When my friend Katie first asked me to play squash, I was thrilled. Katie is the captain of our club tennis team, I’m a member of the club tennis team– tennis and squash had to be similar, right? I had transferrable athletic skills for days. Squash would be a perfect addition to the list of Sports I Rock At. (The list of Sports I Rock At would be more accurately titled Sports I’m Least Likely to Embarrass Myself Playing, and it goes like this: tennis, skiing. I scored 18 points in a rec league basketball game when I was twelve, but it’s all kind of been downhill from there.)
We met at our campus gym at 4:30 PM. Rush Hour. I had to claw my way through crowds of shirtless sweaty dudes playing basketball and Hot Girls executing flawless crunches just to find the squash court. Katie, being both one of the kindest and most athletic people I’ve ever met, showed me how to hold the racket and swing properly. We warmed up the squash balls by hitting them against the wall as hard as we could, over and over again. Fun fact: if you don’t warm up your squash balls, they don’t bounce.
(Pause for giggles.)
We continued warming up and hitting practice shots. The proper squash swing was close enough to the proper tennis swing to make me feel overly confident in my abilities, and different enough to ensure that I swung-and-missed at least 15 times in the first 20 minutes. Before we started to rally, Katie gave me an important piece of advice.
“You’re gonna want to run to the ball to stop and swing, like in tennis. But if you do that, you’re going to hit the wall. Believe me, I did my first time. So you want to make sure you just lunge for it.”
“Okay, sounds good,” I answered, half-listening as I whiffed another backhand.
I thwacked the ball at the front wall, and Katie thwacked it back. The entire court is fair game to both players the whole time, so the game itself is kind of nuts– you have to concentrate on where the ball is going, how you’re going to get there, and which route to take so you don’t bowl over your opponent in the process. Hand-eye coordination is key. I was attempting to take all of these things into consideration, and I’d noticed some well-sculpted dudes jumping rope on the other side of the plexiglass wall just before the start of the point. So I may have momentarily forgotten Katie’s advice.
She hit a strong shot– it thwacked the front wall, ricocheted off the side wall and moved towards the floor. That ball was mine. I sprinted, sweat flying, hair frizzing, desperately reaching my racket towards the tiny black ball that refused to bounce…
BAM. I hit the wall.
There were two main points of contact:
in that order.
My kneecaps throbbed. My cheekbone stung. My ego was probably going to bruise.
For a second I thought Katie hadn’t seen and I tried to play it off like nothing happened, but squash court acoustics dictate that every player-wall collision shall be accompanied by a sonic boom. So that would’ve been hard to ignore.
“Are you okay?” Katie didn’t even laugh until after I’d started to. I swear she’s the most kind-hearted being on the face of the Earth.
“Yup. Yup, yup.” I nodded and shook out my knees. “Lunging. Not running. Got it.”
She completely kicked my ass in the rest of the game, of course, but the sport is just so fun. (I do think I’ll have to take it off the Sports I’m Least Likely to Embarrass Myself Playing list though. I ran into a wall, for Christ’s sake.) We made plans to play again next week, hopefully with a few other people from the tennis team. And who knows, maybe I’ll even invest in one of those wrap-around eye goggle things. They could probably score me some serious street cred.
I can’t wait to play again. I think it’s official.
I’ve been squashed.