By Peter Lasusa, U.S. SQUASH Board Chair
Twenty or so years ago I was standing in front of a posted draw sheet helping run a club championship tournament as “Tournament Chair” along with our club professional. Our pro was filling in results in handwritten pencil and was just recording games won and lost without recording any game scores. The particular match result being recorded at that moment had been a “3-0” score so he scrawled this accordingly. I pointed out that this “3-0” match had taken over an hour and each of the three games had been decided by a long tie-breaker and that expressing this by scribbling down “3-0” in pencil did not do the match justice. It failed to tell the real story. To which the former pro exclaimed “Nobody cares about that…” I begged to differ and still do!
In my opinion, our sport has often come up short in its story telling (both written and broadcast), certainly not for a lack of great stories, nor for a lack of talented and dedicated story tellers, but most definitely from a lack of adequate in-depth published statistics consistently maintained over time, and from which many of the great stories in other sports are often derived. If a sports story-teller does not have robust statistics, they are missing a key element necessary to practice their craft. The best example is, of course, baseball, where copious statistics are integrated into the legend and lore of the game, and are essential to all of its great stories. Squash does not have this, but could most definitely benefit from it!
Specifically, I would ask readers to consider which statistics should be consistently maintained to help all of us understand the game better and greatly improve our story telling. Off the top of my head, the list could include maximum ball speeds (think baseball radar gun), pre-season 40 yd. dash times, maximum heart rates, success in tie breaks, # of 3-0 matches won, # of come from behind match wins after being down 0-2, lets requested, strokes awarded against, # of “no let” decisions, tins hit, # of shots hit off the back wall and with what result, return of serve winners, dive gets, game length, match length… Also, tracking ball placement patterns around the court could yield interesting stories (and player tactics).
What are some of the questions that could be answered with this information and integrated into story telling?—Who hits the ball the hardest? Who is the fastest? Who is the fittest? Who is the toughest when behind in a match? Who takes the most risks in their shot making? Who is the steadiest? Who is the most successful in tie-breaks or fifth games? Who attempts to block out opponents the most? Who “fishes” for lets most often? Who hits the ball out at the top of the court the most often?
In addition to helping our story tellers, this data could greatly help referees and officials understand let and stroke calling patterns to improve officiating and thereby dramatically help improve game flow and overall entertainment value for fans. Coaches and players themselves would also greatly benefit with this information being available, for obvious reasons.
Technology has come a long way and now offers many tools to efficiently gather and record the data we need. Hopefully pencil entry draw sheets with nothing more than the match result are a thing of the past.