Sunday, March 3, 2024

Shopping bag packing and race nights, Scotland crowdfund to world squash juniors

By any account, 2023 has been a stunning year for rising squash star Robyn McAlpine.

The girl from Scotstoun, Glasgow created Scottish history when she swept all before her to become the first junior woman to hold the Scottish under-17, 19 and 23 titles at the same time and was only stopped by Alison Thomson at the semi-final stage in her bid to become national women’s champion.

Yet for the 16-year-old, who trains under Scotland’s highest qualified coach Martin Woods at the Western Tennis and Squash Club while representing Scotstoun in league action, there is one giant cloud looming large over her brilliant blue sky.

For McAlpine should be leading the Scottish junior women’s team at the WSF World Junior Championships in Melbourne this July.

There is only one problem. There is no money in the tartan lined but cavernous kitty and the four-girl team of McAlpine, Anna Halliday, Rowan Niven and Louisa Kaven are having to do their own fundraising to reach the £20,000 target needed to take them down under.

With £3,500 already raised via a variety of enterprising schemes including bag packing at Waitrose and events like an exhibition match featuring Scotland No.2 Rory Stewart, raffles galore, Race Night and Novelty Doubles Tournament all in the pipeline, McAlpine and Co are determined to do all they can to make it to Melbourne.

“It would definitely be the biggest moment in my career to play the worlds and because we have done so many events together and played a lot of European tournaments as a group we are all pretty close and good friends,” McAlpine tells Squash Mad. “So for all of us to go to Melbourne as a team and hopefully do Scotland proud would be the proudest moment of any of our lives.”

The triple Scottish age group junior champion added: “The Worlds is certainly my big dream just as it is with the other girls and it is just great all the hard work everyone is putting in to get the funding in place. The other girls did really well at raising a lot of money at Waitrose in Stirling recently and that was a great effort from them.

“So I just hope we can get as many people to support us and I am also hoping that my school at Jordanhill will also help support us in our attempt to make it to the worlds. If we can make it to Australia it will be an experience we will never forget.

“One day I’d love to go professional and the experience I can get from playing at a World Junior Championships when you look at some of the players who have played there would be fantastic and that is the same for all of us.”

Reflecting on her history making hat-trick of junior titles, the modest teenager admits the achievement has meant a lot to her. “I think it’s the first time one player has had all three and that means so much to me,” she admits. “My role model is Georgia Adderley (Scotland international) and I look up to her an awful lot and I have used her as inspiration to achieve this.

“I won the under-23 at the start of January when I beat Anna (Halliday) in straight games and what was really pleasing was that I was pretty consistent and I stayed calm and didn’t get too nervous.

“In the under-17s I beat Louisa (Kaven) and it was just really good to beat these girls as they are all very strong players and we all get on well, so it took a big effort to do it.

“The under-19s was Anna again in the final and with it being the third one and nobody having held all three at the same time I did feel a bit more nervous, but was just determined to stay calm and play my game and thankfully I came through.”

When it came to the seniors Robyn admitted that her semi-final defeat to eventual winner Alison Thomson had provided many valuable lessons. She said: “The seniors is a different style of game and what I found with Ally is that she is much more consistent and there is an awful lot more structure to her game than when I play other juniors.

“Ally controlled my game very well and really moved me about and then at the same time she attacked hard from the opportunities she created, so that was really good from the point of view of getting that experience.

Women’s Nationals: Third place Robyn McAlpine, Scottish Champion Alison Thomson, runner-up Senga MacFie

“If I compared my game to her I am more of a rallying player and I do like to play at a high tempo and I’d say I do hit the ball pretty hard when I need to but against Ally my accuracy just wasn’t good enough.

“Every time I gave Ally something loose she really punished me and that was a big learning point.”

Robyn’s immaculate clean-striking, high-tempo, hard-hitting game has previously taken her as high as No.3 in the European under-17 rankings and also helped her attain top 10 European under-19 status while her work ethic regularly sees her clocking up close to 20-hours per week on the practise court after school.

When it came to those she needed to thank coach Martin ‘Bunny’ Woods, Scotland’s only Level 4 coach was at the top of the list – just ahead of dad Scott and mum Catriona, as Robyn explained: “Martin makes it fun but hard at the same time and I always get something new out of each session and he just works hard to make sure that is always the case.

“I have worked with Martin for five years since I started playing squash at 11 and he is also very honest with me about the areas I need to improve in. A lot of that is movement based and that was shown up a bit when I played Ally in the seniors.

“Martin is also working hard to make me more consistent which is also very important to help me keep improving while Scottish Squash have also been a big help with the Sports Institute which I am grateful for.

“But if it wasn’t for my parents none of this would have been possible. My dad Scott has been brilliant and he taxis me everywhere and also my mum Catriona – they have given up a lot to support me in my squash and I am very grateful to both of them.”

If you want to help the Scottish Junior Women’s team make the WSF World Junior Championships in Melbourne this July click here

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