My Dad nearly lost his sight in one eye while playing squash because he wasn’t wearing protective squash eyewear. He was playing a friend in a local club match and the ball came at him quickly from an unexpected angle after hitting the crack between the front and sidewall.
The ball hit him directly in one eye and his body dropped. As it was late in the night, his friend had to drive him an hour and a half to the nearest hospital that was open.
Dad said each bump the car went over only magnified the already infinitely intense pain he was feeling…
…like a knife cutting into the back of his eyeball.
He stayed in hospital for two weeks, much of that time the pain persisted. Fortunately, his eye recovered.
A 50/50 Chance
The guy in the bed next to Dad wasn’t so lucky. Exactly the same thing happened to this guy – a squash ball hit him directly in the eye. But the result for him was losing his eyesight completely – forever.
He now only had one eye to use for the rest of his life because of a stupid little black ball and the fact that he wasn’t wearing protective eye-wear.
My Dad took this as a cheap lesson. From that moment he always wore protective eye-wear on court. And in the mid-1980’s, the eye-wear that was available was awkward & uncomfortable to wear, not to mention how much they restricted your view on court.
However, Dad had learned his lesson and he knew the harsh reality that it’s just not worth the risk.
If you were going skydiving and were told that there’s a 50% chance that
the parachute won’t open, you’d be like: “Stuff that, I’m not going.”
How The Eye-Ball Gets Sucked Out
Do you know that when a squash ball hits a wall at high speed it actually flattens out to a very thin sheet of rubber?
From the moment it begins to ‘un-flatten’ it’s actually sucking itself off the wall.
So when a squash ball hits an eyeball at high speed, in the process of ‘un-flattening’ it literally sucks the eyeball out of the socket — with extreme intensity, sometimes to the point of causing irreparable damage; that is, blindness.
It’ll Never Happen To Me!
It might… and you are foolish if you don’t consider the possibility.
Protective eye-wear is mandatory for all junior players who are under 19 years of age. Why – because everyone knows the risk theoretically and for a kid to lose their eyesight at such an early age for such a stupid reason would be tragic.
So why should it be any different for you?
“Well, I’m an adult – I’m free to make decisions concerning my safety… after all, it’s my life.”
Plus, you might say, no professionals ever wear protective eye-wear, which brings me to the crux of my message here…
Professionals should wear protective eyewear
– and it should be mandatory.
If you ask them, 99% will say professionals have such control of the ball (infinitely more than a club player) that the risk is infinitely reduced, almost to zero.
In response, I would say 2 things:
First, accidents do happen – that’s why they’re called accidents.
Second, it sets the right example.
At the moment the only reason kids wear protective eye-wear – unless their parents are smart enough to explain to them the dangers of not wearing them – is because it’s mandatory.
Is this really the optimal message we want to be sending to impressionable little kids?
I admit though, the chance of protective eye-wear becoming mandatory for everyone – that is, professionals too – is close to zero, unfortunately.
So here’s the next best option…
What If Ramy Ashour Wore Protective Eyewear?
One of the kids I coach received a present for Christmas – the same kind of tights that Ramy Ashour uses. Ramy is his favorite player so the idea of a boy wearing tights wasn’t even a little bit of a concern for him (not that there’s anything wrong with boys wearing tights but in some sections of society there’s a stupid stigma associated with this).
Ramy wears tights, so this kid now wears them, proudly.
The effect of just some of the top pros starting to wear protective eye-wear would be instantaneous and powerful. It would all of a sudden be cool to wear eye-wear! Like racquets, there would be signature brands, different colors & designs etc.
More importantly, when kids moved from U19’s to the open division they would keep wearing them because it would be cool and, over time, the idea of not wearing protective eye-wear would become something so obviously ridiculous.
Would You Play Squash Naked?
In the last 5 years, I only remember two times when I wasn’t wearing protective eye-wear – because I forgot to bring them or I left them somewhere the last time I played.
Those two times I felt like I was naked on court, like one of those dreams where you feel exposed. And I regret that I walked on court without my goggles. Stupid.
One other time I forgot my headband, without which sweat instantly started dripping on my goggles. It was in the middle of a league match. I almost took them off and threw them over the back wall mid-game because the sweat on the lenses was seriously restricting my view.
Then I actually said aloud, firmly, “No!” while being keenly aware of the dangerous thought,
“Well just this one time it will be alright…”
Are You A Coach? What The Hell Are You Doing?
If you’re coaching players but not wearing protective eye-wear yourself, you’re a damn fool – for your own safety because you are training people who don’t have control of where they are hitting the ball, and because you are indirectly communicating to your junior players:
“Technically as a junior you do have to wear protective eye-wear
but, actually, it’s a load of bollocks.”
And if a junior comes to practice without their eye-wear but you let them play anyway – just this one time – shame on you.
Please, whether you’re a coach or just a keen player, set the example for your team-mates and competitors, but more importantly:
Save yourself from potentially going blind
– wear protective eye-wear.
How Protective Eye-wear Keeps You Focused
One final thought – I wear goggles every time I step on court, even solo-practice. I’ve actually trained myself to use them as a way to switch my mind on to keep laser focused on what I am doing and how I’m playing.
The only time I don’t wear goggles is when I’m training my squash fitness workout, either on or off-court.
Anyway, I see goggles as an advantage I have over other (stupid) players – like a productive kind of tunnel-vision that maximizes my mental fitness!
Have fun & play your own game!