July 4, 2021
A Brief History
“Racketball first began to be played in the UK in 1976 and is a modification of the US version of racketball. Played on a squash court rather than a hardball court, the ceiling is now out of bounds and the rules closely follow that of squash. The sport in the UK has grown rapidly with England Squash incorporating racketball in 1984, this version of racketball is now being played in many countries where squash is popular such as Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa, France The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, North America and many others.”
Meanwhile in Australia…
“In 1977, through the efforts of a small number of Victorian squash venue operators the sport of Australian Racquetball was conceived… Interestingly, around the same time but without our knowledge, a game spelt Racketball, also played on a squash court, was introduced into the UK at the height of their squash boom.”
Meanwhile in North America…
“[Racquetball] was created early in the 1900s by combining several popular sports like handball, tennis, squash, and jai alai. The game first appeared in the United States in the 1920s. A professional handball, tennis, and squash player from Greenwich, Connecticut named Joseph G. Sobek has been credited with the invention of modern-day racquetball. He was working at a rubber factory in the 1940s when he designed the first rubber ball used in the sport today.”
In 2016, Racketball in the UK was officially renamed to Squash57.
I don’t mind admitting that I was one of the sceptics when I first read about this.
But over time, and as the reasons why sunk in, and I was won over. That said, it’s true that many players in the UK and the world have still never heard of Squash57. This is due both to insufficient ongoing marketing, and the reality that many just don’t like the new name. (But of course part of the purpose of good marketing is to win over hearts and minds).
But you don’t have to like the name Squash57 to understand why the rebranding had to occur, and why it couldn’t be either Racketball or Racquetball..
The Major Commonalities between Australian Racquetball and Squash57
- Both are played on a regulation (‘international’) squash court. Same size, same markings.
- Both use an oversized squash ball, 57mm in diameter (hence Squash57)
- Both use exactly the same rackets
- Both use a similar scoring system, including PAR (point-a-rally)
- Both require the server to bounce the ball before hitting it.
The Tiny Differences between Australian Racquetball and Squash57
Squash57: the server must have at least one foot in contact with the floor, and in the service box, when they serve. This is identical to squash.
Australian Racquetball: the server serves in the front half of the court, i.e. in front of the service box (or “short line”)
Australian Racquetball: 43.3-45.7gms (fractionally heavier)
Squash57: There are two types of squash 57 balls – blue and black. Blue balls are slightly bouncier.
Australian Racquetball: just one ball, blue.
POINTS IN A GAME
Squash57: the first to 11 points (or 2 clear points if the score is level at 10-10)
Australian Racquetball: the first to 21 points (or to 22 if the score is level at 20-20)
We can whinge all we like about whether or not we like the 2016 rebranding/renaming of UK Racketball to Squash57.
But the name Australian Racquetball is a perpetual reminder of one of the many reasons why the renaming was necessary. Australian Racquetball is virtually identical to UK Racketball (now Squash57), and yet it retains the same spelling as the North American Racquetball, with which it has far less in common.
With a couple of tiny tweaks – really just the position of the server and the number of points in a game – Australian Racquetball IS Squash57. They are one and the same.
Australian Racquetball needs to be renamed to Squash57, and the tiny tweaks need to be made.
Let’s stop burying our heads in the sand on the international stage.
Other countries are also and increasingly embracing Squash & Squash57 as “better together’:
Squash & Squash57 combined tournament in Portugal, July 2021.
Squash Canada Hosts First Squash 57 Webinar, April 2021.
US Squash on Squash57.
Lucky Mlilo, President of the Squash Federation of Africa, is a fan of Squash 57.
How much are Australian Rules Football, and American Football, played outside of their namesake countries?
Sure, it’s not just about the name, but the name surely doesn’t help.