Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Squash BC logo poll extended

We have been asked to extend the time limit on our most recent poll. The new deadline is May 15, 2008.

Please feel free to give your opinion on the Squash BC logo (pictured below) by voting in our poll on the right. Your responses will assist the association in their decision on whether or not to replace, or redo, their logo. Thanks for your input! We will publish the responses on Monday, May 19th.

Monday, April 28, 2008

How to be a Squash Ambassador

Last week the squash community of Vancouver was given the opportunity to watch an exhibition match between the world’s number one women’s player, Nicol David, and five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald. The match was competitive and highly entertaining, with Nicol winning 3-1*, but there was something else going on that night at Hollyburn and it had more to do with the promotion of the game of squash than it did with entertaining the masses. As I watched Sarah and Nicol do their post-game thankyou’s and their Q&A’s, it occurred to me that I was witnessing more than just two players at the pinnacle of their game, I was watching squash ambassadors in action. (* Ed note: Sarah won their next match, the following week in Victoria, 3-2.)

The dictionary defines the word “ambassador” as “a diplomatic official accredited to a foreign sovereign or government . . . to serve as the official representative or his or her own country”. What we had that night, in Nicol and Sarah, were two highly decorated officials representing the game of squash. As all true ambassadors they have a mission and theirs is to promote the game we love.

What the hizzy is a Squash Ambassador?
A Squash Ambassador is simply someone with a passion for the game who is consciously promoting the game in their own way. No, you don't get to wear a red fanny pack or cute red hat if you decide to become a squash ambassador:)

Why do we need them?
Squash is at the cusp of something big: It’s played by around 15 million enthusiasts on all five continents and has been seriously considered for inclusion in the Olympics. In fact, squash has just recently been shortlisted (again) for the 2016 Olympics. The problem is that the sport still needs to increase it’s profile on a global level (thanks Mr. Delierre for finding a way to film it properly) and on a local level too.

How can I become a Squash Ambassador?
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s easy to be an ambassador of the game when you’re a elite player travelling the world but I’m only a local club player.”

What can you do?

Here’s a simple checklist that I’ve come up with that could help you on the road to becoming a Squash Ambassador. It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s a start. Got more? Send us your comments.

1. Learn the rules. This may seem obvious but it’s the first the step to a strong foundation. Check with your local squash associations and take a refereeing clinic or actually read the complete rules not just the abbreviated ones.

2. Teach the rules. Now that you know the rules it’s important to share the information that you have collected. As you move up the ranks it’s easy to forget that you once played the whole game without knowing when to call a let. Educate your amigos.

3. Become a coach. I’m not suggesting that you need to become a full time coach but why not offer some of your insight to players that are ranked below you? Take an introductory coaching clinic and teach someone new to the game how to play! You're a coach if you help a friend between games - helping someone with their game plan makes you concentrate on the game more.

4. Take lessons. A good player never stops learning or trying to improve their game and a great secondary benefit of this is that you will be supporting your local pro. It might be a good ide to fit in some drill time, with a partner, between matches too.

5. Be a good sport. Oh, this one sounds preachy but it can’t be over emphasized. Whenever you step on court to play chances are that someone (other than your mom) is watching and taking note. They might be considering taking up the game and your behaviour could colour the way they view the game. If you respect your opponent, and your referee, the game can’t lose. (Told you it was preachy:)

6. Support the game. Opportunities like the Nicol/Fitz-Gerald exhibition don’t come around much and if you don’t support them they will become less and less frequent. Go and watch! (To be honest, I was a bit disappointed at the turnout. Vancouver, you can do better.) Enter tournaments and join your city league while you’re at it.

7. Stay informed. It’s up to you to stay on top of what’s going on in your community but the resources are there if you know where to look. In British Columbia:
www.squashbc.com > Our provincial association’s official website. Lots of info on upcoming clinics and a complete tournament schedule.
www.scrusquash.com > Vancouver’s original website for the squash fanatic and home of the best squashcentric t-shirts in the galaxy and a resource for info on local events. Check out their huge photo gallery too!

Next week: “Squash toys you never knew you needed.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

What's up with those Squash Association Logos?

If you're a squash fan in Canada who regularly surfs the web for info on Canadian squash then you've seen this mismash of logos before. The eleven logos here represent the various provincial, and territorial, associations that exist in Canada to serve the squash players of their regions. (Ed. Note: : The "mismash" below was taken from Squash Canada's "Links" page today so blame them if the logos are outdated:)

Why is this important? I think it's important because these logos are a reflection of the state of our game. We all say that we want to be recognized as a vital and integral game - Olympic worthy even - but we also have to say it off the court too and our marketing speaks volumes!

So what do we make of this group? How do we decide which ones work and which ones don't? There is a lot of discussion in the design industry on just what makes an effective logo but in the fifteen years I have been in the business I've come up with my own checklist.

1. Concept: The logo should visually represent what the company, or association, does or is involved in. (Half points for racquets, balls and "whoosh" lines but only if you were the first, second, or even third, association to do it.)

2. Distinctiveness: The logo should be unique and recognizable. Think "Nike". (Hmmm, let's rethink the racquets, balls and "whoosh" lines.)

3. Execution: Even a great concept needs to be put together properly. It shouldn't look like you did it yourself. (I'm assuming you're not a designer but a squash pro:)

4. Memorability: When you see a successful logo you will remember it. Easy as that.

So with this simple checklist in mind have another look at YOUR association's logo.

(Ed. Note: Squash Yukon has recently updated their logo and no longer uses the racquet with the rooster or whatever that is. Squash Newfoundland put a dog - guess which one - on a racquet but their site is down. Nunavut, which officially separated from NWT in 1999 is still not online so we have no idea what their logo will look like. )

I'm not sure I want to critique all the logos above, or if it's even necessary, but I think it might be helpful to point out a few things. Firstly, have you noticed how dated some of the fonts used are? I'm thinking specifically of Manitoba, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. And speaking of dating yourself, PEI, Quebec and Manitoba apparently still use the single yellow dot. What can you say about Squash Ontario's logo: "Come for the squash and stay for the fly fishing."

And what can you say about Squash BC's logo that they haven't heard before (mostly from me)? The dated font, the two heavy black lines (representing our glorious mountains?) and the red maple leaf as an after thought. If change is so scary then I suggest they start using their old logo again - the one on the left - the one with the "whoosh" lines and the single yellow dot:)

(Ed. Note: What do you think? Have your say in our weekly poll up there on the right.)

So, with all that said here is my pick for Best In Show: NWT! Yep. Even though the execution is poor (and that just might be because of the passing back and forth of JPEGs from website to website) I love the concept: I know that this association is talking about "Squash in the Arctic" and, if you visit their website, you'll see the concept taken further with a whimsical (did I just use that word?) illustration of two polar bears playing squash in an igloo. Brilliant!

And my least favourite of this group? Hands down: New Brunswick. Wow. I would love to redesign this one: Let me know if I can help.

(Oh, and it's not just Canadian squash logos that I have issues with either. Have a look at the US Squash Association logo and tell me that it isn't in desperate need of an overhaul.)

Yep. A round headed racquet you say?

Next week: "How to be a Squash Ambassador."

Monday, April 14, 2008

The trouble with doubles

I first tried doubles squash about five years ago and only because my entry fee to the tournament was waived. "Free squash tournament? Count me in!" Then they showed me the court we'd be playing on. It was freakishly large. I remember thinking that my partner was going to have to cover a lot of court but luckily I was partnered up with Stalony (inside joke:). Anyway, I got hit on the first rally of our first match by a fellow who I now know is notorious for this, (his name shall go unmentioned), and I was a convert. (Patrick Ow. Oops).

A couple of tournaments later my partner Debi and I managed to win a match and we were actually asked to referee. That was the first time I was introduced the doubles scoresheet. Wow! Holy confusing Batman! If you've marked on that sheet, first used in, oh, 1972(?), you know what I'm talking about. The lines were so small and the games were hard to distinguish between. Was I marking the second game for team two while scoring the first for team one? Luckily, (and this is what I love the best about doubles), there were lots of old pros hanging around to help us muddle our way through.

Fast forward to the 2008 BC Doubles and, lo and behold, the score sheet is still the same old confusing sheet of hieroglyphs. I decided to stop moaning and to do something about it.

I have redesigned the doubles score sheet so that even those new to the game can follow it and keep track of the score. This sheet is based on the existing horizontal format, not the new vertical format (can you say "singles score sheet"?) that has just been released by the WSF and Squash Canada, and, for that reason, I'm not going to include a scoring sample or "how to".

This sheet is version 3 and I expect that I might tweak it some more as comments come in from our local squash gurus. Please feel free to download it HERE and make use of it. Use it in your tournaments and replace our logo even - all I ask is that you please keep the copyright text on all copies you produce. Cool?

Thanks to Scott S, Marvin M, Rick K, Gerry T and Rip for their critiques.

Don't forget to let us know what you think of the new design.

Next week: "What's up with all those provincial squash association logos?"

Monday, April 7, 2008

Everyone wins when losers ref.

The question of who should referree a squash match - the loser or the winner of the previous match - is again becoming a hot topic of discussion. We think it’s time the losers stepped up to the plate.

It seems that US Squash agrees. Their "RailStation" website states that “Tournament match LOSERS are required to referee the next match as assigned by the Tournament Director.” In addition to that they also plan on penalizing the loser that refuses or fails to ref! There must be a good reason for this organizing body to make this a rule.

I don’t know what Squash Canada’s stance is (they don’t answer my emails☺) but here in BC, the winner is expected to ref the following match. No recuperation or stretching time and no chance for a shower either! Five minutes after your victory you’re sitting there working and getting cold.

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of winners being expected to ref as a “policy” or “rule” on Squash BC’s website so then why is it a common practice in tournaments?

In BC, as far as I know, only the Dundee Open at Denman asks the losers of a match to referree the following game and the reasoning is simple: The winner is felt to have earned the right to relax, stretch and prepare for their next game by virtue of winning. As an organizer of that event I can assure you that there were NO issues or complaints regarding this policy. (It didn’t hurt that we strongly suggested that the winner buy their opponent a beer.)

I’m heading to the PACRIM tournament in Victoria this weekend, where they don’t let you stop playing until you’ve lost four or five games, and I’ll lose my fair share. In a tournament like this where you may play five games in three days it sure would be nice to sit and relax if you managed to win.

The onus for the change is everyone. Tournament organizers, give the winners a break! And players, quit your moaning and do your game proud: Learn to love reffing

Losers are you with me? Let’s stand up and volunteer to ref! Next time it could be us looking forward to some time off.

Next week: "The Trouble with Doubles"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Nationals are coming. Yah so?

I used to get excited about the Nationals. I don't really anymore and this is why.

When I first got back into squash, in 2004, the Nationals came to Vancouver and I truly felt an excitement within the local community. I was lucky enough to be able to be involved (my father and I designed the event logo and publication) and , as it turns out, I was even more lucky to be able to play.

That year the organizing committee opted to host a companion event which meant that players from all over the country, at all levels, were invited to come together and celebrate the game of Canadian squash. I was a low B player and got creamed but I saw some of the most amazing players play and I really got inspired. I saw (and played on!) the glass court! I cheered on my friends and lent Jonathon Power a bandana. I met players from all over the country which was probably the best part of the event.

In 2005 we went to Toronto for the first time and while the games were spread out across the city centre there was still a sense of community. Again there was a companion event so I played safe in the knowledge that I was going to be matched against a comparable player. I was a high B player that year and even with a Canadian champion coaching me I got creamed again. But it was okay because I was hanging out with my squash buddies and we were ALL playing.

In 2006 the Nationals were held in Toronto again. Hmmm. I remember thinking that I didn't really want to go to TO again but I went and, to be honest, I went because there was a companion event and I wanted to see if I had improved at a national level.

To make a long story short: In 2007 The Glencoe Club decided not to include a companion event and I truly believe that they made a mistake. Their argument (if I remember correctly) was that they wanted to "showcase the best squash that Canada has to offer". What they forgot was WHO they were showcasing it to. It's the new players that need to see it, that will be inspired by it. These new players may one day be playing "the best squash that Canada has to offer" but even if they don't they will remember seeing it and it will

This year the committee at White Oaks, Niagara, have made a concession and included "A's" in the draw, along with open and age categories. I hope it's a sign of things to come and that next year's host will consider reinstating the companion event. It will help squash.

Next week: Everyone wins when losers ref.