Friday, December 8, 2023

Lockdown in Scotland: “But how can we keep calm and carry on?”

All quiet on the northern front as Inverness Tennis and Squash Club learns to cope with a lengthy lockdown

Clubbing together to keep things positive as clubs look at life after lockdown
By MICHAEL GREGSON – Squash Mad Scotland Correspondent

Deep in Lockdown from March 21st, Scotland’s squash clubs have been doing their best to keep members engaged and involved.

At clubs like Inverness, Forthill and Strathgryffe, a lively social media presence and regular Newsletters are complemented by a range of online activity using Zoom, Facebook and other platforms: Quizzes, Lotteries, Art, Music, Baking, Home-made videos, Personal Trainers posting exercise videos.

So, even while courts are empty, and equipment is “sitting in cupboards gathering dust” to quote Alan Marshall of Strathgryffe, club staff, coaches and committee members are striving to maintain a semblance of club life.

And the National Governing Body has been proactive, too: As Scottish Squash’s Allan McKay says: “We’ve been doing our best to support the squash community. We’ve developed a Clubs Forum aimed at connecting club staff and committee members to share best practice during the Lockdown; and have delivered a series of Support Webinars – for instance, one on Finance Support to assist self-employed coaches and athletes.”

There’s more: Scottish #1 Greg Lobban’s Lockdown Training session went out live on Facebook, and was a great success. There have been podcasts, too, with National Coach Paul Bell and Kevin Moran. There’s definitely lots going on to keep things positive.

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And we’re all thinking, hoping, things may return to normal sometime. So while we’re all looking at how things go in countries like Switzerland, France and New Zealand, and scanning SquashMad for insights and future scenarios, a consensus across the international squash community is emerging. Hygiene and social distancing measures will be at the top of the agenda. In clubs, it is likely that solo play, or family groups only, will be the order of the day for a while.

It’s important to recognise that most squash in Scotland takes place in pretty small private clubs, which are particularly vulnerable at times like the present. Clubs are dependent on membership fees, bar takings, regular events and year-round court bookings. For many clubs, of course, that usual income has all but dried up.

Ailsa Polworth, Club Manager at Inverness, has been delighted that some have renewed their annual membership in a single payment, rather than through monthly direct debits. “Without this we would have been in a far worse position already.” This is the reality. “There are still outgoings,” as Willie Irvine of Forthill emphasises.

The practicalities of a ‘new normal’ may be a major challenge. Social distancing could be a big ask, given that many squash clubs are architecturally eccentric, with narrow staircases and corridors, cramped changing rooms, and showers tucked into nooks and crannies. And some fear the proposals to manage squash play, make it safe, may simply not work.

Dave Ireson of Aberdeen Squash Rackets Club: “There is no way that we could reopen and use “sides” as a means of social distancing for the sport – it is just not pragmatic to implement or to police for most small facilities. Or even expect our members to pay £XX per year to have their sport limited to a game of sides – it’s just not going to happen.”

And Willie Irvine reinforces this concern: “The worry is if restrictions are still in place come membership renewals in September, we will see a larger financial impact on our resources.”

Greg Lobban’s Lockdown Training session can be viewed here:

And the whole package of Scottish Squash help can be found in their ‘Lockdown Toolkit’:

Greg Lobban finished the season on a high with a magnificent win over Karim Abdel Gawad at the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, the final men’s tournament before the global shutdown of the PSA World Tour


Pictures courtesy of ALASTAIR KIRKLAND and PSA


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1 Comment

  1. I have a team of 9 programmers who are dedicated to helping clubs through this. Especially for smaller clubs, we are providing a free platform that might just help clubs lower their costs while opening doors to friends and family (groups that make up a core living arrangement.

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