SPA-tlight: Linda Elriani

Linda outside Heights Casino

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the South East of England in a small town called Heathfield, which is where my parents, sister and niece still live

Who gave you your first squash lesson?
My first squash lesson was with Glen Winterton, a good squash player at our local squash club. It was funny, as squash was in its boom at that time and everyone was playing, but at first I didn’t want to try it. One of my dad’s friends persuaded me to go on court with him and then that was it. Here we are, thirty-two years of squash later!

You turned pro at age nineteen. In the US, the majority of players that age opt to go to college. Was that an option for you?
I went to Art College straight from school and once I completed the course I had the chance to do a degree in Art and Design. It was a real cross road for me and I had to make a decision which journey I was going to take. My true passion was/is squash and I had already had some good results beating players in the world top 20 so I decided to follow my dream and become a squash professional.

You reached No. 3 in the world and were the captain of the 2000 English team that won the World Championship. What is the fondest memory of your pro career?
It was such an honor to represent my country and also my English teammates were some of my best friends! Obviously winning the world teams in 2000 was the icing on the cake as we always would reach the final but couldn’t manage to beat the Aussies until then!

You retired in 2006. Was being a club pro something you had planned on doing all along?
Yes, I have always enjoyed coaching and I took my coaching exams throughout the years. I actually love it even more than I thought I would. It’s very rewarding and I always knew I wanted to stay in the sport and pass on my experience and love of squash to others, especially kids

What was the biggest allure to working at the Heights Casino?
Where do I start! I used to absolutely love playing in the pro Weymuller tournament here. The members at the Casino are all so welcoming and friendly and they have a definite appreciation and love of squash. When a chance to work at the Heights Casino came up we absolutely jumped at it! The junior program here is very large and it is so much fun to work with so many kids of varying ages and abilities. We’re also very lucky to have a wonderful group of people working at the Casino, who are a pleasure to work alongside.

What is your favorite part about living in New York?
The Brooklyn Heights area has got such a wonderful, safe neighborhood feel that Laurent and I have fallen in love with. It’s so great to have everything on your doorstep. We can pretty much live our lives within a six block radius because we live a block from the Heights Casino, our son, Jack, goes to school two blocks away and we have enough parks, restaurants and stores around to keep us more than happy.

Hardball doubles is a huge facet of the Casino squash scene. Do you get out on the doubles court much?
We’ve just had our Professional Johnson Doubles tournament and it was very exciting to watch the top men competing. Doubles is a really fun game but to be honest I do not play very often.

The Weymuller Open is one of the favorite stops among the players on the WSA tour. What makes that event so special?
I think it’s mainly the welcoming nature of our members, opening up their homes to the players and the fact that the neighborhood here is so lovely. The players can walk around and be independent.

When the squash season winds down, what do you do for relaxation?
We love to go biking and ride over to the Hudson side of Manhattan and discover new parks with Jack. I really enjoy running too and this summer and fall I will be training hard as I have signed up to run the NY Marathon for Team for Kids!