Friday, May 24, 2024

England Squash praise award winners ‘changing people’s lives through the sport’

Abbeydale Squash and Fitness Club has been named Club of the Year by England Squash, one of nine winners announced by the national governing body in its annual awards.

Abbeydale was praised for their work to improve inclusivity in the sport, raising female participation through a number of initiatives and targeted programmes. This has led to the club having a fifty-fifty gender split on their committee and the development of a Squash from the Mosque session being created exclusively for Muslim women, which has grown to 36 members.

Coach of the Year was won by Northern Squash’s Bob Aynsley, who’s relentless drive and enthusiasm has driven an increase in participation. Bob planned a coaching programme for adults looking to get into the sport, named ‘Give Squash a Try’, at the start of 2023 which has seen participation double over the year. Bob was also heavily involved in the creation of a women’s league which launched in October.

2023 Club of the Year – Abbeydale Squash and Fitness

Steve Eccles has created and run sessions to get people into squash officiating since 2020, with two sessions each year. In 2023, Eccles ran 20 sessions and has already put on 11 sessions so far this year at various clubs and universities across the UK. His commitment to supporting the next generation of referees saw him selected as Referee of the Year.

Unsung Hero of the Year was awarded to Pauline Young for her work as a trustee and volunteer Lead Coach at Charnwood Squash and Racketball Club. Young has conducted a lot of work with local primary schools with over 260 school children having one or more session during school since lockdown, including several pupils with learning and behavioural difficulties.

Malikah Khan is a student at the University of Birmingham who runs squash and badminton groups targeting women and the deaf community in particular. These inclusive sessions have provided a welcoming space where deaf people feel valued within the activity, earning Khan the Community Project of the Year award.

2023 Young Volunteer-Coach of the Year – Finlay Stott

Young Volunteer of the Year went to Finlay Stott who coaches at Duffield Squash Club and runs the entire junior programme.  The 19-year-old went above and beyond his usual duties when the club experienced a devastating flood during Storm Babet in October. Over 200mm of water was present throughout the club’s ground floor ruining all the squash courts and changing rooms.  Stott managed to source an industrial pump, which he used to remove the remaining water over the course of 24 hours, before contacting other local clubs to keep members active while the club recovered.

Emily Coulcher-Porter is an established star at junior level and last year won the British and English Championship Under 17 titles. Her 2023 form saw her selected to represent England at the European Under 19 Championships this month and earn the Female Rising Star of the Year award.

Mitaire Onoge is England Squash’s Male Rising Star of the Year after a successful season that saw him earn six tournament wins as well as finishing runner-up at the 2023 British Junior Championships. The nine-year-old star came across squash during a summer holiday camp back in 2021 and has never looked back. He has established himself as a future star in the game under the coaching of Thomas Fairhurst, Head Coach at the National Squash Centre.

Moment of the Year went to England’s European team double triumph in Helsinki last April. The women’s side defeated Belgium in their final while the men beat France in hotly contested games for both teams, which included stars Mohamed ElShorgbagy and Georgina Kennedy.

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