Not knowing the history of squash as a squash player, is like knowing how to drive a car but not knowing how to refuel its gas tank. - Roger So (Rovo Intern)
Although squash has been played for only roughly two centuries, its roots go back way before that, and share the same origins as the game of tennis actually!
Fore more than a thousand years, Man has enjoyed engaging in sports which require a racket or bat. For instance, in 12th Century France, game known as ‘palm of hand’ was played which developed into an early version of tennis some time later in the fifteenth century when the Dutch invented what would be the first proper variant of the well... racket.
A game of Palm of Hand (or jeu de paume) in session
Very interestingly... or bizarrely, squash was supposedly invented in a prison. It is conventionally believed (amongst people with enough authority to set such conventions concerning this subject) that the game of Squash originally started in Fleet prison, London. Prisoners were made to exercising by hitting balls against the prison walls with what could be called rackets, given the limited amount of space in an oversupplied prison. Taking the game 'rackets', tt became popular across the whole of Britain, particularly amongst workers and school children.
A painting of a game of rackets, in a prison
Kudos to British imperialism, the sport of rackets spread across the world. In the 1770s, it came to Canada; in 1821 it hit India, and 1847 Australia.
There was a popular variant of the sport rackets, named fives, which was at the same time a variant of handball. It was basically the sport rackets with the players' bare hands taking the place of rackets. It is conventionally held amongst experts that these two sports eventually melded to give birth to squash.
A game of fives in session at Eton College
Squash proper was invented in Harrow school, in the early 19th century where pupils found out that punctured rubber balls upon impact produced greater variety of shots and required more efforts from players. These punctured balls also allowed a softer and slower version of game, which was more suitable for the children at Harrow. To complement the popular demand for such 'sport' that followed, in 1864, four Squash courts were constructed at the school and Squash was officially founded as a sport. Its popularity skyrocketed. Other public schools and public in general quickly picked it up.
In such days, the sport was played without any rules of standardization, both within and between nations. The courts were all of different lengths, and materials ranging from stone to cement were equally preferred for the court surface. The first official squash regulatory body was formed in December 1928 with the Squash Rackets Association, which was the first British squash association.The formation of the American variant closely followed with the founding of the United States Squash Racquets Association in 1907. It was also in that year that the first recognized national squash championships in any country was held.
By the late 1920s, significant progress in international standardization of the sport was made when it was decided amongst the various squash national associations to standardize the court dimension on the 18½ feet width and a 17 inch ’ tin’ rather than the 19 inch variety.
The first international squash competition was organized in 1922, when the Lapham Cup was played between Canada and America. Squash also apparently rode the wave of the post-war boom as its popularity jumped in the wake of the second world war, for reasons we (the RoVo team) don't exactly know yet.
In January 1967 delegated from seven major nations (New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, Australia, Great Britain, Egypt, and India) met in London to form the International Squash Rackets Federation (ISRF). If this name is not too familiar with you (assuming that you are a squash player), it is because it changed its name to the World Squash Federation (WSF) in 1992!
What a long way squash has come indeed!
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