Chet Blitzer here, once again answering all your sportsmanship questions. I’ve been flooded with questions and the two I’ve chosen this time are about personal responsibility.
Dear Chet, My coach told me I should call balls out or down on myself, but do I need to do this in tournaments when there is a referee? The last tournament I played, my opponent wasn’t calling things on himself—why should I still have to do so?”
This very question may have been answered best by a friendly state trooper who pulled me over last month. I was cruising down the highway, enjoying the deep-throated rumble of my ’85 Camaro, when some dude in an over-styled Italian sportscar blew by me. Wanting to be able to sleep soundly that night, I punched the gas and overtook him at the next milepost. Two minutes later, I calmly explained all of this to the trooper as he asked to see my registration. After indicating that assuaging my ego doesn’t trump public safety, he gave me some wise advice: just because someone else was acting inappropriately doesn’t give you the right to do so. While this approach proved devastating for points on my license, it totally applies to sports—especially squash.
An opponent behaving unfairly does not absolve you from fair and ethical play. If you believe your ball was out or that you did not retrieve a shot before the second bounce, call it on yourself. I’ve been told that Billy Idol had just lost a squash match when he wrote White Wedding: “There is nothin’ fair in this world.” Not true, Billy—you have to be fair to yourself. Who’s your Superman? You have got to leave the court knowing your morals are as intact as those of the mighty bald eagle.
Chet, I really love to win. I don’t want to be told that being competitive is a bad thing. I don’t need to be nicer on court. I’m putting everything I have into coming out on top, so if a referee gives me a bad call, I’m going to let them hear about it.
Whoa, friend—people need to learn that personal responsibility and competitiveness go hand in hand. However, there is something deeper going on here: a societal aversion to failure and loss. To be like Chet, you need to embrace being a loser. Perhaps I’ll rephrase—you first need to be comfortable with not winning a squash match.
Coming from me, a fourteen-time world champion, someone generally seen by the public as a paragon of triumph, as the ultimate GOAT, this may sound strange. Hear me out. Embracing your own responsibility for a loss is essential to becoming a better athlete.
Taking responsibility forces acknowledgement of weaknesses, which then allows you to improve on those areas. As Journey so eloquently sang: “Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues.” Don’t sing the blues—find a practice court and get better for next time. Don’t stop believing.
Owning a loss also creates the mental space for respecting the referees. If you don’t blame their actions for the outcome of a point or match, it’s a lot easier to let them simply do their job without interference, and then thank them for their efforts when the match is finished.
Never be afraid of competitive fire. My own fire burns like David Hasselhoff himself is pumping the bellows inside my heart. You can hate to lose, but when a loss happens, turn that pain into the drive for personal improvement that will only make you stronger.
Keep the questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org