VERBATIM – Alan Thatcher on EgyptPublished by: SquashZAG on 21st May 2010
Everybody wants to know the Egyptians’ secret. The answer is simple: numbers, with lots of great coaches and loads of kids filling the courts after school every day.
They seem to have a system that allows talented children to rise rapidly through the ranks and not be trapped in the uniformity of the European age-group systems.
The Egyptians have dazzling hotbeds of squash in Cairo and Alexandria and they are clearly able to concentrate most of their competition in those two cities. In England, our juniors (and their parents) are subjected to a relentless slog around the country to collect random ranking points, with parents often choosing to select that route before their children have mastered the basic disciplines required in shot-making, movement and tactics.
That system, by design, will always discriminate against the juniors who choose not to enter so many tournaments but are more gifted than those who do.
A lot of our kids spend more time on the motorway than they do on court, and it’s wearing them out. Some of the time it’s not just travelling to tournaments, it’s the process of finding another junior player to train with or play against because they might be the only boy or girl in their club of county standard.
Clearly, we need more work at grass-roots level to produce a dramatic rise in junior participation levels. We need more British hotbeds like Pontefract, where juniors are inspired by the presence of players like James Willstrop and work hard to emulate his achievements.