Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Poland makes a major impact on European squash

Maciek Klis (second right) is leading a squash boom in Poland
Maciek Klis (second right) is leading a squash boom in Poland

Maciej Klis is teaching Poles how to Enjoy squash
By ROSANNA RADLINSKA – Squash Mad Special Correspondent


Poland is certainly putting its own signature on the European squash scene. With newly built squash clubs using technology from major producers ASB, McWil and CourtTech, rapid development of squash is only a matter of time (Hasta La Vista club in Wroclaw is the biggest in the world right now with 32 squash courts).

Poland hosted The European Nations Challenge Cup in 2009, the European Individual Championship in 2011, the World Junior Championships in 2013, the Bremer European Club Championships in 2015, and this year the World Junior Championships take place at the Enjoy Club in Bielsko-Biala.

Squash Mad managed to talk to Maciek Klis, the owner of Enjoy club. He is a visionary and an enthusiast who took over the club after not being re-elected as a member of the Polish Squash Federation board. The conversation began in November before the news about the World Junior Champioships 2016 were announced.

Enjoy Club statistics at June 2014 before Maciek took over:
Club members: 400 but 80 actively playing
Male and female leagues: 40 men playing, no women
Juniors (boys and girls): about 10 (Maciek and Wacek Staszkiewicz were coming to the club to coach) but they have been participating for 3 years.
Junior programme: beginners twice a week, elite group twice a week
Senior programme: none
Pro programme: none

Enjoy club statistics in November 2015:
Club members: 550 males and 40 females actively playing
Men and women leagues: over 100 men, 15-20 women
Juniors (boys and girls): 35 playing in tournaments
Junior programme: 7 different groups playing on different days, elite group having individual coaching, combined groups, plyometrics, fitness – additional fitness coach for elite groups. Partnerships with primary school which attract about 150 children every week with potential of development to club/regional/national players.

Senior programme: mainly VOLVO SQUASH LEAGUE (club league), morning sessions SQUASH ALARM CLOCK – three times a week, regular training camps, at least 10 Polish Squash Federeation tournaments per season, club ranking, integration events , OLD style tournament, etc.

Pro programme: elite group with participation in the Polish Team Nationals, PSA pro Daniel Poleshchuk training at the club, sessions for juniors, seniors. That has already attracted a talented Polish young player Kuba Wasilewski who will attend sessions at Enjoy several times a month.

The improvement of the club is visible but Maciek, as an owner of Squash Promotion Group which could boast owning the only glass court in Poland, started a new event that involves squash and improves participation called “Squash on Chrobry Square”.

This event took place in summer 2014 and in summer 2015.

Juniors "Enjpy" squash in Poland
Juniors “Enjoy” squash in Poland

Squash Mad: Squash on Chrobry Square. This is the second time the event took place in Bielsko-Biala. Why did you come up with this idea?

Maciek: Squash on Chrobry Square is meant to introduce squash to people in Bielsko-Biala. Chrobry Square is in the city centre therefore it is an ideal place to showcase squash. This is the place known to every Bielsko-Biala resident and putting squash outside the club into such venue seemed to be the best way of introduction.

We had some alternative venues to choose from but Chrobry Square allured us with its location. After several meetings with City Council members, we managed to fulfil all requirements regarding Health and Safety requirements and the first event took place in 2014.

Although the organisation was not as easy as it seemed at the beginning, I feel that we succeeded on many levels as we did not showcase squash on its own, that was linked to art and culinary shows. Imagine that spectators are having some delicious food made by the chef Mirek Drewniak and getting ready to watch the best Polish players versus foreign players invited to participate in this event.

Squash Mad: How did you come up with the formula of matches Poland vs The Rest of World?

Maciek: I have been thinking for quite a long time how to show squash the best way possible and how to make it attractive for people in the city. This is a fairly new sport in our country, as we say “a fledgling”, but coming out to people. After consultations, we decided that formula Best of 3 will be the best with only one point as a “sudden death” if it comes to the third game as we expected it to be more exciting to watch. And it was.

Pavel Sladecek (ex-Czech National champion) won all his games with this one point as well as Julian Kischel (selected to represent Poland), the only Pole to beat Domagoj Spojlar (Croatia National Champion). Emotions went through the roof, although it was an outdoor event, so it is better to say “to the sky” and matches were not too long. All went as we wanted!

Squash Mad: How many spectators came to watch squash during both events of Squash on Chrobry Square?

Maciek: The media coverage of the first event reached 1.2 million people in 2014 and 1.5 million in 2015. Live participation about 30,000 but in my view about 700,000 saw it as commuters in their cars could see a squash court too.

Squash Mad: Has it translated into growth in participation? How many clubs are there in Bielsko-Biala?

Maciek: Surely, we have activated wider participation and we have acquired many new club members.
I think that as a club we used the opportunity very well without losing current members. Good atmosphere around it makes squash grow and a high-profile event like this only helps to promote our sport.

Last year, during the second edition, we managed to persuade the City Council that four days is not enough and that we want 10 days of the glass court’s presence in the city centre. That was the best promotion of squash because not only did we have matches Poland vs The Rest of the World but also our league players could use the court for free and we added two fixtures of league matches with the club from the Czech Republic and the club from Warsaw including junior squash.

Our customers liked it and this was reflected in wider participation in the league matches and that makes our club league the most active in Poland with its 100 active players. I am very proud of what we have achieved so far.

There are three more squash clubs in Bielsko-Biala, two with two courts and one with one court.

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Squash Mad: How about juniors? Do you participate in the Junior Programme promoted by the Polish Squash Federation? Or do you have your own idea for junior squash development?

Maciek: We do participate in the PSF Junior Programme via a local co-ordinator but it is not enough. Our main club “engine” is our own school partnership programme, open days for juniors, and ELITE programme for the best juniors. We have created U9/U11 age group of players who will hopefully follow our U13/U15 group.

Squash Mad: Have you undertaken any steps towards increasing women’s participation?

Maciek: This is difficult but not impossible ☺. We have two league groups (16 women) which is just the beginning of women’s competition. Women do not want to compete as much as men. They seem to have more time than men but are less consistent. However, I am sure we will be able to have more women playing in our club. We will try different ways of encouragement.

Squash Mad: What is your biggest success related to taking over the Enjoy Club?

Maciej: The biggest success was breaking a barrier that customers playing squash had in terms of putting squash first, not as an addition to the club but as the prime product. They had been put aside.
They had a tournament or two, the beginning of the league. Now, we have 100 active league players, Squash on Chrobry Square and a PSA event…. But this is just the beginning

Squash Mad: Thank you and best wishes for the future Maciek.

Maciek: Thank you.


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