‘This is a real opportunity to relight the fire for squash’ says England’s gold medal hope
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Squash is on track to welcome a new generation of players after setting up two glass courts to promote the sport inside Birmingham’s New Street Station.
Passers-by and groups from clubs and schools are enjoying a hit on a full-sized court and a mini court set up close by.
England women’s No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry, who will be going for gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this year, hopes this initiative can inspire a new generation of players to take up the sport, especially across The Midlands.
Perry, from nearby Kenilworth, said: “The glass court at New Street is colourful, it’s vibrant and it looks sharp as well.
“It looks intriguing and people are going to be drawn into what’s going on. The modern day glass courts look really slick and this one looks fantastic in the middle of this really modern station.
“It’s going to surprise some people who maybe knew squash in the old days, before the modernisation of the courts. I also think it’s going to appeal to a new, younger generation who haven’t necessarily seen squash before.”
The courts will be in place at the station until April 11 and will host activities with a goal of spreading the word about squash and whetting the appetite for this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
It is part of a wide range of initiatives and activities to create a Games legacy aimed at increasing participation across The Midlands.
“This is a real opportunity to relight the fire for people who stopped playing squash for whatever reason but might get back into it, and to introduce it to as many young people as we can and get as many of them on the squash train,” said Perry. “That would be the best legacy for Birmingham 2022.”
Perry was a silver medallist in singles in 2018 at the last Commonwealth Games and will be among a strong group of squash medal contenders from the home nations.
She added: “Because squash isn’t in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games really is the pinnacle for any English squash player but to have it in the city where I live, down the road, is incredible.
“I was born in the city, I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve got loads of friends and family who have got tickets to come and watch. I’m absolutely determined to just go out there and enjoy every moment of that.
“My sights will be set on a gold medal but there are plenty of good players. Having a home Games is so lucky anyway but then to have it in your home town – you can’t comprehend how perfect that is. I’m really, really looking forward to it.”
The New Street project follows last week’s opening of an outdoor fun court at the King Solomon International Business School in Birmingham, where Perry got on court with dozens of pupils enjoying their first taste of the sport.
The squash programme at the Birmimgham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from July 29 to August 8 at the University of Birmingham, with medals on offer in singles and doubles for men and women as well as for mixed doubles. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will also be broadcast live on BBC TV and radio.
The New Street court is the latest in a series of initiatives by Squash United, the collaborative group leading the squash legacy programme which is an official project of United by Birmingham 2022, the community programme for the Commonwealth Games.
Spearheaded by England Squash, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Foundation, Rackets Cubed and the World Squash Federation, Squash United’s aim is to take squash to new audiences and make the sport more accessible than ever. The project is supported by commercial partners Aston & Fincher and Gowling WLG as well as Office Principles.
Squash United’s Ming Lee said: “This is all about connecting with new communities and being visible, accessible and relevant to young people, which is vital to growing the game.
“Putting a glass squash court in New Street is definitely a statement. We want the people of Birmingham to discover squash and fall in love with the game.
“Many thanks to Network Rail, Gowling WLG and Aston and Fincher for supporting us to engage with and inspire the people of Birmingham.”
Pictures courtesy of England Squash