A great way to build match-playing skills is to enter squash tournaments, and many will be held in our area. We maintain a list of all regional tournaments here.
In order to play in these tournaments, you must join US Squash, the official national governing body for squash. Benefits include an excellent magazine on squash that includes monthly columns on how to improve your play and a national ranking. You can get more information about the benefits of membership and learn how to join here.
The tournaments are divided into boys brackets and girls brackets. Inside each bracket, there are age divisions based on a player’s age during the tournament – U11, U13, U15, U17 and U19. The U stands for “under” the age of the bracket. For example, if a player turns 15 on the last day of the tournament, then he would have to play in the U17 bracket.
Here is an edited version of tournament information from the US Squash website.
US Squash offers a Gold, Silver and Bronze tournament system. This three-tiered approach is being developed to appeal to the most elite player and to also attract a growing novice contingency looking for a competitive match. These tournament levels are intended to promote play, and over time the Bronze or Silver player will likely place out of one level and move on to the next with a feeling of accomplishment.
The US SQUASH junior ranking system that is based your finishes at your four strongest tournament results over an 11 month period. Players earn points for the place they finish in a tournament. Click here for information on how US SQUASH calculates rankings. Click on the “Junior Ranking System” page for more details on how the rankings are done.
While any player can enter any tournament, the elite players will only play in Gold level or Junior Championship tournaments, and these tournaments typically admit the best 32 players who enter each draw.
There is more information on how the junior ranking system works and how to maximize your ranking here.
Starting to Play Tournaments
When starting to play tournaments, you should look to enter Bronze and Silver tournaments, which have the fewest ranking points and therefore will attract players with less experience. If a Bronze tournament is available you should play that first.
When you are competitive with the better players at Bronze tournaments, you should certainly play Silver level tournaments. You may want to keep playing Bronze tournaments until you get the experience of winning a tournament. When you find you can consistently play in the top half of Silver tournaments, then you may want to try a Gold tournament.
Don’t get discouraged if you lose all your matches at your first few tournaments. This is not uncommon and does not mean anything other than you likely need more experience. One NCS junior woman who reached a top 5 national ranking lost her first eight matches over three tournaments. Another NCS junior who wound up representing Team USA in the World Championships lost three of his first four matches at his first two tournaments. His only victory was over a kid three years younger!
Tournament deadlines are usually nine days prior to the tournament, so don’t wait until the last minute to enter. Gold tournament deadlines are 16 days prior to the start of the tournament, at 12 Noon. There is a late entry deadline one week later, but you go to the back of the line if 32 players have already entered if you enter late in a Gold tournament. Bronze and Silver tournaments have a deadline on Wednesdays 10 days prior to the tournament and may allow very late entries even a week or less before the tournament, but it is best to enter on time.
Entry forms for all tournaments in the country are online here. You can search by tournament level (JCT, Gold, Silver, Bronze).
NCS maintains a list of all regional tournaments, with links to entry forms, here.
Typical Tournament Policies and Operation
Start times for your first tournament match are usually available the Wednesday before the tournament. Some tournaments will begin with a match Friday evening while others may have a first match on Saturday. Semifinals and finals matches for the main and consolation groups usually occur on Sunday. Smaller tournaments may be played in one day. Normally you continue to play until you lose your second or third match or win first through fifth or ninth place. All tournaments must guarantee at least 3 matches, and you may play as many as 5 or 6 matches, depending on the number of entries and how you do. A nice trophy or plaque is usually awarded to the top 5 finishers in a draw of 32, but awards are up to each tournament director. All players usually get a tournament T-Shirt or some other player gift.
You should not enter a tournament that conflicts with a school match unless you have cleared it with your coach in advance. When entering a tournament, please plan on being available the whole weekend through early Sunday afternoon.
Once the tournament begins, you will get an idea of the possible times for your subsequent matches. Tournament directors can not schedule the tournament around your schedule. If you are late to withdraw from a tournament or fail to show up for a match, you may get a penalty on your national ranking.
We highly recommend that players who have done well during the first few seasons consider playing in the U.S. Junior Bronze Squash Championships. This is open only to players ranked no higher than 64th in the nation (e.g., 65, 66, 67, etc.) in each age group. Any player who works very hard for at least one season should find many challenging matches at this tournament and may be able to place in the top 16 in the tournament. This tournament is great preparation for moving up to the Silver National Championship and Junior Championship Tournaments. It is usually held the last weekend in April each year.
Please note that in order to get or maintain a U.S. SQUASH Ranking, all junior players must have passed the written exam or the Online Referee Exam. It is an open book test. Click here for info on how to prepare for and take the test.
Parent and Family Guidelines
Like all sports, squash has rules for spectators, so be sure you understand the spectator etiquette. You can review the Code of Conduct here. Here are the key rules and guidelines for spectators and coaches:
- Provide coaching only between games and within the time limitations; keep players near the court during breaks.
- Do not interact with or influence the referee or official in any way during a match, regardless of age or ability.
- Do not intervene with a squash match in progress. Only the referee or Tournament Director and staff may do so.
- Applaud effort and fair play, acknowledge good shots, rallies and points equally and uniformly.
- Avoid cheering for faults, tins, or unforced errors.
- At all times be considerate of the Tournament Director, his or her staff and volunteers and the venue.
- Be responsible for your own tidiness at the venue.
Tournaments—Why and How to Play Them
You can read an excellent article by Richard Millman titled “Tournaments—Why and How to Play Them” for advice on how to get the most out of playing tournaments.
You should ask your coach for advice on good tournaments to play. NCS President David Keating is happy to answer your questions on tournaments and the ranking system. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.