Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Gilly Lane: No flights of fancy as a squash pro

Who wouldn't want to spend a night in Charlotte?

Travel the world and all you see is the airline terminal and the inside of a squash court
By GILLY LANE – Squash Mad Columnist

As a professional squash player one of the questions that you most often receive is that it must be so awesome to be able to travel the world and do something that you love!

Most people will answer this question the first 50 times as it is a dream come true. It is the first answer that comes to mind and when you are first starting out on tour it is amazing meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. You are like a brand new child just fresh out of the womb, ready to take it all in.

Displaying image.jpegI was very lucky in that I competed on every continent in the world and was able to use my job to see new places and have experiences that most likely I would have never had in my life.

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it! Well, what you are about to hear is the other side of the argument and why playing professional squash isn’t like playing other sports where we stay at glamorous hotels and arrive in fancy cars like they do at Wimbledon.

1. Players look for the cheapest flight possible, which means terrible travel!

When most players start their careers out they lack funding from their national governing bodies because they are starting from the bottom. At the best case they are receiving four free flights a year.

So, when most players begin, they are looking for the cheapest flights possible in order to save as much money as they can. My first trip to England as a professional I remember I booked my return trip through

Well, what happened was the flight from Charlotte (pictured above) ended up getting cancelled and thus I had to remain in Charlotte for a night all to save $250.

Sleeping on the plane
The New Zealand contingent travelling to the 2012 World Junior Championships in Doha experienced an ‘entertaining’ flight

The other cheapest way to travel is to fly out as early as you can in the morning. When I played league in Europe, the cheapest flights were always from 6am-8am.

Since I didn’t have a car while living in Amsterdam I had to take every form of transportation to get to my destination. You ask why didn’t I just take a cab. Well at the time a flat fare cab by myself was 40 Euros which converted to $60, often a third of my ticket to my destination.

So if I had a 6am flight to England, I would take the night bus at 3:52am which would then take me to the train station which would then take me to the airport.

All this while lugging my heavy racket bag that held everything I would take for four days of traveling since checking one bag cost an arm and a leg already, so checking two bags was out of the question.

2. We don’t get to see as much as we want to!

Throughout my career people marvel at the places that I have been. I tell them that I have played on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Tournaments have taken me to places such as Sweden, Egypt, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Many ask: ‘What has been your favorite place to visit?’ I usually responded with the places that I achieved my best results! The fact is that squash players spend much of their time at the club and in their hotel rooms.

All of our trips our ‘business’ trips and we are there for a purpose. We are there to win! Players need to keep their body in top physical shape and this means as little activity as possible.

Sightseeing takes tons of energy away from you often draining you by the end of the day when you would play a match. A typical schedule for a player would be as follows (if player is playing at 6pm):

  1. Breakfast: 7am-10am (It always depends on when the hotel stops serving free breakfast)

  2. Morning Practice: 10am-11am  

  3. Lunch: 12pm-1pm (Light lunch and a movie watching)

  4. Relaxation time: 1pm-3pm (Want to do as little as possible)

  5. Mid-afternoon meal: 3pm (Bigger meal to get ready for match)

  6. Arrive at courts/warm up: 5pm

  7. Match time: 6pm

As you can see from this rough layout there isn’t much time to do anything else. Taking care of your body and setting your mind right for a match takes time throughout the day so that you can perform your best at night.

So, when people ask about all the sights I must have seen while on my journeys, for the most part I can only respond that I saw a lot of different squash courts and hotel rooms.

More to come in my later columns.

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