Sunday, May 26, 2024

Lichfield’s resurgence offers hope to ailing grassroots squash clubs

Lichfield Squash Club in Staffordshire, based at King Edward VI High School’s two glass back courts, is celebrating a remarkable resurgence following the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Once on the brink of winding up, the club has defied the odds, experiencing remarkable growth and success over recent months.

In the immediate wake of the pandemic, Lichfield Squash Club membership numbers had dwindled and the very existence of the club was called into question. However, the dedication and determination of our members, along with a variety of strategic initiatives, have led to a remarkable turnaround, of which everyone at the club can be justly proud.

Membership at Lichfield has witnessed an astonishing surge, skyrocketing from a mere 20 members to a figure now exceeding 60. What’s more, the club is proud to have achieved a new-found diversity among our ranks by beginning to attract younger players and more women, thereby creating a more dynamic and inclusive community.

The membership surge has been achieved mainly through hosting open day or evening style events and marketing these through the best available local channels: posters in strategic locations and sharing information in local digital networks such as community Facebook groups, which are packed with potential new members.

We always try to use engaging copy that extols the benefits of squash as a fun, easy to pick up activity that is also great for fitness, as well of course as the social angle of belonging to a club.

In addition, we have boosted awareness of the club by revamping our digital presence, in particular through a new website, which contains all the information that a prospective member could need. This has resulted in a number of new members ‘self-serving’ and signing up immediately.

This, alongside our regular newsletters and active social media channels, where we are constantly posting about club news, has allowed us to better connect with our audience, both internally and externally. The local media has also provided invaluable support and coverage to raise awareness of the club and the sport. At least half of our new membership has come via digital awareness.

Court usage has more than doubled. We’ve successfully implemented the easy-to-use and efficient MyCourts online booking and club administration system, ensuring members have convenient access to the courts, while keeping court fees as affordable as possible.

The surge in membership has made the club box leagues more vibrant and exciting than ever before. Players now enjoy a more thriving competitive environment, fostering greater camaraderie and engagement amongst members.

The success of the club has been exemplified by the achievements of our team. The expanded member base has allowed for broader participation, resulting in the club finishing an impressive second place in the Staffordshire Teams League during the 2022/23 winter season. We hope to build on this success for the forthcoming summer and winter league seasons.

Beyond the court, we have developed a flourishing social scene, bringing members together through various events and regular club nights, catering to players of all skill levels.

Looking ahead, we are excited to announce our forthcoming coaching programmes, made possible by a generous grant from the B2022 Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, courtesy of Sport England.

These programmes, catering to all ages and skill levels, will not only benefit the club’s members but will also extend outreach to the local community. The coaching programmes are set to commence in June and are expected to further solidify our position as a hub for squash in the local area.

With a renewed sense of purpose, we at Lichfield Squash Club have set ambitious goals for the future. Our immediate aim is to surpass 100 members, attracting an even more diverse demographic, with a particular focus on young people and more female participants.

Additionally, we are seeking to develop ever more enhanced playing opportunities, including regularising our coaching programmes and further enhancing our leagues, events and teams. Through our partnership with King Edward VI School, the club is committed to promoting further investments in the courts and facilities, ensuring an improved playing experience for all members.

Our objective is not only to flourish as a local sports club but also to play our part in the revival and growth of squash as a sport, particularly building on the legacy provided by the amazing squash showcase of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

By actively engaging the local community, we aim to inspire a new generation of squash enthusiasts and establish ourselves as a beacon of squash in the West Midlands.


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