Smack and whack, it’s good to be back!
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Squash players in the UK returned to the courts at the weekend as the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
After months of home-made courts in the back garden, online fitness routines, trick shots with toilet rolls, and coronavirus fatigue giving way to some of us overdosing on lockdown lager, everyone agreed it was good to be back. Even if you were only allowed to play “sides”.
Clubs had been well drilled in the process of carrying out risk assessments, setting up hygiene protocols, limiting members to conditioned games (unless they were in a family or similar bubble), safe distancing and a ban on visiting the showers or the bar.
However, the overall reaction was simple and unanimous: It’s good to be back.
Paul Main enjoyed putting his new hip to the test at Berkhamsted Squash Club after climbing a mountain in Scotland two days earlier!
He said: “What a contrast in backdrop in 48 hours! On Friday, I was on top of Stob Ghabhar looking across to Ben Nevis, then 48 hours later my girls and I were back on court in Berkhamsted. A joyous experience in both instances.
“The squash in particular was a relief given that I had a hip op just before lockdown. I am lucky that I can play with my two girls, Natalie and Lily, so full squash was permitted and whilst initially it was all pretty ugly, they got back into the swing of things quite quickly. I, meanwhile, am going to need a few more sessions…..
Exeter Golf and Country Club coach Mike Harris wrote: “We started our Back to Squash program from today (Monday) mainly to make sure that we were fully happy with the distancing set up we had in place.“Starting on a weekday had meant that I can be in place as an overseer of the courts for the next five days, which should help ease people into the new system and be on hand for any queries regarding the recommended games and routines.
“We’ve had good support from some members who have also volunteered to marshall the courts on the weekend, allowing us to open up safely for some hours then too.
“So far it’s been all been received positively from those who have come in to play. We have had a mixture of bookings, from 14-year-old county standard boys in doing solo and fitness work, to two Over-70 year old Racketball players trying out the new England Squash recommended games!
“To be honest, looking at the bookings for the rest of the week, it seems that things will pick up quite quickly over the next few days, which is fantastic.
“I’ve already started up coaching again and the clients I have had have all adhered to the relevant guidelines without any issue. It’s a relief to be able to get back to it having not coached since March, although it’s funny seeing how much some of our junior players have grown in the last few months!
“Fingers crossed we can all stay patient and positive, and support the requirements as well as possible. Down the line, we will hopefully be able to open up “Playing Bubbles” and the like for more full court action! With all this going on I was too busy to take any pictures!”
Jago Nardelli was delighted to be back coaching at Radlett Stormont and the David Lloyd Club at Hatfield. He said: “I was lucky enough to coach on Saturday and it felt like being a child again!
“The feel of the racket and sound of the ball made me remember how much I love squash and how important this game is to me and millions around the world.
Squash Mad reporter James Roberts enjoyed a rusty return to action as he took to the courts at Market Harborough with his friend Earl Harrison.
James wrote: “At last! A rainy but welcome return to the squash courts this evening at Market Harborough Squash & Racketball Club. It might have been different with lots of new rules, guidelines and a socially distant method of play called ‘sides’, but it was just great to step back on court and whack that ball about.
“Timing was a bit off to start with and sides does take a bit of getting used to but we gradually got into our stride and enjoyed a good hit. An honourable draw was the result.
“Hats off to everyone on the club Committee who have done a fantastic job putting together all the procedures and adaptations to the club. Gives you confidence things are as safe as they can be.”
A loud Yorkshire shout-out from me and Lexie to the committee, volunteers and coaches at Beverley Squash Club! The work they have put in to preparing the club for reopening this week has been exemplary. We play tennis at the same venue and have seen first-hand how much effort has been put in to keeping things ticking over for the squash, tennis and cricket based there, the flower beds are beautiful! Obviously it has been so frustrating for the squash crew with the other sports already in full swing but the work has been worth it. We have a video explaining procedures from car park to court and back again and all possible sanitiser and cleaning requirements are provided. They’ve even made sure the wipes are bio-degradable. A big thank you to all squash volunteers up and down the land, it was fantastic to be back on court – Lexie’s longest absence in 10 years but she soon looked like the Squash Kid I know and love. Me? Less so!
It is fantastic to be back playing squash! You only realise how much you love something when its taken away and this is how I felt when I stepped back on court after lockdown! It was not only the sound of the ball thumping against the wall that I missed but the whole environment. Seeing my fellow squashies, the amazing workout that you get in just 20 minutes of playing! To be fair my timing and movement was off but the hitting was still strong and my passion for the sport is even stronger! Long may this return to squash continue as it has unbelievable benefits for mental health especially in these difficult times. Squash has been my saviour through this pandemic for sure! I just hope that more people join the sport and that it continues growing