework you'll feel more confident refereeing whoever's on court. Some players will attempt to intimidate a ref if they feel they can gain an advantage. Don't let this happen. If you play league or tournaments you need to know the rules. This goes for junior squash to the pros! Use the free online resources that are available and improve your officiating skills and become certified. Be consistent, stick with your calls, your instincts, and make the calls without any hesitation.