SPA-tlight: Mike Riley

Squash Magazine, as part of a monthly feature, will talk to a member of the Squash Players Affiliate Program (SPA) and get their take on the state of squash in the U.S. Mike Riley, the Head professional at the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington (RI), and also a World Squash Federation referee, took some time to talk about his squash background.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.07.43 AMHow old were you when you started playing squash?
I took up the game when I was 18. Back then I was one of the younger guys in Manchester (England) playing. There was a squash court at the Tennis and Racquet Club where I was the assistant court tennis and racquets pro.

Who was your biggest influence in the sport?
Frank Willis. He was not playing any tennis around the time I was in Manchester, so he would play a lot of squash with the best guys and I would watch and pick up techniques and strategies and then spend a lot of time hitting alone. Twice a week he would play squash with me and luckily he had great strokes!

You’re one of the top squash referee’s in the world. Do you think of yourself as a referee first, and then a teaching pro?
I think of myself as a Squash player that happens to ref! When we played league in Lancashire you had to, so it was no big deal. After playing league in Boston and Rhode Island for 30 years it is still difficult to get someone to mark/ref.

As a referee, you do have the best seats in the house at the biggest events in squash.
I think that I have been very fortunate to witness up close some of the most amazing athletes in the world (bar none). I believe this is the most exciting time to be watching squash.

Do you still play competitively? Do you ever question the referees calls? Will you be playing the Masters Championships in Newport this march?
I still play some league in Rhode Island but find it very difficult now giving up 5-10 years. I love playing Age Groups!(Wished we had an Over 50 League!)And you bet I question calls; I suppose I am a refs nightmare. If I think I have been wronged I will say something and have been quite aggressive (so I am told). People still hit shots they cannot clear and there should be consequences for that! And yes, I will be playing in Newport, where I will also be Tournament Referee.

If not for squash, what do you think you would be doing?
I am a very keen golfer, so maybe involved somehow in the golf industry, but nowadays my passion is renovating my house.

Tell us who you think of as the ideal squash pro?
I have been very lucky throughout my years to have worked with some greats, Bryan Patterson, Ken Hiscoe, Mark Allen, Richard Millman and Aidan Harrison, but overall my most ideal pro would have to be David Pearson (English National Coach), who just happens to be a great friend.