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Friday, June 18, 2021

Interview: Jay Nash, the man who makes the Nash a smash success

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Meet the man behind London’s Inter-Nash-ional tournament
Interview by MICK JOINT – Squash Mad Guest Columnist

Jay Nash greets the 2014 finalists, Jens Schoor (right) and Eddie Charlton
Jay Nash greets the 2014 finalists, Jens Schoor (right) and Eddie Charlton

That’s London, Ontario. Just over two hours west of Toronto. A bustling student town surrounded by miles of endless corn fields, a town – like many other university homes (Western University) – full of bars, eclectic stores, and poutine take-away joints.

It is also home to the London Squash Racquet Club, tucked away just off a main road, a key club with four singles courts, one doubles court and a small fitness room. And a bar, of course.

The annual professional squash tournament hosted by this club – The Nash Cup – is one of the most enjoyable ones that I have been involved with.

I make the easy two-hour drive from Detroit to play the amateur category, spend time with the many friends I have made over the years, and thoroughly relish the opportunity to watch the pros as well.

The event has established itself on the PSA calendar (and now the WSA calendar as well), and the man relentlessly driving it year after year deserves recognition.

 

11 Points with Jay Nash

1. How did you get introduced to squash? Was it love at first hit?

Like so many others in the sport, I first hit a squash ball within weeks of starting university at Western in London Ontario (1993). I lived on campus and the athletic facility was right across the street. Due to construction, the fence by the road was down. This meant my opponent and I could run the 300 feet to the entrance in our shorts and t-shirts (even in the depth of winter). I lost a LOT of games and ran into far too many walls…but once I started playing it was impossible to stop.

 

Jay Nash and the 2014 WSA finalists
Jay Nash and the 2014 WSA finalists, Kanzy El-Defrawy (right) and runner-up Hollie Naughton from Canada

2. What racquet do you play with and how would you describe your own game? What is the one tip your squash pro has to keep telling you every time you take a lesson?

I started playing with a Technifibre Carboflex 3 years ago and it has become my racquet of choice. I rely on strength in my shot selections, and have found that the lighter racquet is allowing me to get a bit more pace on the ball. I’m a competitive club level player.

Despite being right-handed I favour the left wall due to years of playing doubles (left wall). Every pro who I have worked with has called my game “unorthodox”. To improve my focus needs to be on the front drop shot. I consistently use too much arm movement, and this leads to inconsistent results.

3. Who is your all-time favorite player? Have you met him / her?

Prior to hosting professional tournaments, London Squash had a long history of bringing in top players for exhibition matches. In the 1990’s I had the pleasure of watching Jonathon Power (world #1 1999-2006) on the singles court and Gary Waite (North American Champ 1997-2006) on the doubles. Since then I have had the pleasure of getting on the court with both. These are true gentlemen, and ambassadors of our sport.

 

4. Your passion towards the game is seemingly endless. Do you get more pleasure in playing the game yourself or getting to see your event come together and watch the pros?

There is a certain freedom one achieves on the squash court that is difficult to find in other areas of life. Your opponent is a factor, but in the end the decision of how to hit each shot is your own. Runners experience a “runners high” after going a few miles…the same can happen in squash. You hit a point where the body is acting faster than the mind and everything is working. I step into each game hoping to achieve that feeling.

I really enjoy watching the pros. Their skill is incredible, and knowing that our event has an impact on their careers is tremendous. The NASH Cup is a team effort, and the sense of pride and accomplishment is shared by all the members of London Squash and Fitness. I definitely get a rush from seeing it fall into place, and it’s a rare opportunity to get in front of a crowd…but it doesn’t touch a great squash game.

London Squash Club, home of the Nash Cup
London Squash Club, home of the Nash Cup

5. The London Squash members are some of the most endearing people I have come across. I presume it makes organizing the Nash Cup a lot easier. The support from outside your own club is also important, how has the rest of the London squash community reacted to the tournament?

This event wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous support of the London Squash membership. When we started the event in 2008 I told the board and committee that future events would depend on there being demand and support. What has come forward from within London Squash, and the region’s squash community, has been better than I ever could have hoped. Each year demand grows and seating is sold out earlier. Our amateur event is the largest in the region, and many of our sponsors have remained committed to the event since inception.

 

Jay with 2013 champion Joe Lee
Jay with 2013 champion Joe Lee

6. The men’s event has grown into a $15,000 purse, the WSA is $5,000. Are there plans in the future to increase this?

The NASH Cup committee has a simple mandate from the members of London Squash….”don’t lose money”. We have successfully raised the purse by adding sponsors each year and hope to continue this in the years to come. Our facility is not the largest and crowds are limited to about 120 people.

For this reason we designed and launched a live online scoring platform in 2013, and expanded that to live streaming in 2014. Next year both courts will be streamed live and…if all goes well…the WSA purse will be raised to $10,000. We had over 4,000 viewers in 2014 from 52 countries. Only 46% were in Canada.

It’s worth noting that professional purses are paid in US Dollars. The recent strength of the greenback against global currencies (including the Loonie) adds cost to the event.

7. The professional perpetual trophy is cleverly done. Where did the idea of embedding the winner’s country flag on the plaque behind their name come from?

We wanted to build a foundation that one could look back on and be proud of. From the first year this meant establishing a trophy that could properly illustrate the history. Plaques on a trophy are difficult to read from a distance. The use of flags just seemed like a great way to give the history greater visual meaning.

What I couldn’t have guessed when we started was that we would have seven different countries represented in the first seven years – eight if you include the WSA champions. It’s given the trophy a fantastic look. The downside is that I keep choosing my “favourite” in the finals based on the country they come from.

CHEERS: Julian Illingworth celebrates his 2012 success
CHEERS: Julian Illingworth celebrates his 2012 Nash Cup success

8. Do you travel to any other major squash / sports events?

In August I attended the professional tournament at the National Squash Academy (NSA) in Toronto. Up until then I had never been to another pro event. When the NASH Cup committee started meeting in 2007 it was agreed that we would start the tournament with a clean slate – “If you were a professional squash player arriving in London Ontario what would you want?” It all built from there.

With my own game I first ventured outside of London competitively in 2013 to play in the National Doubles Championships in Toronto. This past Spring I had the pleasure of competition with the Canadian squad at the Lapham Grant matches in Philadelphia (they will be hosted at London Squash in 2014). In 2015 I’m hoping to make the trip to the legendary Detroit Athletic Club tournament in February. It seems I’m becoming more competitive in squash as I get older.

JayNashCup9. On a broader scale, we all believe squash should by in the Olympics. Why do you think it isn’t (yet) and what does squash need to do to get there?

Television….it’s that simple. To get into the Olympics our sport needs a larger audience. To get that, someone needs to find a way to televise squash in a way that is easy for non-players to watch.

10. It needs to be asked. How did you get so good at Beer Pong? As 2014 Nash Cup Beer Pong champion – along with fellow member Gary Sullivan -, you know you have to defend next year. Where do you think your stiffest competition will come from?

I’ve been out of beer-pong training for many years, but I have five younger brothers and cannot claim to be inexperienced. This was the first year I actually stayed and played following the PSA finals. Winning was a shock. I think at least half the teams in the field could have taken us down. Defending our title will be very difficult in 2015….but I look forward to the challenge.

11. Other than squash, how do you like to spend your time?

My waking hours can be split into three parts. Family – Work – Sports. With four daughters under the age of nine, life is busy, but balanced, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thankfully, all my girls are learning squash which gives me added opportunities to get out and play.

Team effort: Jay and all the prizewinners

12. It’s 11-10. We’re playing a tie-break. Extra points (question)… Complete these sentences…

The author, Mick Joint
The author, Mick Joint

a. The worst Christmas gift I ever received was… A care bear. All I wanted was the transformer Optimist Prime…but it had been sold out for months. My parents thought giving all their kids a different care bear was cute….I was 10 and NOT impressed
b. The one food I absolutely cannot resist is… Pizza. As a kid we ate fast or didn’t get more than 2 slices. As a result I have a tough time not overeating when pizza is served.
c. The best advice I ever received was… Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
d. The one song I always sing along with is… Spirit of the West – Home for a Rest
e. The one movie that makes me cry is…Rudy

A huge thank you to Jay for taking the time to answer all these questions for us. If you are a pro player reading this, you should seriously consider playing in the Nash Cup – you won’t be disappointed. It’s scheduled for the end of September 2015.

And if you aren’t a pro player, if you are anywhere near London, seriously consider playing the amateur event. You won’t be disappointed either.

Pictures courtesy of www.nashcup.com 

 

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