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Although the question applies to many sports, I'm seeking an answer in the particular context of the rules and culture of squash. Is the answer formally specified in the competition rules of squash? Is the (worldwide) culture established firmly enough for the question to have a universal answer? In case it matters, I'm talking here about international, not US, squash.

I occasionally play against a opponent who likes to comment. This happens in many variations, but the main one is that if I make a difficult shot, they'll comment "nice shot", perhaps after they themselves have missed the return.

If this pat-on-the-back is made two or three times in a game, and after particularly strong play, I find that it's a nice compliment. But if the comments are made incessantly, for just about every rather-ordinary successful shot, the comments rattle me. I'm not sure if other players are capable of putting up with an ongoing evaluation. I'm not sure if a player ought to be able to handle some evaluation without being rattled. This is, after all, not chess. In chess, at least when I played semi-seriously a long time ago, a player would automatically lose a formal game if they spoke and told their opponents "nice move". It's understood that this will destroy the focus of one's opponent.

In squash I can never tell whether the comments are (intentionally or unintentionally) malicious. But I do know that they affect the ongoing game.

I have two questions:

  1. Is there a formal rule in squash that prevents an opponent from making a comment at all, at least until the game is over.

More importantly:

  1. Even though I'm particularly bothered by comments in the middle of the game, and even if I get a gut-feeling that some comments are intended to change the course of a game, I do not wish to be rude and say "no comments until the game is over, please". What is a civil way of telling one's opponent "kindly keep your trap shut until we finish. You're my opponent, not my critic nor an audience member"?
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    This happens in golf. If my playing partner says, "nice shot" after a decent shot, then I take it at face value. We're not competing, but I take it as nothing other than good sportsmanship. – user527 Apr 18 '17 at 15:10
  • @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ You're right. It depends on the context, and it depends on the frequency. If someone says it for a truly outstanding shot, once or twice during 40-60 minutes of play, it's all right. If someone says it routinely, almost every time they lose a shot, it's grating. If after the evaluation the play resumes with the same intensity and friendliness as before, it's all right. If after the evaluation I sense more aggressive play, sometimes bordering on hostile playing, I start to wonder if the comment was not said amicably, but with some sinister (psychological) objective. – Calaf Apr 18 '17 at 16:36
  • Interesting question, also interesting anecdote about the court sizes.. Thanks for that. Not really an answer but more of a comment, psychology is part of most sports if not all. There is trash talking in most team sports, and yes even in chess you can psyche your opponent out by for example taking excessively long time for your initial moves (one of my mates won a game by practically boring his opponent like that). That being said, I really dont think giving credit to your opponent for a point isn't bad manners just keeping it casual and friendly. – posdef May 21 '17 at 10:17
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Rules 15.5 and 15.6 could apply, theoretically. Among dangerous play and direct abuse these rules also bar unfair behaviour and deliberately distracting the opponent.

With a favourable referee you might have luck with complaining about your opponent, but I think it's unlikely. I doubt any referee is likely to award conduct warnings for mere casual chatter under these provisions; not only do we see far worse conduct on professional tournaments every day with no referee action, even in everyday life you would have a hard time convincing anyone that casual compliments are "unfair" or "deliberately distracting".

Squash is no chess, and psychology is just part of the game. You are not entitled to have your focus protected from casual chatter, and indeed, you are responsible for maintaining your focus regardless of court action all by yourself.


In a casual game I would just politely ask my opponent, along the lines of "Hey, thanks for these compliments. I'm sorry to say though that they really affect my focus; would you mind if we played silently for the rest of the match?"

If you ask politely, and as a question, I think a decent person would do as you ask; if they don't they are perhaps not the person you should play against if their behaviour stresses you. And that's totally fine, not everyone is fun to play, and you wouldn't go to a pub for a beer with some folks either, would you?

After all, in a casual game you are playing for fun, so you should not force yourself to do so much emotional labour.


In a tournament however you should rather not ask; it would just reveal your weak spot to the opponent and show them that they hit a sore point.

I would not blame your opponent for making even more compliments afterwards; it's part of the game and a legitimate strategy to win—we see weaker players beat better ones just because of stronger focus and better mental protection every day, even in professional tournaments.

Instead, take it as a training exercise to improve your focus and your psychological stability. Casual chatter and compliments should not put you off balance in a tournament match; if they do that is something that you can work on with exercises and mental training.

I used to play against "talkers" a lot, even against people who would make entire games by fishing for cheap points and lets (which is hard to prevent without a referee). It's not fun per se, but it's a great exercise to learn to shut all else out and focus on your game not your opponents behaviour.

And in the end, a confident victory against a "talking point fisher" feels all the better 8)

  • I don't think it's the opponent the OP is talking about, but his/her partner. – user527 Apr 19 '17 at 12:24
  • You mean, like in a double, or perhaps even in a relationship? I'm not sure; I understood "partner" as a synonym for "opponent", in the sense that's the person they are on court with (perhaps also because "international" suggests that the OP is not a native speaker). – lunaryorn Apr 19 '17 at 12:35
  • Good point as it could be interpreted either way. – user527 Apr 19 '17 at 12:41
  • @lunaryorn Nice answer! I see that 15.6.9 (deliberate distraction) is just about the only rule I could invoke formally. But then I don't recall ever having watched either the shark players in my clubs or championship-level play where the players spoke during the game. If psychology is part of the game, I'm surprised the game doesn't move in that (awful IMHO) direction. Good players are usually quite stoic, and that's the example that vibes with me. – Calaf Apr 19 '17 at 19:46
  • @lunaryorn As to contrasting "international squash" against "US squash", I'm lost there. Throughout the US and Canada both types of courts are (unfortunately) seen. It's perfectly understood everywhere that the game ought to be played on an "English" court to facilitate interacting/competing with the rest of the world, but wherever conversion has taken place, two US courts were turned into one, since the width is usually constrained by concrete walls, and often they were left alone. In Germany of course US courts are unknown. What term would you use to distinguish the two courts/games? – Calaf Apr 21 '17 at 15:54
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There are all kinds of players out there. Some are completely quiet, not even calling out scores once in a while, and on the other end of the spectrum some comment and joke around without pause.

There is one kind that annoys me very much - the swearing ones who seem to have no fun at all. What you are describing is very common, in my experience, and you really should not take it as malice.

Frankly, my advice would be to ignore it, or to endure it for one match and then avoid further matches with them if you can. Trying to talk them out of it will likely be very awkward and futile.

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    Your suggestion to just avoid the unpleasant players is right on. Unfortunately, when playing in a league, there is no avoiding some players. Here I'm seeking a way to make the best of the one hour I have to spend with them on the court. – Calaf Apr 19 '17 at 2:37
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    Then try to live with it, by assuming that it is not meant in an offensive way. ... – AnoE Apr 19 '17 at 6:06
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Without wanting to seem too harsh: you don't sound like someone who I'd want as a playing partner. When I'm playing sport, I'm there primarily because I enjoy it - and I don't enjoy doing things in complete silence, never saying a word. I simply wouldn't play with someone who insisted on no comments while playing. Equally, my experience is that this applies to the vast majority of people I've played sport with. Therefore I suggest that if you want to play in silence, then you need to find like-minded people, not try and change your current partners to fit your ideal of how a sport should be played.

  • Please either suggest some answer to the question(s) or move your answer to be a comment. – Calaf Apr 19 '17 at 2:36
  • By all means. I'm also there to enjoy it. I love to chat between games. I'm glad if my partner is up for a beer after the game. With a good partner I am so soaked that I always feel I deserve it. But I also dislike the continuous commentary, as if I'm watching a game played by myself on TV, with my partner volunteering his opinion, nearly every-single-shot. – Calaf Apr 19 '17 at 2:40
  • I suggested a solution: find different people to play with. – Philip Kendall Apr 19 '17 at 7:17

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