Racquetball was ‘invented’ by Joe Sobek, an American tennis professional, who was frustrated when he was unable to find an indoor racket sport that appealed to him. He designed a new racket and adapted the rubber core of a tennis ball on a handball court & initially called it paddle racquets. It was subsequently re-named racquetball.
A racquetball court is larger than a squash court, has no tin and the ceiling is used, but it provided the genesis for Squash57 which started on the British side of the Atlantic Ocean, with a ‘k’ rather than ‘qu’.
(Note: for the purposes of these notes, Squash57 is used. In 2016 the WSF changed the name of the game’s initial name of racketball to Squash57, to reinforce that it is a type of squash played on a squash court, and to remove the confusion of the two almost identical names for the two different games).
The beginnings in Great Britain
In 1976, Ian Wright, an English referee, was officiating and lecturing in Canada and tried racquetball. He brought back a couple of rackets and balls, pierced the balls with a pin to slow them down to reduce their speed, and secured the support of Dunlop to manufacture them.
Wright felt that racketball, as he called it, could encourage more people into using British squash courts, and discourage interest in turning them over to studio, gym or other use.
At the first meeting of the British Racketball Association (BRA) formed in 1984, the Rules of the game were approved. The rules were essentially the same as squash but featuring bouncing the ball to serve, ignoring the service line and PAR to 15 while squash was still hand in/hand out.
Wright himself managed BRA, produced handbooks, coaching guides and generally promoted Squash57 all the way from the start and even after BRA became part of the English Squash Rackets Association (SRA).
In England national Championships were first held in December 1984, followed by Doubles in 1986. Open events began to be held soon afterwards.
Larger headed rackets were produced, the blue balls were slowed down a little because the rackets had become more powerful, with an even slower black ball evolved for better player / competition use.
In the years that followed some pockets of play were established internationally and recently more countries have begun to embrace Squash57.
Nationally, BRA became part of the English SRA in 1998.
Standard rules were first published by WSF in 2012 and, as mentioned above, racketball became Squash57 in 2016. Current Squash57 Rules are at http://www.worldsquash.org
Meanwhile, only in Australia
Separately, in 1977, through the efforts of a small number of Victorian squash venue operators the sport of Australian Racquetball (AR) was conceived to encourage people who found squash challenging.
It was without their knowledge that Squash57 was simultaneously being introduced into Great Britain.
In Australia the game was officially launched in 1978 at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Melbourne.
Similarly to GB, in Australia, balls were evolved for AR.
Because AR was almost exclusively played in the State of Victoria, in 1982 the Victorian Racquetball Association (VRA), later to become known as the Victorian Racquetball Federation, was formed and became the governing body for the sport.
In 2014, a national AR organisation was formed, named Australian Racquetball. It remains a localised variation of Squash57 with the same name as the different North American game.
The Rules of AR were finalised in 1987 by Gary Westbrook, one of the game’s top players at that time.
The key difference between the Squash57 and AR Rules is that in AR players must serve underarm, the server must stand in front rather than in the service box and a fault cannot be taken by the receiver. Also, in doubles play in Squash57 each member of the pair must take alternate shots, while that is not required in AR.