By Pierre Bastien
Squash is a great game for kids. It’s self-contained. You can play it in any weather. It doesn’t require a whole team of people to play. If you can get a court, you can just show up and mess around. It’s a good way to burn off some steam for an hour. But how do you get your children interested in playing squash? I’ve got two kids, currently ten and eight years old, and I thought I’d lay down some ideas about what’s worked for me personally.
There seem to be different schools of thought on how to get your kids interested in playing. One family I’ve talked to subscribes to the “Not playing is not an option” philosophy. They look at squash as something essential the family does together, right up there with eating or sleeping. They have two teenage children who are playing high-level junior squash, and they take squash seriously, but seem happy with it as a family pursuit. For better and worse, I take a more hands-off approach. I bring the kids to the courts and try to make it fun. If they get interested in the game and want to take it up seriously as they get older, then great. My advice here is mostly about this second approach.
FUN AND GAMES
When my kids were younger, from about 3 to 7 years old, I mostly played “squockey” with them. This is a combination of “squash” and “hockey” and rhymes with Rocky. You stand on opposite ends of the court and, using your racquet, try to score a point by rolling the ball all the way to the other side. If you’re standing at the back wall, you try to roll the ball to the front wall, and defend against it hitting the back wall. This keeps things in two dimensions and is a good way for children to learn basic racquet skills and hand-eye coordination. As my kids got older and developed better racquet skills, we began playing more conventional rallies and, eventually, full points. To keep it interesting, you can put conditions on yourself like hitting everything above the cut line, or even playing left-handed.
WHICH SQUASH BALL TO USE?
It’s probably best not to start with the standard double yellow dot, which needs to be kept warm with consistent rallying. I’ve found that experimenting with different balls as they are learning helps to keep the game fun and easily playable. Dunlop and others manufacture balls in varying bounces and sizes. A quick search online will yield many options.
WHICH SQUASH RACQUET TO USE?
In terms of which squash racquet to use, the pros at the Philadelphia Squash Club, where I play, recommend starting younger players off with junior-sized squash racquets, which are shorter than standard adult racquets and therefore a bit easier to swing although they are usually made from cheaper materials and can be quite heavy despite the shorter length. Personally, I’ve always just grabbed a spare (full-size) racquet from my closet. You can also look for older models on eBay.
WHICH SQUASH SHOES TO USE?
The most important thing is not to let your kids wear shoes that will mark up the courts. When I sprung for proper court shoes, I went with the Asics Gel Upcourt GS, which are junior versions of the Asics Gel Upcourt. These are inexpensive but “good enough” court shoes, especially when your child’s feet are constantly growing!