Ethics cannot be legislated. If a coach or player decides to cheat, they cannot be stopped, no matter what rules are in place. Rules can at best limit the damage; they can never cure the problem.
The only truly effective deterrent to poor behavior and cheating is the existence of unilateral ethics (an honor code of squash) accepted by all participants, coaches, and players alike, and a strong commitment by all to honor these ethics and educate anyone who does not understand or abide by them.
Squash is a sport that demands a strong ethical commitment to correct behavior before winning and losing become a consideration. Squash coaches and players belong to a group that is small enough to effectively monitor its own behaviors, but only if each and every individual takes their ethical responsibilities seriously and speaks up about potential deviations from these responsibilities by others.
An ethical squash coach upholds the highest standards of the game of squash in their own play, teaches these standards to their players, holds their players responsible to these standards, and alerts other coaches when any player appears to be falling short of these standards. These playing and coaching standards are as follows:
- The safety of all participants is more important than anything else. Coaches must demand that players wear protective eyewear on the court at all times.
- Adherence to the rules and ethics of squash is essential for fair play. Coaches should teach players the rules of squash.
Coaches should also teach — and players should learn and follow — the ethics of squash:
- Always put opponents’ safety first, above all else, and never swing at a ball if there is any chance of hitting an opponent with either racquet or ball.
- Treat opponents with respect, on and off the court.
- Be courteous to opposing teams and coaches, on and off the court.
- Respect officials, on and off the court, and accept refereeing decisions without undue arguing or distress.
- Call double hits, downs, not ups, faults, out balls and strokes against oneself (whether or not there is a referee).
- Allow opponents full and clear access to every ball.
- Make every effort to play every ball and only call lets when it is absolutely necessary.
- Allow opponents ample room to swing for every shot.
- Make an effort to become a competent referee and marker.
- Do not compromise the ethics of squash, regardless of an opponent’s behavior.
Perhaps the most difficult part of ethical play is #10, as it is where players’ ethics are truly tested.
Most players have little difficulty upholding ethical behavior when they are playing another conscientious player, or when they are winning or losing a match by a wide margin. The true test of ethical play is how an athlete behaves when playing a close match against an opponent who cheats, behaves poorly, or ignores the ethics of squash — or does all three. If a player can remain faithful to ethical principles of play under these conditions, they are truly a good sport. And it is only by remaining faithful to the ethics of squash under fire that a player has a chance to educate their opponent about ethics and influence their behavior in a positive way.
By accepting the ethics of squash and remaining true to them under competitive fire, a player affirms the importance of the integrity of the game and its rules and ethics. If they play fairly and their opponent does not, the opponent may claim to be a winner by virtue of the score, but the player will know they were not playing by the same rules and ethics, and therefore they succeeded where their opponent did not — in playing the game correctly.
If the great majority of players accept the ethics of squash, the few who flout the rules and ethics will stand out that much more obviously, allowing peer pressure and coaches to demand appropriate changes in behavior.
Upon observing any breakdown of squash ethics by an opposing player, a coach should immediately alert the opposing coach to the problem and then both coaches should watch the match until they can come to an agreement on whether or not there is a problem and how to best address that problem. Squash coaches must agree in advance to honor other coaches’ observations and to work together to educate all players in the interest of ethical squash.
To avoid interfering in intercollegiate matches that are in progress, coaches should limit any comments about rules or players’, markers’, or referees’ behavior to the 90-second periods between games or after a match, allowing for a reasonable element of human error in executing the rules of squash. However, exceptions must be made in cases of extreme danger or extremely unethical behavior. In cases involving players’ behavior, coaches should take immediate action to correct serious flaws and to educate their own players on how to play correctly. If a coach’s player insists on repeating a problematic behavior, the coach should remove the player from the court and default the match. In regards to marking and refereeing, coaches should only intervene if both coaches are in agreement (after watching the situation together) that the marker and referee are showing bias or are unable to control the match.
If coaches disagree about the nature of an ethical issue, the coach who feels there is a problem should notify the opposing coach that they will bring the problem to the Executive Committee/Ethics Committee. All coaches should note that every effort must be made at the time to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of both coaches. Taking an ethical issue to the Executive Committee/Ethics Committee is a last resort and signifies a breakdown of the trust that must exist between intercollegiate coaches and players.
In the case of dual match line-ups, opposing coaches should have an opportunity to question a line-up change until a satisfactory explanation is offered. If a coach is not forthcoming or their explanation is not satisfactory, the disputing coach must verbally notify the opposing coach that they are protesting the line-up and the match. This should be done prior to the beginning of the match, and then the protesting coach must email or fax their protest, with all the particulars, to both the opposing coach and the Executive Committee/Ethics Committee (see Executive Committee) within 24 hours of the time of the match. The opposing coach should respond to the coach who has lodged the protest and the Ethics Chair by email. The Ethics Committee will then meet and render a decision within 5 days, and that decision will be communicated to the entire membership.
All coaches and team members should agree that recruiting must be 100% positive. A coach should never say anything negative about another coach or team.
The Executive Committee/Ethics Committee should act with all speed to address any issue brought to it, communicating the issue and the result to the entire membership, if warranted, as soon as possible.
Update September 3, 2012.