Swindon Junior Squash Club fights adversity and welcomes new members

By Jessica Durston - 17 January 2022

Clubs & ActivitiesFitnessSport
  • A group shot of the club

    A group shot of the club

The Swindon Squash Club, which prides itself upon being one of the only weekly clubs available to juniors in the Swindon area, is welcoming new members.

Images from the 1 - 2pm junior session

After surviving several moves from location to location around the Swindon area, Swindon Junior Squash Club has now taken up a more permanent residence at Croft Sports Centre, off Marlborough Lane. 

The club runs two sessions every Saturday. The first session for beginner and intermediate juniors is at 1- 2pm. The second session for older or more skilled players runs from 2 - 3pm. 

It is recommended that juniors wishing to attend the 1 - 2pm session are between the ages of 5 and 10. Those over 10 are welcome to join for the later 2 -3pm sessions. 

Jules and Henrietta are the club's two accredited volunteer coaches that oversee both sessions. Parents of attendees are also known to help out with coaching responsibilities to help form the family-orientated feel the club strives to achieve. 

Jules and Henrietta aim to ensure that junior members first focus on the basic skills and techniques to improve over time. 

The club sessions facilitate standard squash play and also allow the juniors to try their hand at other activities, like racket ball and other game exercises. The variety of play aims to help juniors practice the skills needed for squash, but also to keep the sessions fresh and interesting.

Jules said: "Henrietta and I both have full time jobs and we do this on the weekend because we love the sport and it’s great to teach the juniors and see them improve.

"The ABCs we start with are Agility, Balance and Coordination. That’s what squash is all about – those are vital elements to work on. Squash can be a technical game but if you practice your movement and positioning, then everything else will click into place. It’s also one of the only sports where your opposition is on the same side of the court as you, so health and safety and learning where and when to move correctly is important.

“It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at first – even enjoying running around and trying something new is a good starting point. It’s all about making the sessions fun and seeing smiling faces. Adapting the sessions for individual players is something Henrietta and I look at. Some juniors may be ready for more technical practice and for others, it may be a case of running around and practicing movement and positioning before advancing on to other squash training activities. I always say it’s all about bringing enthusiasm, and we will supply the rest."

Rackets, balls and eye protection are all provided by the club so new junior members can start training straight away. 

Sessions are priced at £5 each and each quarter can be paid in advance via a bank transfer.

There is also an additional Wiltshire Junior initiative where a block of 6 sessions will cost £30. Upon completion of these sessions, junior members will receive:

  • A Karakal junior squash racket
  • Karakal eye goggles
  • A junior squash ball
  • A bag
  • A T-shirt

Swindon Junior Squash Club also offer new members the chance to try out their first one or two sessions for free before signing up.

One of the junior club's current members said: “I’ve been coming here for around one and a half years. I started at the Oasis after seeing some posters advertising the club and I enjoy it as much now as I did back when I first joined. We get challenged but the club is still enjoyable and not too serious.

“I like learning the different shots and techniques. I like racket sports, so squash is perfect. I want to get into leagues and attending this extracurricular club will also hopefully help my application to universities.”

Swindon Junior Squash Club also encourages those that wish to pursue further training or coaching opportunities by offering extra help and guidance. One of the junior members wishing to undertake coaching qualifications is 15-year-old Chloe Marshman, who also plays for the Wiltshire team.

Chloe said: “I want to do my Level 1 coaching when I turn sixteen. Jules is currently helping me with my training in the first half of my sessions I attend here, and I just practice and have fun in the second half of my session time.

“I started playing squash when I was four and have played with this club at all its different locations around Swindon. My dad is Chair of Wiltshire Junior Squash, alongside Jules, so I have grown up around different coaches and league players.

“I would recommend the sport to everyone – and it would be nice to see some more juniors join our club, especially some more girls! Years ago, it used to be seen as a male business sport, but that’s definitely not the case and more girls are involved now. A lot of people just think squash is the same as tennis but it’s so much more than that, and that is what we want to try and show people.”

Before the pandemic, Jules would also visit local schools to run junior squash activities and show children what options were available to them in the form of racket sports. However, covid restrictions and the multiple lockdowns have reduced opportunities for Jules to visit schools, meaning he is being given less chances to promote his club to the young members of the Swindon community. 

He added: "It’s a shame the opportunities to visit schools have dried up. For me it’s not necessarily about a massive recruitment drive, it’s about showing young people what squash is about, and that this club is available to them. Football and Rugby are pushed at the forefront a lot so I think it is important to remind people that racket sports can be a great option too.

“Squash is in the Commonwealth Games at the moment but is not currently an Olympic sport. The Commonwealth is a good platform but cannot compete with the international widespread coverage of something like the Olympics."

Jules explains that many leisure centres across Swindon have either closed their doors indefinitely or closed their squash courts, leaving the junior club in search of a new location. The club has previously used the Oasis and South Marston leisure centres, and then the Wessex Club, before being hosted at the Croft Sports Centre. 

Jules said: "Squash courts are being swapped out and used for other sporting/fitness classes in order to try and bring in more money for leisure centres. As squash courts take up a certain amount of room, they are often replaced with the space then being used for something else.

“We are very lucky to be here at Croft as it’s leisure manager is happy to support our junior club. The centre is normally closed on Saturdays, but we are still allowed to host our squash sessions.

“Fitness is so important for the youth of today – and you can’t force it. We can only try and educate young people on what options are out there, and do our bit to make our club's sessions fun."

Those interested in Swindon Junior Squash Club can contact Jules on 07901826927 or via [email protected]

More information can also be found on the club's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/267193215503317

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