EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW by MIKE DALE
Donna Lobban says this month’s Australian Open could be her last PSA World Tour event after she began a new role as head squash coach at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
The 35-year-old will be developing a revamped Squash Scholarship Programme based at Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre situated on the university campus in Edinburgh.
The Aussie and her husband Greg Lobban, the world no.31, have relocated to the Scottish capital from Sheffield and Donna is already four weeks into the job, which is her first coaching role.
Her squash scholars share the facilities at Oriam with the Scottish Squash programme led by national coach Paul Bell, as well as Scotland’s national rugby and football squads.
In addition to Lobban’s group and individual court sessions, students will have access to top-class strength and conditioning coaches, physiotherapy, psychology, gym, hydrotherapy and athlete learning support.
“It’s so exciting and something completely new for me,” the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal winner told Squash Mad. “I don’t know yet whether I’ll continue to play squash alongside it or whether it will be too difficult.
“I guess it’s me transitioning away from playing professional squash. There’s a chance that the Aussie Open could be my last PSA (competition) but I don’t know yet.
“I’ll see if I have time to leave and play tournaments. It’s obviously going to be a lot trickier than it was before as I can’t just create my own schedule and leave whenever I want to.”
In her head coach role, Lobban is looking forward “to putting into practice what I know makes a good coach from a long career as a player”.
She adds: “I’ve learned that one of the most important traits in a coach is someone who really cares and puts their players first, and that is the sort of coach I will try to be.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with top-class coaches like Geoff Hunt, David Palmer, Paul Price, Stuart Boswell and Anthony Ricketts. They understand the different personalities they are working with and that not every method works for every person, so they adapt to what works for each individual. That’s all really valuable.
“Your people skills really determine whether you’re a good coach or not. In my experience, the best coaches are people who are good at that side of it. Anthony Ricketts was fantastic because of his positive nature and energy. Paul Price and Stuart Boswell are also fantastic and it will be helpful to have those guys as contacts to learn from.”
The Heriot-Watt squash team already has some stellar young players, with Scotland internationals Alasdair Prott, Andrew Glen and Martin Ross currently studying there. There’s another familiar name among the student ranks – world No.33 and Squash TV commentator Lisa Aitken.
Lobban hopes Aitken can help inspire other female squash players at the university and form a women’s team, which is one of her main aims in the role alongside achieving success in the BUCS university competitions.
“I’m out of my comfort zone a little bit,” admits Lobban, “But that’s definitely a good thing and I can’t wait to really get started. It’s a whole new learning experience.”
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and Heriot-Watt University