One-time couch potato Jen Offord is now a fully-fledged sportsaholic. In the spirit of #thisgirlcan, she’s trying out different activities for Standard Issue. This week, she’s very angry about balls.
As a recent-ish convert to the world of physical recreation, I like to be sporty on regular occasions, even when I’m on holiday. So if I happen to be holidaying at a location with badminton courts and a faux tropical lagoon, so much the better because there’ll probably be something new for me to try – even if there is also no rational explanation as to why you can only fit two babies in a chalet, regardless of its size, and those babies are the reason we’ve chosen this destination in the first place. Them and the rapids, obvs.
In fairness, I can’t really claim squash is new to me; I might have tried it before. I’ve definitely had a fumble with its less-choosy cousin, racquetball. Back in my days at the Harwich School, there were some squash courts attached to the sports centre but not quite visible from its eerily orange-lit main hall. If you were lucky enough to find yourself on the squash court, entrusted only with racquetball paraphernalia, you escaped judgement of a terrifying woman with far too many keys. Great news for me, as avoiding sport was very much my modus operandi back then.
So with some time in the vicinity of a sports hall booked in and a break from other people’s children required, I relieved my pal Adam from the burden of parenthood for an hour to teach me how to play squash – despite the fact that someone told me a squash ball can have your eye out for a specific, physics-related reason. The reason, apparently, is because a squash ball is designed to flatten on impact, then sort of suck itself back together afterwards, so if it hits you on the eye socket *puts fingers in ears* la la la la la.
I don’t know if the last bit is true; I’ve honestly been too scared to Google it (I’m terribly squeamish) but it is true that a squash ball isn’t designed to bounce. This makes it, in my opinion, like Dr Oetker, ie misunderstanding of its niche in the market: are you a yoghurt maker or are you a pizza maker, Dr Oetker?/Are you designed to have someone’s eye out, or are you designed to not bounce, squash ball? At any rate, it makes squash a bit stupid. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM SQUASH BALL?
Aside from this massive design flaw, I know very little of the sport other than that some people would like it to be in the Olympics, and it is associated with the 1980s, and aggressive men with massive mobile phones. It’s where bidnis men go to take out the stresses of bidnis or, if you prefer, the acceptable face of beating up your colleagues. But my mate Adam couldn’t be much less aggressive: he has curly hair and he works for the BBC for god’s sake. So I’m confused that I find Adam is something of a squash aficionado. He even concedes fairly early on that there won’t be much point in keeping score and he’ll just go through the basics with me.
Yet squash seems to make me MORE aggressive, because it doesn’t understand that the ball ought to bounce, which is stupid. So you have to time hitting the ball immediately after its first impact on a surface. That way, hopefully you’ll keep your eyes because you’ll have let it hit something else other than YOUR FACE but also it won’t have immediately stopped being bouncy like the idiot it is, straight after impact. Squash makes me grunt with anger and shout, “I HATE SQUASH, ADAM; IT’S STUPID!”
I have a problem with all racquet sports, because I’m often working on the assumption that the ball will come to me, right? I don’t actually need to move, do I? It’s a mental block that takes me 30 minutes to overcome. Once I realise there’s a pattern here, movement wise, some rallies are achieved. Except I can’t remember what a rally is called (do I mean a rally? Or do I mean a volley, Adam, which is it? I mean a rally; a volley is to do with football). Immediately, it’s as if the fun sponge has been wrung out and I am frolicking in its joyous waters: I LOVE squash. I know it’s the taking part that counts, but it’s just better when you’re not shit.
Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen