Sunday, May 26, 2024

Cassie’s Corner: Building stars of the future

Two junior programs, at opposite ends of the world, share the same goals

Cassie Thomas bylineAs previously reported by Squash Mad, Australia have decided not to send a team to the World Junior Championships in Namibia in August.

As previous winners their presence will be missed. As explained in the article, a new program is being developed to try to give the junior players in all age groups more opportunities to compete on the Australian Junior Tour. Also, to give them more exposure by competing in other countries’ National Junior Opens and arranging junior international Test matches.

Of course it is very disappointing for the players that are missing out but I’m sure it wasn’t a decision taken lightly by the coaches and the Squash Australia Board.

Let’s hope their vision for the future is successful and Australia is back competing at the World Junior Championships very soon.

As someone who grew up and represented England, and now lives in Australia, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the development programs in both countries.

Lets start with Australia. Until you live here it’s hard to grasp how vast the country is. I live in Victoria, which is the smallest mainland state, but is still nearly twice the size of the UK.

To have a National Squad anywhere in Australia you will have some players having to travel 3-4 hours on a plane. It would be like England having a National Squad in Greece and I used to think the four-hour drive from Norfolk to Manchester was long!

This is obviously a big hurdle so all states run their own development programs or underpinning programs as they are called. These are funded by Squash Australia and the States’ own association. These range from squash in schools to the high performance programs for the top players in the state.

I am fortunate to be involved in the program in Victoria where we are lucky that most of the players live in or around Melbourne so we can regularly get them together for training squads and junior events.

This wouldn’t be the case, for example, in Western Australia due to the vast size of the state so they have a different set-up.

So, even though each state runs a different program they are all now working closely with former World Champion Rodney Eyles, who is the National Talent Development Coach in implementing their program the best possible way and getting as many coaches involved in helping the junior program go forward.

So now on to England. Most junior and senior players would have represented their respective county in the inter-county championships.

It has been a great stepping stone for juniors over the years and I have some fond memories representing Norfolk.

The next step is the regional and super regional program. There are eight regions in England, all of whom comprise the counties in that region. The top junior players from these counties are then invited to attend regional squads.

From that you have the under-15, under-17 and under-19 development programs for the top-ranked juniors in the country and then onto the transitional program for juniors now making the step onto the senior circuit.

It is a very good program giving the juniors access not just to the top coaches in the country but also strength and conditioning programs, physiotherapy and so much more.

So, as you can see, these are summaries of each program and not comparisons. I don’t feel you can compare them as there are so many different factors which contribute to each country’s program such as population, size of the territory and one of the main aspects of any program, which is funding.

For me, I hope that both programs produce and continue to produce outstanding juniors that will in the future become the top players in the world.

Top coach Rodney Eyles

Pictures from the Squash Mad archive 

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