SPA-tlight: Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson, Squash Pro at CityView Racquet Club, Long Island City, NY

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Jacksonville, Alabama, a small southern city in the U.S. No one played squash there, but we did have a tennis court at our house when I was a kid.

When and why did you start playing squash?
I started playing when I was in graduate school in NYC. Tennis was too expensive and a friend took me to play squash instead. It was hardball, very different from tennis, but I was hooked. After moving back to the Midwest in 1988, a friend and I started to play three hours a day, five days a week when the first softball courts were built in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 1988.

You recently moved from Dayton, Ohio, to be the Squash Pro at CityView Racquet Club in New York City. What are the differences between squash in the Midwest and squash in New York City?
The most significant differences are the larger concentration of players of all levels and the greater opportunity for meaningful competition— the NY Squash leagues especially encourage lots of play “that counts.”

Talk about some of the activities and programs you have at CityView Racquet Club.
We have a weekly Wednesday night round robin that attracts players of all levels. Perhaps the most successful program is our new seventy-player box league, utilizing the US Squash website. This box league has sessions running from October to May and encourages lots of play. We plan to have a big BBQ party in May to celebrate the completion of the league.

CityView Racquet Club has a growing junior squash program and hosts several junior tournaments each year. Describe the junior squash community at your club and in the city.
New York City and surrounding areas support one of the most active junior squash calendars in the country. There is also a high concentration of squash professionals here to facilitate individual junior development. CityView is located in Long Island City, and when I arrived here we did not have much of a presence in this area. We do now! In the 2013-2014 season, we hosted four junior tournaments, an officiating clinic, and we will host several weeks of high level summer camps featuring PSA and WSA tour players as guest coaches. I now work with close to thirty kids, ages five to fifteen, in various junior clinics and in individual lessons, and I love seeing them develop into tournament level players.

What do you find are the differences in coaching different age groups, and what do you enjoy most about coaching?
Adults who take lessons are definitely interested in game improvement. New players just need a good introduction to the game. Experienced players often are very analytical and want to know why they need to make changes to their game. Adult players often have old habits that are sometimes difficult to break, which leads to repeat business for professionals!

Junior players come with all kinds of backgrounds, athletic capabilities, and agendas for learning the game. The challenge is to develop each one to the best they can be, while also making the game fun. My personal goal for junior players is to build a lifelong love of squash. I’ve probably introduced over a two thousand people to squash, and one of my favorite parts about coaching is the lifelong friendships and associations I have created with a great many of these people.