Is Squash Or Racquetball More Popular?

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Squash and racquetball have both been popular in the United States. However, as with other sports, their popularity has varied over time. Both games have their supporters and have been played in international competitions. It is important to consider the evidence when looking at, which is more popular.

Is squash or racquetball more popular? Squash is currently more popular than racquetball. Squash is played by an estimated 20 million people worldwide, while racquetball is played by only 5.6 million worldwide.

Squash has been around for a longer period of time, 190 years versus 60 years. Squash is also played in more countries, 188 versus 95 for Racquetball. Another possible question is could racquetball become as popular as squash given time enough time and with an increase in the number of countries. Let’s look at both, starting with the more popular sport first.

Read Also: What Is The Difference Between Squash And Racquetball?

What Is Squash?

Squash was invented by some London schoolboys in 1830 when they discovered a punctured ball “squashed” against the wall. The game was loosely based on older game of rackets. The game quickly was passed on to other schools, and the popularity of the sport grew. Court began to built-in schools, universities, and even private homes all across England.

The Objective of the Game

Each player takes turns hitting the ball with a racket off the back wall of the court. The goal is to hit the ball so that on the return, the other player is not able to hit the ball. A player scores a point when

  • The ball bounces twice before the other player hits the ball
  • The ball hits the backboard
  • The ball goes out of bounds
  • A player interferes with the other player's ability to hit the ball

Games are played to either 11 points or 9 points. The 11-point PAR system is the official scoring system for professional players and used in most amateur games. In this point system, a player can score regardless of who served. In the 9-point system, on the serving player can win a point.

History

Squash grew rapidly in its early days. This was mostly fueled by British military taking the game with them wherever they were stationed. With time, squash permeated the British empire and was soon played anywhere Great Britain claimed sovereignty. The most successful squash nation, Australia, had the game brought there in this way.

By 1907, squash was introduced in the United States and the first national association, United States Squash Rackets Association, was formed. Other countries developed their own associations. 

Over time, the court dimensions, rules, and equipment were standardized, making international play easier to facilitate. This resulted in international competitions. However, squash is still not part of the Olympics.

Squash is still growing in popularity to this day. In the United States, it is one of the fastest-growing sports. This means that it is likely to continue to expand in the number of players participating in the coming years.

What Is Racquetball?

Racquetball was invented by Joseph Sobek in 1950. He switched out a stringed racquet in place of a paddle in paddleball, hoping to get more velocity and control. All of the court’s walls, floor, and ceiling are consider playing surfaces. There is no out of bounds as in squash. Some courts do have court specific designated out of bound areas. It is played very similar to the US version of handball.

The Objective of the Game

Players alternate hitting the ball so that it bounces off the front wall. Matches are played as the best of two games, with a third shorter game to break the tie if the two games are split. Points are scored when

  • The ball bounces more than once after hitting the wall and before the next player hits it
  • The ball bounces before hitting the front wall
  • The ball goes into the viewing area
  • The ball hits the either player
  • A player touches the ball with their body or clothes
  • A player carries or throws the ball the racquet (considered hitting the ball twice)
  • The player serving makes one or two (depends on the serving rule being used) illegal serves.

Players can only score on their serve. Games are won by reaching 15 points. If the players are tied after two games, the last game is played to 11 points.

Read Also: Is Squash The Same As Racquetball?

History

Joe Sobek wanted a fast-paced sport that was easy to learn and play. He created the strung paddle, developed a set of rules, and called the sport Paddle Rackets. The rules were a combination of squash, handball, and paddleball. The game could be played on the 40,000 handball courts already in existence. This and Sobek’s promotion aided in its popularity. Bob McInerny coined the name racquetball.

In 1952, the National Paddle Rackets Association was founded by Sobek. A single set of rules was created and printed. 

Robert Kendler founded the International Racquetball Association (IRA). 

That name was further changed over the coming years until it has become the USA Racquetball (USAR) to mirror other Olympic sports names, although racquetball is not an Olympic sport.

During the ’70s the popularity of racquetball grew, aided by the fitness boom of that time period and the promotion of Kendler. The number of players grew to approximately 3.1 million. The early ’80s saw a decline in players and facilities. Over time, the number has increased and held steady around an estimated 5.6 million players in 95 countries, although the rules are not the same everywhere.

The Olympics

Both squash and racquetball have their supporters that rallied to get them registered as an Olympic sport. Racquetball a governing body that is styled after other Olympic governing bodies, but it has had no luck in being included in the Olympics. It is less likely to win approval as it has never been seriously considered.

The International Olympic Committee has recognized the World Squash Federation the governing body of squash. However, the sport is not part of the games. Currently, it is not being considered for the 2024 games. Its supporters continue to lobby for squash to be added to the Olympics.

The popularity of both racquetball and squash would potentially be greatly increased if either one was ever recognized as an Olympic sport. The media attention and promotion would help attract more players worldwide.

Which Will be Most Popular in the Future?

Racquetball grew in popularity fast by jumping on the fitness craze bandwagon. It is a fast, quick-moving game, that can provide a good workout. However, its popularity has remained steady at approximately 5.6 million players. 

Racquetball is only played in 95 countries with the rules varying from country to country. It is similar enough to squash. It often does not tempt those that play squash to change games.

Squash has been around for a longer period of time. It has spread throughout almost every single country in the world. 

The quick rise through stationed military and standardized rules from nation to nation helped make squash one of the more popular racket sports. It is unlikely that racquetball will have the ability to match it any time soon.

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