WSF president Jacques Fontaine issues Covid-19 update
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad International Correspondent
Squash players across the globe are coming up with all kinds of novel ideas to get their daily “fix” of hitting a ball against a wall. And business carries on for the World Squash Federation with meetings being held via video link as they assess the damage to the tournament calendar caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
WSF president Jacques Fontaine and new CEO William Louis-Marie are working hard to deal with the inevitable postponement of major events and planning for life when the current lockdown is lifted.
In a recent global communique, Fontaine wrote:
Dear Presidents, Dear Secretaries General, Dear friends
I am writing to you during one of the most unbelievable eras in living memory, with more than half of world in ‘lockdown’ and the entire sporting world shut down. My first thoughts are for those who are affected by the Covid-19, hence I am sending my best wishes to our entire squash community.
While the world’s leaders come to terms with the shocking effects of this virus, we have had to make difficult decisions with the cancellation of our World Junior Championships in Australia in July and our friends from PSA with the complete suspension of the PSA World Tour until July 2020.
The result of worldwide government instructions to ‘self-isolate’ in order to curb the spread of the virus is that we are having to survive without access to our squash courts – and whilst this has put unprecedented strain on players, it has produced a plethora of ingenious ways of enjoying our sport while keeping safe!
During this time, it is vital to follow the measures of the WHO and our local health authorities.
Indeed, our recent launch of the #StaySafeWithSquash campaign has had widespread response on social media, demonstrating the vitality of our sport and its players and the need to stay positive and healthy.
Many of us are getting used to ‘working from home’ as we keep our federations active, though we know many NFs have had to close their offices and cannot operate at all.
While suffering these severe restrictions, we need to prepare ourselves for the post outbreak period and assess the consequences for our sport. To this purpose, the WSF will do its utmost to ensure that any WSF events cancelled during the period will find an appropriate place once this worldwide “lockdown” is over.
Be assured that the WSF will continue to serve its members in the best way it can in the coming days and weeks and bring the support our community needs.
I urge you to remain positive – remembering the good times in the past and looking forward to even better times for our flourishing sport in the future.
Do not hesitate to share with me your current issues and I would like to sincerely thank you for your continuous commitment during this dire period.
Jacques Fontaine, World Squash Federation President
The WSF followed up with a first management meeting held via video link and issued the following statement:
The World Squash Federation Board recently met via video conference and took essential decisions concerning the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 WSF sporting calendar.
After approval of the request of Squash Australia to cancel the 2020 World Juniors Championship scheduled in July 2020, the WSF Board will continue to monitor the worldwide evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluate the options for organising our annual Juniors event in 2020 at a later date.
The Board outlined that the health and the welfare of the WSF athletes remain the first priority, hence the relevant Commissions will be consulted to determine the best-case scenarios in accordance with our regulations. In addition, the support of the National Federation Members might be required to find a new date ensuring the registration of our best juniors to one of our pinnacle events of the year.
The WSF Board has also decided to postpone the WSF 2020 Masters in Poland and has expressed its grateful thanks to the Polish National Federation and Hasta La Vista Club for their understanding and proposal to organise the 2020 Masters in 2021.
Further information with regards to age eligibility will be communicated after consultation by the Commissions concerned.
Squash Mad Editor Alan Thatcher writes: So many squash players all over the world are finding creative solutions to deal with the obviously painful separation from the game they love.
From following the trick shot routines and fitness workouts aired on social media by so many professionals, players are desperate to have access to the most basic of requirements: an available wall to hit the ball against.
Plenty of families are adding court markings to their back walls and clearing out their garages to make space for a hit.
Some are taking their enthusiasm for the game to even greater heights by moving out their furniture to create temporary courts in their lounges and dining rooms!
Others are clearly going the extra mile.
Ian Bloomfield, a member of the East Gloucestershire Club in Cheltenham, built a miniature wooden court in his back garden (pictured) for talented sons Jack and Harry, who play for Millfield.
Wimbledon Rackets chairman John Cross realised his back garden was pretty much the same size as a squash court and marked out his lawn with white lines so that he could do a bit of ghosting during the lockdown!
Former squash star Sue Wright and hubby Neil built a very nicely sprung floor in their Oxfordshire back garden for their super talented son Ethan to continue his badminton training during the lockdown.
Clips on social media show Ethan moving around the court and there was clearly some high-quality feeding going on. Further investigation revealed it was Sue doing the feeding.
Ethan chose badminton over squash as a youngster and is the current English junior No.1 and world junior No.8. Sue coaches him full-time.
Ethan, who won the English under-19 title at the age of 16, says her experiences and success as a top international professional squash player have helped him on all aspects of the game and are an inspiration to him on a daily basis.
Down in Australia, development officer Rod Bannister is out and about finding available walls to hit against in his Facebook series on ”street squash”.
When I first moved to Kent half a lifetime ago, I remember looking at an advert for a house in a rural location which included a squash court and a swimming pool in the grounds.
While I was very attracted to the proposition, the absence of central heating and various other basic facilities meant that, although the house was available at a knockdown price, I lost the vote, even though it was one for and one against. There was no such thing as a tiebreak in domestic decision-making back then.
I wasn’t even allowed to go and visit the property as at that time my wife was expecting our second child and the desired residence required a simple move, straight in with minimum fuss or redecorating.
To be fair, installing a central heating system in the middle of winter with zero DIY skills was not top of my list of priorities at that particular time, either.
Interestingly, the current residents of the house approached me a few years to pop over and coach their son.
It is now a beautiful home, down a country lane and surrounded by fields. Clearly, a lot of money (far beyond my budget) has been spent on making it a very desirable residence.
In hindsight, I wonder how life would have changed had “we” made a different decision all those years ago.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please let us know of any temporary courts you are creating at home, or any other fun projects that may interest our readers. Drop us a message on Twitter @SquashMadDotCom
Pictures courtesy of WSF and social media