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Giving youngsters more reasons to choose squash

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The much-awaited addition of squash to the Olympics, combined with an emerging junior scene in Wales, gives Squash Wales every hope of exciting times ahead.

The news that squash has been selected for the Olympic programme at Los Angeles 2028 gives Wales’ top players fresh dreams to achieve, and a wider audience to inspire. 

Greater exposure on the global stage should help to spark the interest of young people in particular.

But with the LA Games still five years away, Squash Wales is focused on giving more opportunities for youngsters to take up the game now. And their efforts are paying off, with new junior sections thriving at four clubs across the country – Abergavenny, Old Penarthians, Llanelli and Builth Wells.

Squash Wales’ strategy for growing those junior sections makes interesting reading for other sports who are looking to see how they too might capture the imaginations of young minds.

Squash Wales considered data from the School Sport Survey – run by Sport Wales to show participation levels and latent demand for sports among young people – to identify any potential hotspots, but they also prioritised the importance of getting coaches in place first.

Dave Evans, Squash Wales Performance Director, explains: “Once we had these four clubs in mind, it was important for us to sound them out to see if there were any club members who would be interested in coaching young players. Without that, our plans would have fallen at the first hurdle.

“But once we had fantastic individuals in place who were keen to take it on, we managed to get into a few local primary schools to give kids some squash taster sessions using a portable rebound net. Off the back of those sessions, as well as word of mouth, numbers have grown steadily at these new junior clubs. I’m really grateful for the hard work the coaches have put in already, and hopefully the clubs will continue to go from strength to strength.”

For Abergavenny Squash Club, part of their success is due to the way they’ve involved parents and youngsters in decision-making right from the start.

Even before the first ball was struck, children who had shown an interest in the sport during taster sessions were asked what days and times would suit them best for training, while decisions over whether or not to enter a competitive league have also been made as a collective.

The result is a thriving junior section, being led by families’ needs and with youngsters able to fit in squash around their other commitments.

children playing squash with a portable rebound net
Portable rebound nets have been used to help introduce young people to squash.

 

Meanwhile, at Builth Wells Squash Club, coach Iain McKechnie is mindful of the strong competition from other activities. He said: “Kids have so much choice of things to do these days, including sports which are traditionally more popular than squash. But with the right environment, it is possible that children will choose a ‘different’ sport that they really enjoy for various reasons, and which helps them to develop lots of skills. 

“I’m obviously biased, but for me squash is a super healthy sport, has a lot of strong values and is really sociable too.”   

Dave Evans concluded: “It’s still very early days to see how much the Olympic news will impact on the game in Wales, but I’d like to think that it will. More exposure can only be positive for squash. Our fundamental aim is to make sure that everyone playing squash has a fun experience. If it isn’t enjoyable then players won’t come back, simple as that!”

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