SPA-tlight: Kim Clearkin

Squash Magazine, as part of a monthly feature, will talk to a member of the Squash Professionals Affiliate Program (SPA) to get their take on the state of squash in the U.S. Kim Clearkin, assistant squash professional at the Pacific Athletic Club in Redwood City and the tournament director for the this season’s Howe Cup, talked about her squash development and the challenges of getting women involved with the sport.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 12.08.49 PMWhere did you first pick up the sport?
I started playing at Oxford University in England. I was already playing badminton and tennis so I picked it up there. Any sport with a racquet and a ball I played, including field hockey and even cricket.

So you did not play junior squash?
No, I chose the academic path, feeling that was the best option. I attended Oxford, where I earned a Physics degree and also a Ph.D. in Geo-Physics. From there I started my career as a project manager for information systems and IT consultant.

What would you consider your greatest accomplishment as a squash player?
Playing for Berkshire County.

How did you get into coaching?
I started coaching when I had my children, Ciara and Amy. I earned my level 2 certification in 2003 and was trying to start programming at Wellington College, the Bracknell Leisure Centre and Camberley arena. Every county has a committee development officer, to grow the sport at the county level. That was my role in Berkshire. At one point I was actually named volunteer of the month by England Squash.

You were the tournament director for the U.S. Women’s Team Championships (Howe Cup) in October. What was that experience like?
When I first started working at PAC, there were only two or three women playing. You have to walk by the squash courts to get to the gym, so I introduced the game to women that way. Once they started to play, they loved it. Traveling around to the different clubs in the area I was surprised to find so many women who used to play and were excited to dust off the racquet and get back on the court again. This area has a very diverse population, with people from England, India and so forth. I attended my first Howe Cup in Boston two years ago and was impressed with the overall organization of the event. We only had one California team that year and were able to increase that to three teams in Philadelphia the following year. In Philly, Jeannie Blasberg mentioned that she thought it would be a great idea to host the Howe Cup in the Bay Area. I agreed and with NorCal helping with entry fees and uniforms, coupled with the location, we were able to field eight teams this year!

If you weren’t involved with Squash, where do you think you would be?
Probably back in the IT industry. I like squash because it’s fun and flexible. The people you are working with come from all walks of life and they really enjoy the sport and want to be there

What do you feel are the major benefits of SPA?
I have only been in the states for five years, so SPA is a great way to communicate with other pros and share best practices. Everyone has different experiences that they can relay so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

What teaching pro do you look up to?
Obviously Richard Elliott here at PAC, along with Mark Allen. Richard is very patient and enthusiastic. He treats every lesson as if it is his first. He can show anyone how to improve, regardless of their level. Also Phil Kenyon who was my coach in England (former World No. 4, England No. 1—of Jahangir Khan’s era). He was very influential in my decision to pursue coaching.

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.