Earlier this month I played squash in Moncton, a town in New Brunswick. They had two twenty-five foot-wide softball doubles courts (fresh from the 2015 Pan-Am Games in Toronto). Movable walls.

As we were playing, we Americans in the court quickly found out that the Canadians didn’t follow the usual hardball doubles serving rotation of both teams serving in succession but rather each team had one player serve (you could come in from either side, your choice) and then when that team lost a point, the other team got a server. It was very confusing for us hardball dubs guys.

When we asked about the rule, the Canadians said that they used to play with regular rules but a few years ago the serving rule was changed for professional doubles (at the Commonwealth Games etc) and so the guys in Moncton switched. They didn’t like it much.

It reminded me of a decade ago when the PSA decided to switch from 15 point scoring to 11 point scoring and all amateur play around the world instantly followed suit, discarding 9 point, hand-in, hand-out (HiHo) scoring and lurching, without thought, to 11.

Much like in golf, with the pros hitting off the black tees and mere mortals whacking from tees further up, there is no reason why amateurs, juniors, weekend warriors and every-day hacks have to follow what the pros do and hit from the tips.

For squash, everyone but the pros should be playing to HiHo to 9. Junior matches, high school and college matches—most of the time, the matches run too short. I’ve seen bronze tournament matches start and finish in a dozen minutes, including warm-ups and breaks in between games. Playing to 9 would suitably lengthen matches and, of course, reintroduce all the rich strategy inherent in HiHo squash.

I can hear tournament directors saying, “Nooooooooo” as longer matches might mean longer days and court juggling, but for almost all events it would only mean a bit more court time for each player, which is the point, especially for youngsters. Professional squash is for entertainment—hence Ramy Ashour’s idea about a clock. That is great. But amateur play should make sense for amateurs.

One thought on “HiHo”

  1. thanks james, i am in total agreement with you regarding preservation of hi-ho scoring for all amateur play. the length of matches is not a major factor for me, it’s the strategic element of play where the server can take more risks and the receiver has to be more risk-averse, which is an important component to the experience of squash, in my humble opinion. the trend among professional tournaments to change the match format to best-of-3 games, which is entirely driven by issues that do not exist for amateur and recreational play, is similarly troubling to me, and i hope that the wsf does not begin to advocate adoption of that format for its rules. note that the current rules provide for players to choose to play using hi-ho scoring if they want to, which is always my preference. although you’re the historian, my recollection of the impetus behind the change in the scoring system was the notion that aligning the amateur scoring system with the psa scoring system would help the wsf in its efforts to gain olympic status, despite the lack of evidence to support that argument.

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