Squash Director, INFINITUM Squash
The move from Jersey, England to Boston has been exciting from a work perspective. It is a different way of developing the sport. My Manchester and Jersey academies were all about introducing the sport to as many grassroots players as possible through our school’s program—combined we had over 30,000 kids experience squash from 120 schools and some of those players went on to become national champions and represent England or Jersey. In Boston we’ve had an amazing first season, working with schools like BB&N, Fay and St. Mark’s. We saw nearly a hundred kids a week; all the schools had their best season in many years, so I think we have our coaching philosophy spot on. The transition for my family was a little more challenging—two children, schools, friendship groups, cultures, but they have embraced it.
The differences between here and England are the amazing facilities popping up all over the States, the level and depth of the junior players is incredible, the many coaching and playing styles, and the governing body US Squash, which is much more organized and professional in its approach.
It’s a very worrying time for squash in England. There are pockets of very successful clubs and academies, but you have to look at numbers. In the 1980s my hometown of Oldham had eight thriving, state-of-the-art squash clubs, with over forty courts; today there is one remaining with three courts. That has happened in many towns in England. The clubs remaining have to embrace grassroots school development. If it’s not addressed, England will struggle to keep up with other nations. Plus many quality England coaches have moved to the U.S. and more will follow with the sport growing so rapidly here.
INFINITUM Squash is an amazing facility. Nick Matthew described it as one of the best training facilities he had ever seen. The strength and conditioning area is right in the middle of eight courts. It is the brainchild of Chessin Gertler. He designed an amazing steel structure which the courts sit inside. Myself, Chessin and the coaching team are completely on the same page, creating an environment where players fall in love with the game. Our clinics have players rated from 2.5 – 6.0 in the same session. It’s the best way to develop players: it’s important for players to play below, at the same and above their level. It’s how most of the former top UK players and I grew up.
My son Charlie watches at least two hours of SquashTV every day. Watching is a vital part of any junior players development so I am happy he wants to. We also follow all social media channels and the tournament results. The American players are starting to get a lot more respect. Most American players will go to college and that’s potentially a lost four years of training, but with the quality of coaching within the colleges and the facilities players have access to, it should not be an excuse not make it to the top—Sobhy and Farag did it. I feel some of the top U.S. players need to be technically better, not just brilliant athletes.
The Legends Tour is great. The players are so different than they were on tour, more relaxed, more chatty. I tend to pick the players’ brains about the game and get ideas to further develop my coaching skills. It’s also great to chat about the different eras. At this year’s Legends we had players from the past three generations, Peter Marshall (90s), Jon Power (2000s) and LJ Anjema (2010s).
I have played masters squash since 2007. I have won eight British closed titles, two British Open masters titles and two World Masters titles. The secret for me was to become a better technical and tactical player. The body cannot do what it used to do. I wish I could go back with my current technical and tactical game, with the fitness and speed I had in those days.
We were actually spoiled in Jersey. Even though it’s a small island, the restaurants were some of the best in the world. We miss a beach cantina in Jersey called El Tico—amazing fresh food. I miss Yorkshire tea and Cadbury chocolate. My wife is an amazing cook and always cooks a traditional Sunday roast, but gravy granules and stuffing are not easy to get here.