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Comment on Masters Scoring

FEELING UNDER-PAR



Statistics show us that more than half of regular squash players in England are over 35. Do those who enter Masters tournaments get a fulfilling experience from point-a-rally scoring to 11?

My analysis of playing times at February’s Masters National Championships in Nottingham showed that more than half of the matches were over in less than 20 minutes. Fewer than ten per cent went beyond 30 minutes. You can read further stats below.

The origins of this issue date back to 2004 when PSA changed from PAR to 15 to PAR to 11. PSA had not originally intended this scoring system to spread to amateur squash; it was designed to shorten matches as part of efforts to make the game more digestible for inclusion in the Olympics.

In 2009, the WSF followed the PSA in recommending the near-universal adoption of PAR to 11 (with Par to 15 and ‘Hand In, Hand Out’ (HIHO) as alternatives). In subsequent years, HIHO faded out but PAR to 15 was still widely used.

However, the PAR to 11 system gradually filtered down into Masters squash. Initially this was just for younger age groups, then in 2019 – disregarding the results of the 2016 consultation – it was extended right up to over-75s. The justification for this was to ease tournament scheduling and allow more players into regional matches.

There’s no doubt we lost subtleties from the game in dropping HIHO, specifically the use of different tactics when serving or receiving and the opportunity to recover from a losing position.

The perceived reduction in match lengths and dissatisfaction amongst players in recent years led me to analyse the statistics. I was astonished by what I found.

Associated with the scoring issue is a related one about the speed of balls. The ‘pro’ double yellow dot is too slow for older players and produces very short rallies. There is a compelling argument to use the single spot ball.

In response to my analysis, the England Squash Masters (ESM) committee agreed at its annual meeting on April 1 to undertake a consultation, asking all registered players for their views. As one of the leading national squash Masters associations, ESM has the opportunity to provide world leadership on two issues that have a huge effect on the enjoyment, and probably the future success, of competitive Masters squash.

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Click Image to open PDF version in a new window

The analysis of the average length of playing time per match for each age group shows little difference. The over-35s and the over-75s groups show a difference of only four minutes. (The breakdown above excludes plate matches)



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SUMMARY
Behind the research was the question as to what would be the most appropriate scoring system for the various age categories in order to give competitors the full benefits of the sport.

Tthe presumption had been that the older age groups would have shorter match playing times and could benefit from a move to PAR to 15. However, the analysis shows that the average length of playing time per match for the over-35s and the over-75s shows a difference of only four minutes.

When players were surveyed about the desirable length of matches all felt that a minimum of 30 minutes playing time is desirable.

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