Frustration taken out on ball, not boss

  • 2001-05-10
  • Mark Taylor
VILNIUS - There are many different ways to spend your free time in the Baltics. Entertainment and sports that are completely new to this part of the world are slowly being introduced. Squash has just been added to the list in Lithuania.

Squash is highly competitive and demanding. The game started in the 19th century and has its roots in England. Some people believe it started in the exercise yards of English prisons. It's now played by more than 15 million people worldwide.

"Lithuanians seem to have taken it up," said Richard Lockhart, a coach at Vilniaus Squash Club. "We've had many people drop by, sometimes showing up two or three times a week."

The club is the only one of its kind in the capital and it celebrated its first birthday on April 28.

Jurgis Kaukenas, a club member, says he took up squash for many reasons. "It's a fast paced game and I can play when I want to. I don't have to worry about the weather and I only need one other person to play with."

Although the sport is reminiscent of tennis, it's definitely simpler. The rules are similar, but there are no nets, baselines or complicated boxes to serve from. All you need to do is keep your eye on the small black ball and give it a good whack. A point is gained if your shot eludes your partner and the first person to reach nine points wins.

"Squash is a great game. It's intense, fast, very competitive and easy to learn," boasted Lockhart.

He added that another appeal is the chance to get rid of any stress through its intensity. "You can take your frustrations out on the ball instead of your boss," he explained.

The club is close to the center of Vilnius and offers four squash courts plus bar and sauna. It has almost 100 members, but you don't need to be a member to play.

There are different programs for people of all ages, including a children's program, a women's day, tournaments for both adults and children and a competition where you can challenge club members, including Lockhart.

Companies also take advantage of the club.

"We enjoy playing squash because it's an active and interesting sport," say Ausra and Birute, frequent visitors to the club. "It looks boring, but it really isn't. You need to try it to understand."

They pointed out that they appreciate the club's pleasant environment, convenient location and the able assistance of Lockhart.

A few famous figures have also paid a visit, such as singer Marijonas Mikutavicius, Arunas Valinskas, the producer and host of the popular "Arena" TV show, and Choras, a member of the hip hop group ZAS.

A 45-minute game with a friend costs 30 litas ($7.50) before 4 p.m. and 45 litas afterward. All equipment is supplied.