Last season, U.S. SQUASH introduced the Squash Professionals Affiliate Program (SPA). With this program, U.S. SQUASH offers personal liability insurance coverage to qualified squash professionals for coaching, access to a pre-screened, preferred network of health insurance providers, financial incentives for membership based on the number of members per court, discounted sanctioning fees, use of U.S. SQUASH for online entry offering discounts for players, waived sanctioning fees for U.S. SQUASH League and Ladder programs, free admission to the U.S. SQUASH Professional Development Conference (formerly “Coaching Conference”), the opportunity to sell U.S. SQUASH merchandise and co-brand in pro shops, and access to the U.S. SQUASH “Job Network” and “Professional Practices,” an online collection of best practices for coaches and pros, and regional professional mentoring, and support and advocacy for professional development at clubs.
Squash Magazine, as part of a monthly feature, will talk to a member of the program and get their take on the state of squash in the U.S. Mike Jefferys, the head squash professional at the Squash Club at CHASS in Philadelphia (PA) talked about his development and the benefits of the SPA program.
How did you get your start in squash?
Through my cousins in Zimbabwe. I changed schools to the same they were attending when I was 11-years-old so I picked up the game playing at the school and also at the Alaska Country Club.
Did you play squash in college?
I played squash at Natal University (currently known as Kwazulu-Natal). I played for three years during which we won the provincial team championships each year as well as the inter-provincial South African Championship. Unfortunately, due to apartheid related sanctions, South African teams were not allowed to compete at the World level.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a squash player?
In 1990 I suffered a back injury which took five years to rehabilitate. After the layoff I came back and defeated the No. 1 player in Rhodesia, Julian Beckett.
How did you get into coaching?
While I was playing in Senior School, I was sought out to coach the younger players. I continued that in college. I was really attracted by the opportunity to coach top athletes whose singular focus was to succeed at the sport. I was named the Zimbabwean National Junior Coach in 1997 for the teams that competed in the 1998 and 2000 teams. It was there I met Bryan Patterson, who was the U.S. Coach at the time. I was a nutritionist also at the time so I moved to Australia where I earned my level 2 coaching certification. Bryan emailed me about an opportunity at CHASS, but it was right after 9/11 so it took a year or so to get my visa approved before I was able to come over here. I truly believe that America is the land of opportunity and that people here can achieve whatever they wish.
If you weren’t coaching squash, what do you think you would be doing?
As I mentioned, I was a nutritionist, but I think I would have probably ended up in the financial world.
Why are you a SPA member?
Beside the discounts on tournament sanctioning, I look at SPA as a meeting place for squash pros around the country. We need to have better communication and SPA is the perfect vehicle for that.
Who do you look at as the ideal teaching pro?
Paul Assaiante from Trinity, Craig Thorpe-Clarke from UPenn and Graham Prior, whom I knew in South Africa. All three of these guys manage to get their message through to anyone they teach, no matter the personality or level. They are not only involved with their students on the court; they genuinely care and are just as involved off the court.