The 7 deadly sins of squash

Words: Alan Stapleton

Greed, wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony: the seven deadly sins that have made many its victim. These sins are not just applicable to life in general but to sport as well.

Being able to recognise the seven deadly sins within yourself when playing squash, or any sport for that matter, means they can be avoided, thus ensuring that your opponent and you enjoy your session to the maximum. So how do you spot them and what do you do if you are a victim? Read on.


We live in times of instant gratification and when we start winning, we want more and we want it now. We start looking towards the end goal and forget about our game plan. Once this happens, we go for the points, with whizzing nicks, revolting reverse angles and chaotic cross-courts from dismal defensive situations.

Solution: Rather play point-for-point and stick to the game plan. Be patient and work hard for every point, rather than throwing the game down the drain by being cocky and greedy. Don't force your opponent into making mistakes; more matches are lost than won this way. Concentrate on squeezing and strangling, rather than grabbing and gobbling.


This is a very debilitating emotion, with no positive side effects. From 'idiot' to 'slap chip' and other unmentionables, it's not uncommon to hear players curse themselves when they lose a point. Motivational speakers claim that, "What you say is what you become!" If this is true, then there's no hope for those who constantly put themselves down during matches. Often it does not end there because as more and more mistakes are made, disagreements with the referee occur, frustration sets in and imperfect shots proliferate. This then leads to more anger, the concentration defuses and implosion awaits. What can make this situation worse is when the opponent joins in on the remarks, as this can set off more unnecessary anger during the matches.

Solution: Instead of constantly calling yourself negative names, rather praise yourself with positive thoughts. It'll not just make you smile on the squash court but also make it a fun, competitive match rather than an aggressive one. Although disagreements occur with the referee, treat them with respect and friendliness, and even if they do call against you smile and move on.


It's easy to take a break from sport, but getting back into it is way more difficult. From late morning lie ins to going out with friends, there are always a number of reasons why you can't start again. All I can say here is bite the bullet. Waiting for fitness to 'arrive' is postponing life. Use squash to retrieve your fitness. Although the first step is always the hardest, you'll be thanking yourself once you've gotten back into this game. Book a court, wake up those dormant muscles and get back into the swing. That stiff after-match bum is something to look forward to because you know you are back. Start slowly and be regular.

One of our biggest sins is lazy recovery to the tee. This has a horrible snowballing effect, resulting in all sorts of other sins, which lead to rushing to the ball, over running, bad balance, no space to swing and enforced cross-courts.

Solution: Book a court and organise a match this week. Focus on recovering those lost muscles by playing regularly. Although you'll be stiff in the beginning, persevere through it as this game is definitely worth it.


It's extremely easy to become a victim of pride; we win a few games and think we're invincible. You rush into a seemingly impossible lead and then relax, thinking it's all too easy. Never underestimate an opponent if you don't want to find yourself on the back foot, scrambling just to survive the match.

Solution: Treat all opponents with respect and equality in skill, as this will lead to appreciating all your wins, quietly and with humility. Rather than let pride get in the way, respect the age-old mantra of 'the best man won', and learn from your losses.


Lust is an intense desire for money, fame or power. There is little money in the game and fame is for the very few. But power, in squash context, can be dangerous. One of the joys of the game is to klap that ball at a million kilometres an hour and hear that 'thwack, smack' as the racquet meets the ball and the ball meets the wall. But power corrupts, in that the harder we hit the ball the less we control it, leaving openings for skilled opponents to use your power to control you and dominate the tee.

Solution: Hit the ball at 75% power so you have better control over your shot and the ball. Use tightness and control to move your opponent out of position to take control of the game.


We often watch others and wish we could be like them. While imitation is a great way of learning, the answer to this envy lies within you. Squash is not a difficult game and you are unique. If you are prepared to work at your game, you can improve very quickly.

Solution: Analyse your game, identify your strengths and weaknesses and spend time on the court practising with targets, working on weaknesses and making your strengths stronger.


Too much of anything in life is bad for you. Too much squash can result in burning out and boredom. Therefore, seek other pleasures to balance your life. A break every now and then is good, and often you come back playing better than before.

As disciplined as we squash players are, there are times of over indulgence when the released happy endorphins overflow into frothy beers and post-league festivities. This normally happens when the host side has taken the time to offer catering at their club - and this is good. This is where friends are made, losses become lessons and the real goodness of squash evolves.
Solution: Use other activities to help train your squash brain and encourage your team to cater for opposition teams. Find five new players who will add to your experience and network of friends.

Although it's easy to be affected by the seven deadly sins in sport, don't let them affect you as it will not only ruin the fun of squash but also create a negative impression on others around you on the court. Take note of the solutions for each sin and use them to your advantage because this will guarantee a fun experience on the court, where you'll be playing your best. •

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