Friday, July 12, 2024

Dynamic Duo Dazzle in the Domain of the Dictionary

Dr Samuel Johnson, famous son of Lichfield and author of the first dictionary, is possibly thinking ‘I wish I was playing squash’! This statue is located opposite his birthplace in the city

Dynamic Duo Dazzle in the Domain of the Dictionary
By JAMES ROBERTS – Squash Mad Reporter

Lichfield being my hometown and a place where I still play regularly due to work and visiting family, I managed to secure a place at a dream event for any squash fan – to play and watch a ‘Dynamic Duo’ of PSA World Tour squash stars.

This also represented a perfect opportunity for a sporadic squash hobby-journalist to find out a bit more about the players through asking them each a few questions. Be sure to check out their answers at the end of the article.

The first member of this Dynamic Duo was Daryl Selby, who whilst still a top PSA World Tour pro has set up a sports management agency called Dynamic7Sport, offering representation services to elite athletes in squash, cricket and golf. One of his clients is Ben Coleman, a rising star in the squash game, who agreed to accompany Daryl for the visit to Lichfield.

Event organiser Nick Pound (left) being sent to all four corners of the Daryl Selby court by his idol

The event was the brainchild of Lichfield club member Nick Pound, who is the self-confessed no. 1 ‘superfan’ of Daryl. Through interacting with him on Twitter, he has established a friendship with the former National Champion and Commonwealth Games medallist. Daryl and Ben duly accepted an invitation from Nick to come to Lichfield to get on court with some of the members of the city’s squash club, as well as play an exhibition match.

The pretty city of Lichfield in Staffordshire is possibly best known as the birthplace of the Lexicographer and author of the first dictionary of the English language, Dr Samuel Johnson. Given my chosen headline, I am now left wondering whether Dr Johnson remembered to include the word ‘alliteration’ in his dictionary? This reminds me of a classic episode of Blackadder the Third, when Blackadder tries to frustrate Dr Johnson with a tirade of invented new words!

The author (left) enjoying a match with rising star Ben Coleman

At the event itself, held at the courts in King Edward VI School where the club is based, the Dynamic Duo didn’t disappoint. Each of the professionals was allocated one of the courts, which were duly renamed in their honour. Groups of club members then pitted their skills against the professionals in a series of group and individual games, aiming to notch as many points as they could.

Ben Coleman scurries to the back corner to retrieve a fast drive by Daryl Selby in the exciting exhibition match

Following the group sessions, an exciting exhibition ensued, which featured some breath-taking rallies and winning shots. This came directly on the back of the 2 players facing each other in more serious competition just a few days before in the first round of the Allam British Open, the most prestigious squash competition in the world. Daryl won that one 3-1 (best of 5) and it was again Daryl who prevailed in the best of 3 exhibition match, 2-1.

Daryl Selby (in orange) with a textbook backhand preparation during the exhibition match with Ben Coleman (in blue)

Squash being such thirsty work, the players and professionals then retired to the local pub, The Duke of York, for a bit of liquid refreshment, followed by an excellent curry at the Club’s restaurant of choice, the Indian Village in Lombard Street.

Nothing like a few beers and a good curry after squash!

The club is looking to organise further play the pro and exhibition events with other professional players in the near future. It is also looking forward to celebrating World Squash Day: The Big Hit on Saturday October 12th, when it will offer taster sessions in order to encourage beginner and returning players to take up squash, which has been regularly rated ‘the world’s healthiest sport’ through various scientific studies.

After the event, I took the opportunity to pitch a few questions to Daryl and Ben to reflect on their respective squash roots, talk about life on tour and cast a glance at what the future might hold for both players.

Daryl seems to approve of the court renaming at Lichfield

First up, the thoughts of Daryl Selby:

JR: When did you actually start playing squash and at what stage did you realise that you were going to be able to pursue it professionally?

DS: I started playing when I was 5 but never really dreamed of it being a profession until I was around 17/18. I decided to go to university, which was fantastic and as I came to the end of those 3 years I then fell into squash rather than getting a ‘proper’ job!

JR: It must have helped being part of a squash family, but were you encouraged to try other sports and were you ever tempted to take any of these more seriously, rather than pursue your squash?

Yes I played all sports when I was younger and had Dad not played then I’m sure I wouldn’t be a professional now. Football was my next best sport and I would like to think I could have earned a living playing that as well, but who knows …

JR: You have been on the PSA World Tour a long time now. What are the main things you enjoy about being on the World Tour? What are the biggest drawbacks?

DS: I enjoy playing in front of great crowds, travelling around the world and the battle of trying to win. Drawbacks are spending so much time away from family and not being able to do other pastimes that you would enjoy (long distance running, skiing, football etc)

JR: Which is your favourite PSA World Tour tournament and why?

DS: Canary Wharf because it feels like a home tournament, the atmosphere is incredible and it’s so well run.

JR: Out of all the matches you have played, which one in particular do you look back on with the most satisfaction and why?

DS: Winning the first match against Tarek Momen in the final of the World Team Champs 2013 to set us on the way to victory.

JR: Without wishing to flush out your eventual retirement timing, you are obviously in the twilight of your PSA World Tour career and indeed, seem to have already given a lot of thought about what might come next. In particular, you are already involved in the ‘family Business’, Off The Wall Squash Academy. You have also recently set up Dynamic7Sport, which already has many active clients, including current and former PSA World Tour pros, but also clients from other sports. Can you tell us a bit about where you hope to take these initiatives in the future?

DS: I love sport. I also have a passion for helping others and with my degree in sports management, Dynamic7 encapsulates that perfectly. I have big ambitions for it and want it to continue to grow into a family of aspiring and successful sportsmen and women who we can help to achieve their goals on and off the field of play.

JR: Do you have any other plans in the pipeline to continue your involvement in squash once you do decide to call time on your PSA World Tour career?

DS: I’m on the PSA board and would love to continue working to help promote the sport. I’m also now part owner of a glass court and have ambitions to be an event promoter at some point as well.

Ben looks proud to have a court named in his honour

And now for Ben Coleman’s reflections:

JR: When did you actually start playing squash and at what stage did you realise that you were going to be able to pursue it professionally?

BC: I began to play squash at the age of 11 which is quite late compared to some other players around me. Before that I was interested in loads of different sports and did karate to a high level between the ages of 7-11. I would say around when I turned 17 and had just started my A levels I believed that I had a good shot at turning pro once my A levels were done.

JR: Tell me a bit about your junior career?

BC: I have fond memories of my junior career in particular. I played my first big tournament at the age of 14 in the nationals and reached the quarter finals as an unseeded player which was great but I was still far behind the top guys. Through hard work, I enjoyed a successful U17 campaign finishing as the British number 1 for my age and then as an under 19 player I became British junior champion, European team champion and number 1 in the country, something I’m very proud of.

JR: How many years have you been on the PSA World Tour now? What are the main things you enjoy about being on the World Tour? What are the biggest drawbacks?

BC: I’ve been on the tour now for 9 years (starting to feel old). I think it’s a blessing that we get to travel so much and see so many great places around the world whilst doing our job and being on tour. On the flip side, the tour can be a lonely place sometimes and maybe not always as much an ‘easy life’ as some might think. This is something I would love to go into more detail about at some point in the future.

JR: Which is your favourite PSA World Tour tournament and why?

BC: The Canary Wharf Classic. Such a fantastic venue and to be in London so close to home is special. Having your friends and family watching is rare as we are all over the world usually and that would cost a lot of money, but Canary Wharf for me I think is the best. However, playing squash we are fortunate to have tournaments held in some amazing locations worldwide.

JR: Out of all the matches you have played, which one in particular do you look back on with the most satisfaction and why?

BC: In recent times I would definitely say beating Max Lee who was world ranked 14 at the time in the World Champs February 2019. It was such a tough match and so close against someone who I admire for a few reasons, so that felt great and has really given me a big boost to know that I can perform at the highest level. I just need to work hard to make that more consistent.

JR: What is your objective in terms of ranking progression over the next 1-2 years and what aspects of your game do you think you need to work on to achieve this?

BC: I need to work on all aspects of my game but I am happy with the work i am about to get done in this summer period. I don’t like to put those kind of targets in place, but my goal over the next couple of years is to get up there around the top 20 and compete with the very best. Let’s see how we go! I’m feeling good and ready to get the work done.

JR: Daryl already seems to have already given a lot of thought to his future beyond his professional squash career. Although you are obviously a lot younger with hopefully many more active years ahead of you on the Tour, have you also started giving any consideration to what might come next once you finish your career on the PSA World Tour?

BC: The last few years in particular have been a massive opportunity for me to learn so many things both inside and outside of the court. The PSA foundation has helped us to start putting things in place and thinking about our future so I am definitely doing that, with networking where I can and just giving myself options. As you say, hopefully I have a few more years left in the game yet, but the earlier you can prepare the better.

Many thanks to Daryl and Ben for coming to Lichfield and for their time in answering my questions.

Pictures by: James Roberts  


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