‘We changed the name from Squash Swinger…’
By ROSANNA RADLINSKA – Squash Mad European Correspondent
While browsing Facebook I came across a fan page of Jorvik Squash Academy some time ago, and the video clips were not the usual video clips showing players repeating or demonstrating a certain technique (although I must admit that I started watching them because my daughter’s friend was featuring).
However, there was this piece of equipment that really got my attention. It turned out, it’s got a cute “squashy” name, too. The decision to interview Gary, a manager of Jorvik Squash Academy, came to my mind, and it took me nearly half a year to do it, but there we go. Enjoy as much as I enjoyed it.
Squash Mad: Gary, would you please introduce yourself?
Gary: My name is Gary Crossland, 63 years of age, and I started playing squash in the ’70s when squash courts were popping up all over the country due to success of players like Jonah Barrington making the game high profile.
I was lucky enough to be one of the original members of a new squash club constructed to a high specification near, then, home in Pontefract, with 10 courts which is now famous worldwide for producing world-class players.
I moved to a small village near York with my young family in 1986 and first coached squash at Selby SC where I gaing my SRA level 2 coaching qualification. Later, I moved to Dunnington SC in York to become a Head Coach and I gained my ES level 3 coaching qualification in 2014.
Squash Mad: Can you tell us a bit more about a Squash Tech Buddy? What was the reason you contructed it? When did you do it (a prototype)?
Gary: I think I have to mention three coaches who inspired me to think out of the box and were instrumental in how I developed the Squash Tech Buddy, and they are Morris Unwin whom I worked with in my early days at Pontefract and a great friend, David Pearson who coached my son James, so I used to watch DP coach the kids with his inventions.
I remember him having an oversized traffic cone, made of some kind of rubber, the kids would strike the cone in a shot and ghost exercise without any damage to their rackets! DP worked the kids so hard but also made it really enjoyable.
Paul Carter, who was the lead coach on my level 3 course, and I also attended many of his workshops. Cart’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the game is an inspiration to any player or a coach, and his mimicry of a broad Yorkshireman is legendary.
I had seen and made a ball on a string hanging from a stick and the coach would hold it so the kid could keep striking the stationary ball till they developed keeping the ball going. The problem was the coach or assistant were left holding the stick and unable to do much else.
I had it in my head what I wanted to achieve and spent a morning in my garage using different parts to develop the buddy and to be honest the prototype was rubbish but a seed had been planted in the old grey matter.
I kind of left it on the shelf for the next few weeks but then in my spare time I researched parts. Sometimes I ordered a part and it didn’t work but eventually I built what I think is a good solid coaching aid with quality parts.
The name was a bit difficult to come up with. I called it “Squash Swinger” first, to much amusement of my Pontefract mates, so I needed to find another name. And, because it’s so good at teaching technique, I came up with ‘Squash Tech Buddy’.
Squash Mad: How did juniors respond to your Squash Buddy? Did they like it? Were they having fun on court?
Gary: I suppose I developed the buddy with the young kids in mind but soon realised it could be used with the top players to help with their technique and although the kids love it the adults know by repetitively practicing shots like lobs,drives,push drives etc and making any technical adjustments can only enhance their game and for the kids I think the backhand volley is probably the hardest shot to teach but with the buddy I think I have shortened the teaching time considerably.
Squash Mad: Do you use Squash Buddy for technique improvement sesssions? if yes, what particular techniques can be be improved with the use of it?
Gary: Today the squash tech buddy is constructed of a tripod with an arm and two rollers with a ball on a string attached it can be used with 2 kids/players keeping the ball going at the same time. The coach is now free to adjust the players regarding foot placement, shoulder rotation, anything the coach wants to work on technically.
The buddy can also be converted to a tall arm on the same tripod with a small arm. I use the Squash Tech Buddy quite often in a session on technique then its easily taken off court and then the technical aspect of the shot can be brought into the practice and quite recently we have been using the buddy in shot and a ghost routines, which work really well.
Squash Mad: Have you had inquiries regarding Squash Buddy from the international squash community? Any governing body perhaps?
Gary: A couple of weeks ago, in a premier league match, David Campion the ES national coach asked to set up the buddy for a demonstration while he filmed Chris Simpson playing crosscourt lobs. I asked David what he thought and his reply was “Genius.” High praise indeed.
At the moment I have made a few buddies for other coaches at cost and the feedback has been really good, although I am a squash coach and not a businessman so I would like someone to take my idea on board and have one or more in every club for coaches to develop all players in their club.
Squash Mad: Why would you recommend your invention to coaches, players, and governing bodies?
Gary: At Dunnington I currently coach two girls who have achieved Yorkshire County number one ranking, Ruby Batchelor, who is 11 years old, and Poppie Jaram, who is 17, and England Over-45s Masters player Matthew Stephenson. I also coach juniors and senior players within the club. They all love it.
Squash Mad: Thank you for your time, and all the best for the future.
Pictures courtesy of GARY CROSSLAND