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On the Job

For squash coach, a ‘physical game of chess’

It helps to move the ball around and tire your opponent out, says Paul Mathieson, the head squash pro at Dover Squash and Fitness in Natick.

Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe

It helps to move the ball around and tire your opponent out, says Paul Mathieson, the head squash pro at Dover Squash and Fitness in Natick.

Squash is considered one of the world’s most aerobic racket sports, said Paul Mathieson, head squash pro at Dover Squash and Fitness in Natick. In a four-walled indoor court, players rally as they try to score with a small, hollow rubber ball. “It’s a very strategic game that also requires mental tactics — like a physical game of chess,” said Mathieson, 28, who has competed in several world championships.

He now coaches up-and-coming players, from 4-year-old beginners to collegiate players.

Why has squash exploded in popularity in the state in ­recent years, particularly among young people?

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There are more facilities being built, including more courts in private middle schools and high schools. This has increased the number of squash courts in ­universities, with more varsity ­programs and club teams. And as more pros like myself come from overseas, the game gets promoted from a local level.

Why is squash such an aerobic racket sport?

The court is quite small and the ball doesn’t bounce much so it requires a lot of energy and ­effort to get to the ball before the second bounce, as dictated by the rules of the game.

You’ve played squash around the globe. Are there any ­differences from country to country?

Because of different coaching styles and weather conditions, the game does change depending on where you are playing. In Egypt, players tend to attack more because it helps to finish off rallies faster — you don’t want to be going on for hours in the heat. In England, it’s colder, so the rally is more prolonged. You try to outlast your ­opponent. And Australians are strong power hitters.

How do you teach players to think strategically?

There’s no secret formula, but one important tactic is to hit the ball in such a way that your opponent is forced to move back and forth on the court, tiring them out. There are also ways to take advantage of an opponent’s mentality; if they lose their temper, for example, then you can manipulate that.

How did you start playing squash?

My father played in squash leagues, and one day, at age 14, when I went to watch one of his matches, I got on the court myself. I took to it very quickly and from that point on, went to the best squash schools in England, and trained with the most elite coaches and players in the country.

How many squash rackets do you have?

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About 60. I have so much squash equipment, my wife had to throw out some of my squash equipment just to make space.

Cindy Atoji Keene
can be reached at ­­­
cindy@cindyatoji.com.

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