Squash demands resilience, technique and timing. Seán Westwood explains why the sport is more accessible than you might think
There are few sporting venues more intense than a squash court. Whether playing at the foot of the Great Pyramids for the El Gouna International or in the middle of Grand Central Terminal for the Tournament of Champions, it makes no difference. Once you step on the court it is just you and your opponent surrounded by four walls, battling it out in one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet.
Statistics from Sports Data Labs reveal a telling comparison between squash and tennis at a professional level. Squash players cover more distance in less time, have less rest and are in-play for roughly four times the proportion of the match as their tennis counterparts. There is also a much greater number of shots, dynamic lunges and backward movements in squash, which adds greatly to the overall speed and intensity of the sport. Indeed, one would go a long way to find the same dynamism, variety and gender equality that squash offers. Looking at the data, it seems surprising that it has such a comparatively small following. The Glasgow University Squash Club are doing everything they can to upset that trend.
Over the last few years, the club has more than tripled in size from 40 members to over 120, with an even higher membership expected this year. This is largely due to a commitment to encourage as many people as possible to try the sport for the first time. The majority of the players had never tried squash before coming to the University, and each year there is an increasing number of complete beginners who become hooked on the sport. Rackets are provided, and with regular beginner coaching sessions and weekly social squash evenings, it is a very comfortable and friendly environment to take up a new sport and meet new people.
This social aspect of squash is a source of great pride in the community. There are not many other sports where you can host some of the best players in the world at your local club and have a friendly drink with them afterwards in the bar. Just like the rest of the squash world, GU Squash Club places great emphasis on having no barrier between the top competitive players and the people who are picking up a racket for the first time. Every Friday, players of all abilities gather at the courts for a mixture of squash, music, games and a plethora of other activities designed to bring the whole club closer together. All of this is rounded off with drinks and free food in the local bar – a staple post-squash tradition and the perfect end to a hard week. For those who are extra keen, there is an abundance of events throughout the year including tournaments, international tours and ceilidhs to name but a few.
GU Squash Club is not only for casual players, however. There are four mixed teams and one women’s team who compete every week in the West of Scotland Squash Leagues. The first team finished last season with more points than any other team across all six divisions, with the University’s Club Champion winning the West of Scotland “Player of the Season” award for going undefeated across all 22 matches. Both the men’s and women’s team compete in the top tier of the British University Championships, which helped the club earn the 5th highest number of BUCS points across all sports in the University of Glasgow. The club continues to outperform larger clubs by working with the most qualified coach in the country to drive player development. Through this partnership, the club is able to offer the highest quality of training and support for all players looking to compete at the highest level.
In addition to improving the standard of squash, the extensive training programme at the club provides an opportunity for experienced players to develop themselves as coaches. No less than seven members have recently attained their coaching qualifications through GU Squash, all of whom are currently honing their skills by running the ten weekly beginner and intermediate sessions at the university. This is just one of the many opportunities for personal growth available; the Squash Club provides the perfect environment for anyone looking to get more involved with the sport.
After all, that is the primary aim of the Glasgow University Squash Club: to get more people passionate about squash. Everything is centred around building enthusiasm for squash, giving people every opportunity to improve and have fun. The club boasts an even ratio of women to men, and the fact that 50% of the current committee had never played squash before coming to GU is testament to how inclusive the sport is. New faces are always more than welcome, so head over to the Stevie and try your hand!