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Squash Rules

Welcome to SquashSkills' Squash Rules: the 7 videos that will teach you everything you need to know about the rules of squash. Presented by PSA's Referee Director & National High Performance Squad Coach Lee Drew.

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What to expect from this Squash Rules series

  • Lee Drew hero

    PSA's referee director & squash rules

    England's National squad coach & PSA referee director Lee Drew explains the rules of squash in 7 simple videos sampling snippets of PSA matches & real life play to help you understand:

    1. what the rules are
    2. when they are applied
    3. what play should look like

    This series is free & is the perfect place to start whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player refreshing you memory on the game's rules. 

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    What you'll learn

    1. Introduction to squash: what squash is about in 45 seconds

    2. Introduction to the court: the walls, the floor, what the lines & sections mean

    3. When the ball is out of play: where the ball can & can't be played 

    4. How a squash match begins: the knock up, spin & serve

    5. How to keep score in squash: rallies, PARS, points, games & matches

    6. Lets, no lets & strokes: interference, obstructions & penalties 

    7. Safety in squash: squash etiquette, responsibilities & juniors

  • players on court at coaching camp

    Take away summaries

    Each video is followed by a 'Take away summary' that brakes down the key points covered by Lee Drew in more detail.

    By the end of the series you should have a clear understanding of what the basic squash rules & no matter what your level be ready to hit the squash court!

Squash rules introduction - Take away summary

What is squash?

Squash is a game played between two people as "singles" or two teams of two as "doubles" each using a standard squash racket and a hollow rubber squash ball in a four walled squash court.

How is squash played?

In squash players take it in turns to hit the ball to the front wall where it must strike above the service line and below the out line and return to land in the opposite court back quarter to the one the player served or hit from, where their opponent will be waiting to return the ball. The ball isn't allowed to bounce before it hits the front wall but it is allowed to hit any of the other walls its way to the front wall.

On the way back from the front wall the ball is allowed to hit any of the "in" areas of the court's walls but is only allowed to bounce ONCE on the court's floor, if it bounces more than once then the ball goes out of play and the player that failed to return the ball looses that rally.

Rallies are played consecutively until a player wins the game. Three games must be won by a single player for that player to win the match.

The right to serve at the beginning of the game is decided by the spin of a racket, after which the server continues having the right to serve until they lose the rally point, then a hand out is called and the opponent becomes the server.

Unlike in other racket sports, if any part of the ball touches the out line or the tin at any point or the short line during a serve, the ball is immediately considered out, not counted as in.


Introduction to the rules of the squash court - Take away summary

The squash court is made up of four walls: the front wall, two side walls, the back wall and the floor.

The front wall

On the front wall you have 3 lines:

  1. The service line, in the middle, which is the line that when playing you need to hit above when your serving.
  2. Second is the tin: a half metre-high metal section at the bottom of the front wall, that if you hit means that your ball is out.
  3. Finally at the top there's the out of court line which wraps the whole way round the court, including the side walls and the back wall. If you hit on or above this line your ball, again, is out. 


The floor

The floor, or court surface, is divided into two by the short line: a horizontal line running through the middle of the court which brakes the court up into the front and back parts of the court, and the half court line which runs vertically through the middle of the back part of the court to make up the left and right back quarters of the court (aka court back quarters).

Each court back quarter, left and right, then contains a smaller box known as the service box, which is where you'll stand when you serve. When you serve you can choose to serve from either the left or right service box but you must have at least one foot in that box before you hit the ball and when you hit the ball, not touching the lines, for the serve to be counted as legal.

Its important to remember that when you serve from whichever service box your aim is to hit the ball into the opposite court back quarter side, which is considered your opponents court back quarter and is where your opponent will be standing when you serve, ready to return.

To make things easier: the floor-markings on a squash court are only relevant during serves in the game.


Lines count as out

Its really important to remember that in the game of squash hitting the lines themselves at any time is counted as out. Whilst in tennis you're allowed to hit the lines and the ball be considered in, in squash the moment you hit those lines the ball is considered out of court.

When the ball is out of play - Take away summary

Squash rules dictate that the ball will be considered out of play when:

  1. It hits the floor before it hits the front wall on a serve or return.
  2. It bounces more than once on the way back from the front wall before a return.
  3. It hits the tin or the tin line: the half metre-high metal section at the bottom of the front wall.
  4. It hits out of court - meaning it:

     a) Hits on or above the out of court line: the top line that wraps around the court.

     b) Hits the ceiling or the lights.

     c) Hits the opponent.

     d) Hits a player.

     e) Hits a part of a player's clothing.

If the ball bounces on or before the short line from a service, the serve is deemed a fault.


The knock up, the spin, the serve - Take away summary

To begin a game of squash, the first thing you need to do is warm up the ball, to improve its bounce, which is achieved through the knock-up.


The knock-up

The knock-up is a five minute exercise in which players spend two and a half minutes in each court back quarter hitting shots between them to warm up the ball. During this exercise its common place for a player to hit one or two shots back to themselves instead of their opponent, to try out different types of shots, before hitting the ball back across to the other side for the opponent to play or return. Any more than two solo shots before a return at this stage is normally frowned up on.


The spin

Once those five minutes have finished players will then spin a racket to decide who has the right to serve first.

The spin requires one of the players to spin a racket vertically on its axis and let go, whilst the other player guesses whether the racket will land up or down based on the direction that the logo at the end of the racket grip faces when the racket falls down.

The winner of the spin then decide whether they'd like to serve first, which is usually the case, and as the server can choose which court back quarter they'd like to serve from in the first instance.


The serve

Once who serves has been decided, if you're the serving player, to serve and begin a game you need to have one foot in the service box before and when hitting the ball, which you should aim to strike with your racket so that it hits the front wall, above the service line but underneath the outer court line and directly without bouncing on the floor, so that once the ball bounces back from the front wall it travels backwards and across into the opponents court back quarter, where they should be standing ready to return your serve.

Squash rallies, games & matches - Take away summary

The official scoring model presently used across all levels of squash, for both amateurs and professionals, is called PARS which means Point A Rally System, in which players are awarded a point for every rally that the win.


Rallies

A rally is a series of consecutive shots played between players during a game, starting with one player serving the ball and another returning, alternating strikes and returns of the ball between them, across any of the playable surfaces on the court's four walls, until one of the players either hits the ball out of play, out of court or fails to strike or return the ball before its second bounce, at which point the rally ends. 

At this point the winner of the rally, the last person to serve or return a good ball, is awarded a point. Every time a rally is played one of the players will win a point.


Games

A game in squash typically consist of multiple consecutive rallies played until one of the players reaches 11 points (PAR 11), at which point that player wins the game.

During a game, when one of the players reaches 10 points (PAR 10), and needs only 1 more point to win the game, "game ball" is called meaning that the next point that that player secures wins them the game.

The only time this changes is if both players secure PAR 10 at the same time within a game.

Since games in squash need to be won by two clear points, when both players reach 10 points, the game needs to continue until one of the players secures two points more than their opponent, for example 10 - 12, 14 - 16, 11 - 13, etc. at which point the player that is two points ahead, after PAR 10, will be awarded the game.


Matches

Squash matches are typically played as best out of 5 games, where the first person to win 3 games wins the match, and the remaining two games no longer need to be played.

Similarly to game ball, when a player is playing the match winning game and requires only one more point to win that game "match ball" will be called.


Winning the Serve & Hand outs

Who serves is initially decided by The Spin at the beginning of a squash game. Thereafter the person that wins the rally being played is also awarded the right to serve and is given the opportunity to choose which court back quarter, left or right, they'd like to serve from. 

When a player looses a rally i.e. the ball goes out of court, out of play or bounces more than once before that player strikes and returns it, that rally and the following serve is then awarded to the opposing player and a "hand out" is called.

A hand out simply signals a change of player serving, and indicates that the new serving player may choose which court back quarter they'd like to serve from.


Serving after winning a rally

When you're the serving player and you win the rally being played the next serve you take must be from the opposite court back quarter that you served from last. This change of court back quarter continues for every consecutive rally you win.

So if after winning the right to serve, you choose to serve from the left court back quarter and you then win that rally, you must then serve from the right court back quarter. If you then win that rally too you then return to serve from the left and so on and so on, until your opponent wins a rally and with that the right to serve, causing a hand out aka a change of server to be called, at which point they can decide what side they'd prefer to serve from.


Who serves when & from where

  1. If you were the serving player at the beginning of a rally and you win that rally you continue having the right to serve, however your next serve must be taken from the opposite court back quarter that you last served in. 
  2. If you were the serving player at the beginning of a rally and you loose that rally a "hand out" is called signalling a change of server and that serve is now awarded to your opponent as the the rally winner. After each hand out the serving player may choose which court back quarter they'd like to serve from.

In summary whoever wins the rally wins the right to serve. If you were the server at the beginning of that rally you must change the court back quarter you serve from. If you weren't the server of the rally but have just won the right to serve, effecting a hand out, you get to choose which court back quarter you want to serve from.

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Lets, no lets & strokes - Take away summary

As squash is played within a confined space there will inevitably be times when another player might willingly or unwittingly interfere with your ability to get to or return a ball, this is called interference and can result in a point needing to be replayed aka a Let ball.

A Let simply means permission to "play the point again" and can be requested if you feel that you may not have either direct straight line access to the ball or room for a reasonable swing or an unobstructed shot at any part of the front wall as a result of another player being, intentionally or unintentionally, in the way. At which point rather than playing the unsafe shot you may appeal to the referee by requesting a "Let please".

Once a let has been requested a player may be awarded a yes let, a no let or a stroke.


Yes lets

A Yes Let is awarded to a player when it is decided that that player was not able to a play or return a ball, that they would have otherwise been able to make a good return on, as a result of intentional or unintentional interference from another player.

It's important to remember that when you're playing a rally it is the job of the player that's just hit the ball to make sure that they clear sufficiently and make every effort to provide a path for the incoming striker to access and return the ball.

Equally that it's the responsibility of the player that's coming in to hit the ball to make sure that they make every effort to go, get and play that ball, as long as it is safe.

If as a natural result of play on the court there happens to be some traffic between the players and the returning player can't get through to play the ball a Yes Let would be awarded, as long as it could be deemed that the player would have otherwise reasonably been able to make a good return on that ball.


No lets

A Let will not be awarded, in spite of interference, when there is an obvious outright winner, so when it is clear that even if the interference had not been there that the incoming ball would have been too good for the returning player to be able to play, strike and return. In this even a No Let will be called and the original player wins the rally and receive the point.

So its a Yes Let if you would have been able to get the ball and a No Let if you wouldn't have reasonably been able to get the ball anyway.


Strokes

Lets deal primarily with unintentional obstruction aka interference, however in situations when one player obstructs the other on purpose, either preventing their opponent from hitting a winning return or preventing their opponent from from being able to directly hit the front wall then the player is penalised and a Stroke is awarded to their opponent. 

A stroke is a point awarded to the opponent of a player who has intentionally obstructed a player, or failed to clear, to prevent their opponent from hitting a winning return or directly hitting the front wall, as a result of which the opponent gets the point and is also awarded the serve.

Safety when playing squash - Video 7 Recap

Squash can be a very fast paced game, which within the small confines of the court can feel very crowded, so safety must always be considered during play. 

You should always consider your and other players' safety before striking or returning a ball in a game, so if at any point you're about to hit a ball but you're unsure about where your opponent is, or you think that there is a chance that you might hit them, its always best to stop the game and to ask for a Let instead.

Equally if your opponent is in front of you and you think that there is a chance that you might hit them with the ball when you strike, again, its better to just stop and ask for a Let.

Bare in mind that if your found to have been the cause of injury to another player, the injured player automatically wins the match. 

To help ensure their safety Juniors (under 19s) MUST wear goggles when they're playing squash.

Finally squash is a game that demands good sportsmanship, so unsafe play, offensive, disruptive or intimidating behaviour is not condoned by SquashSkills and is not acceptable in squash. 

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