Robert Eberhard: How our new lifestyles can help squash grow in 2021
By ROBERT EBERHARD – Squash Mad Correspondent
Changes to our lifestyles, brought about the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, will present opportunities for growth in squash. But only if the game’s leaders are smart enough to understand the signs, react to the trends, and grab squash by the neck and drag it kicking and screaming in a new direction.
Covid has changed our lives. Some in very personal ways, with the death of a loved one. For others, it will have an indirect effect.
Many learned individuals much smarter than myself believe that these changes in society would have happened anyway. Covid has taken a 10-year timeline and condensed it down to about two years. New start-ups are sprouting up all over, taking advantage of these changes in society.
Previously, many people, including my father, would have avoided technology and mobile reservations at all costs. Now that everything needs to be reserved, it has forced a societal change in how we conduct our daily lives. This societal change has provided an opportunity to generate critical mass adoption for ideas that make life a little easier for everyone.
Covid will dramatically affect the squash community, but it may not have the anticipated effect that many of us are anticipating. I am optimistic. I see squash coming back with more vitality than ever before and more robust than it ever was in the early 1980s, with a massive caveat.
This vision will not come to fruition without a significant amount of hard work and a change in how we communicate.
We will need to bring ourselves to unite as an industry and leave the politics behind. We can’t just be independent clubs reinventing the wheel over and over again. We need to come together as a single voice. We need to share our successes and failures to learn from them and grow as a community.
Squash Mad is an independent platform designed to share ideas to help the game grow, so I look forward to seeing plenty of readers’ responses below the article. This is a platform where we can listen to each other, and learn from each other, so please feel free to share your ideas.
The following are some of my predictions for our post-covid squash community. I have broken them down into seven forecasts for players and clubs.
The Change in Player Patterns
1: People have the latitude to work where they want. Remote work may increase the popularity of some suburban and rural clubs at the expense of downtown (city centre) clubs. This trend is a reversal of what has been happening over the past several decades.
2: People will increasingly place a higher priority on health and well being. This reprioritisation is an opportunity for squash.
3: There will be a more significant number of people that will suffer from burn-out. This concept may be counter intuitive, but people tend to pressure themselves to succeed when they are intrinsically motivated.
4: Being intrinsically motivated is a direct result of the trust associated with the permission to work independently from home. Squash can play a crucial role in breaking up a personal day and providing physical and psychological relief.
5: There will be an increase in retreats and long working vacations. As a result, networking and communicating in a new and creative way will play an important role when arranging games with players from different clubs. There will be a hobby renaissance and an openness to take up a new activity.
6: Remote work will increase our propensity to communicate through writing instead of talking. This cultural shift will further increase the complexity and social importance of text and social media.
7: We will rely more heavily on crowdsourcing reviews and on friends’ testimonials for the products and services we purchase within the squash community.
The changing demands on a club
1: As players, our time will become more flexible, providing clubs with an opportunity to fill non-prime-time slots more easily.
2: Demand for variety will increase, making multi-purpose courts a desirable addition, including movable walls for multi-purpose spaces.
3: AR / VR gaming environments will become a critical attraction for bringing in new and younger players. Multi-Ball and Interactive Squash is just one example. More will be coming.
4: Many clubs will outgrow their current facilities and will need to assess how to grow effectively without looking ad-hoc.
5: Clubs that utilise technology, to maximise their revenue and minimise their operational costs, will be the big winners.
6: Clubs that embrace social networks will be better adept at creating a stronger sense of community. They will also bridge the gap better, bringing online social to in-person social, while more intuitively understanding their clients’ needs.
7: Sharing is about to overtake search (Zuckerberg’s Law), and as a result, communication through social networking will enhance a club’s ability to market itself to the surrounding community.
These predictions were first made public on Gerry Gibson’s “The In Squash Podcast” Episode 179 featuring Robert Eberhard.
READERS’ COMMENTS: Readers are invited to share their thoughts below.