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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Let’s hear it for Stan

Alan Thatcher
Alan Thatcherhttps://squashmad.com
Founder of World Squash Day, Squash Mad, the Kent Open and co-promoter of the Canary Wharf Classic. Launched the Squash 200 Partnership to build clubs of the future. Talks a bit.

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Stan is presented with his special birthday shirt from Youssef Abdalla
Stan is presented with his special birthday shirt by Youssef Abdalla

For every Nick Matthew, we need 10,000 players like Stan


Let me tell you a story about my little mate Stan. Actually he’s not quite so little. He’s a big lad who plays for the juniors at another club in our town.

He joined in the free coaching sessions we are laying on for local school children all this week during the Select Gaming Kent Open at the Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, a PSA world-ranking tournament that brings so many talented players to the county town.

Yesterday was Stan’s birthday, so one of the dads arranged for a Kent Open shirt to be printed up with Stan’s name on the name on the back. 

Super Stan beats Youssef
Super Stan beats Youssef

A lot of the professionals happily signed it, and we presented it to Stan after he had gone on court for a fun game with Youssef Abdalla (right).

It turned out to be a real birthday treat. As Youssef was playing local hero James Evans in the evening, he was roundly booed every time he touched the ball. Stan won the game 14-12 in a dramatic tiebreak.

Everyone cheered as Stan was presented with his shirt and happily shared a big chocolate birthday cake afterwards.

Stan may never become a world number one, but he is just as valuable to the game as the high achievers in the county squads.

When I try to imagine Stan’s development pathway, I have a picture in my mind of Stan playing for the men’s third team in a few years’ time, having a lot of fun doing so (just like he did yesterday), and propping up the bar afterwards, sharing stories of wins and tins, mis-hits and master-strokes.

Looking after great guys like Stan is just as important as investing all the time, money and energy into producing elite players.

For every Nick Matthew, we need 10,000 players like Stan to keep the game alive. 

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  1. To me, this article seems poorly thought-out.

    For one thing, there already are 10,000 “Stans” for every top-level pro. It’s just that most squash web sites focus principally on PSA squash and to a lesser extent on other elite players, not on the activities of enthusiastic amateurs.

    Secondly, the article highlights booing an opponent. Admittedly it was in jest during an exhibition match, but to me it’s a bad habit.

    Lastly, I was dismayed that the author looked at a young boy and envisioned in his future “playing for the men’s third team…and propping up the bar afterwards.” Instead of seeing potential in this child, the author – publicly, mind you – sees only mediocrity and drink. I can’t imagine that making the kid feel good about himself or planting the seed of motivation to try really hard.

  2. Good article.

    Andilar, you’re missing the point, big style. Squash, like most sports, is an aspirational game – we all want to be as good as we can. However, unlike most sports, squash is a game for life, and a very sociable game. Those middle-ranking players, who try their hardest, savour the wins and resent the losses, are the soul of our game. They’re the ones who keep clubs up and down the country running, who ensure the 3rd team still exists for the elite youngsters to develop and who are there to talk about the game they love and draw in others. They are also be the ones who reluctantly move to racketball when their knees give up, because they can’t face giving up. And, yes, they typically like a pint or two. There aren’t many other games which attract the same fervour …

  3. It’s not so much that I am “missing the point, big style”, Marc, as taking a critical look at this article rather than a purely superficial one.

    The nominal point the author was making was that ordinary squash players are vital to the health of the game. I don’t consider this all that noteworthy. The social side of squash that seems to have inspired the article has been routine everywhere I’ve played.

    What I really object to is the author’s pigeon-holing of this boy. The entire first paragraph is devoted to pointing out that the boy is husky. Then the author’s imagined “development path” is to mediocrity and social drinking. The basic message is that the chubby kid won’t amount to much. It doesn’t matter that it’s couched in cute and jokey terms. It’s still profoundly negative, and unwarranted.

    The author’s penultimate comment is that “Looking after great guys like Stan is just as important as investing all the time, money and energy into producing elite players.” Look after him then, maybe with a published apology.

  4. I take your point Andilar, but I still think you’re being too critical. I don’t know Stan, but there are kids I’ve known where it is obvious that they won’t make regional level or higher, but that with perseverance, encouragement and good coaching they’ll develop into solid team players. So no writing off, in fact the opposite, but with a dose of realism. That’s counter to a lot of american sport, for example, where you’re pushed very hard as a kid, some make it, but many more fall by the way side and drop out of the sport completely.

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