'I love the buzz, excitement and camaraderie of squash refereeing'
Peter Hindmarsh speaks to europeansquash.com about the thrill of being a referee on the ESF circuit and enjoying "the best seat in the house" for the continent's biggest finals.
Hindmarsh, from Lincolnshire, England, is one of Europe's most experienced match officials, having been a referee and mentor at ESF junior and Masters events, all major European Championships and on the PSA World Tour. He will be part of the refereeing team at the upcoming ESF U19 Individual and Mixed Team tournaments in Bucharest (23-31 March)
Peter, how did you first get into squash refereeing?
My first experience in refereeing was participating in local league team squash. I didn’t mind taking the odd extra turn and it wasn’t long before my team-mates left me to it. I was encouraged to attend an England Squash referee workshop, then invited for a day at the British Junior Open in Sheffield. I was hooked, loved the buzz, the excitement, and the camaraderie. I stayed for two days. The BJO remains my favourite tournament. My refereeing journey had started and my enthusiasm for it has never waned.
What are your favourite parts of the job?
I get the best seat in the house! It’s great for meeting people, developing new relationships, sharing experiences, visiting new places and sharing our all-round love for squash. To me it’s the opportunity to give back to the sport.
On a personal level I really enjoy helping and developing referees and giving them a great experience at events. That’s why I enjoy the role of Tournament Referee at the BJO – it’s hard work, long days, involves great teamwork, people management, can be stressful but, oh, so rewarding.
Peter with fellow English referee Andrea Santamaria
What are the challenges of the role?
Recruiting and retaining referees is a huge challenge. It’s still perceived as a difficult role, mainly due to the level of player understanding at a local level where most people first become involved. It often involves weekends, and requires commitment if the individual wishes to develop their skills and progress through the levels. We need to find a way of engaging potential and keen referees whilst balancing their work/family/life balance.
We also need to encourage, nurture and develop more diversity. Each National Governing Body needs to take positive steps to address this issue with WSO, WSF and ESF giving guidance and investing in education.
Unfortunately there’s no magic wand. When I speak to players, particularly women about becoming involved in refereeing the one consistent barrier is a confidence in dealing with on court discipline and not being respected. My response is that they have all the tools in the rules (Code Of Conduct) to deal with these issues and that their confidence will increase with match experience and having good role models or mentors to talk to.
What role does ESF play in referee education?
WSO has the responsibility, on behalf of the sport, to encourage engagement of the individual through its website, to educate using the levels and to ensure that the National Governing Bodies can further nurture potential referees. The NGB should then appoint a mentor, arrange an initial appraisal and then look to invite the individual to an appropriate tournament.
I see ESF as a key part of the referee’s development by seeking nominations from the NGBs and making appropriate appointments. At events, there’s the opportunity to appraise and mentor individuals whilst building their teamwork, communication and refereeing skills. ESF events offer developing referees an incredible range of experiences through high level Team, Individual and Masters Tournaments.
Peter (fourth from left) with fellow referees at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingha,
What has been your career highlight so far?
Without doubt the highlight of my refereeing, to date, was having the honour of being selected for the Commonwealth Games in 2022. It was an incredible experience refereeing the singles and doubles tournaments alongside some extremely talented colleagues. The atmosphere was electric. I immediately followed that with the World Juniors in France and just marvelled at the quality of talent on display.
I just love being involved in squash, whether it’s the Masters, Juniors, PSA or even occasionally, the World Tour. I’ve been fortunate in being selected for a number of ESF tournaments in recent years where I’ve made new friends – referees belong to a great community and we generally manage to have some fun too.
I’ve also had my share of difficult times and matches. That’s when your colleagues, mentors and the more experienced referees within the 'community' extend their hand of support, advice and encouragement. Sometimes though, you need to reflect on your performances and 're-set' before moving forward.
How much progress has been made in the player/referee relationship?
I think players have developed a much better appreciation of the rules and their interpretation and generally realise that we all have the same objective – to have a fair outcome of the match. There will always be differing points of view and hopefully, if an explanation is required from the referee, it’s accepted and play moves on.
Player discipline is so much better in today’s sport. World Squash Officiating (WSO) has played a big part in this with its Referee and Player platforms. The introduction of junior players being required to participate in the “WSO Player Levels” for some events has to be a positive move for the sport long term.
What is the secret to keeping control of a match?
When somebody becomes an experienced referee, the thing that sets them apart is the terminology. Using the correct terminology may seem a little thing but it's actually really important. If a players asks a referee why they made a decision and they answer it confidently, they are more likely to accept it. In most cases, you can probably give the explanation in three words: e.g. 'room to play', 'insufficient effort' or 'line to the right'.
I’ve been grateful for the support, encouragement, help and advice I’ve received over the years from John Massarella, Roy Gingell, Wendy Danzey, Tomas Forter and many others and thankful for all the opportunities the sport has given me.
This is the first in a new ESF series focusing on referees. We look forward to bringing you more insights from officials across Europe soon!