Squash » Life After the Tour: Azlan Iskandar

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We caught up with Malaysian Success Story Boy Azlan Iskandar, who retired from PSA three years ago.

Not only did he get married to Lin, got a "Milk Monster" named Zara, he manages events of all sorts with his company SportSpin, has been elected in the SRAM (Malaysian Fed), not to mention AISA, a network of Academies to promote squash all over Malaysia, and last but not least, he organises the Malaysian Tour! And that's not even the whole story....

 Are you out of breath? You will be ... A little chat with the Man Himself...

So, Azlan, what have you been up to?

I cannot believe it has already been three years since I retired from the PSA tour, time has gone by extremely quickly and I think that is good thing.

My daughter Zara AAliya is almost one and a half and I am extremely grateful I'm back in Malaysia to see her grow. Last year I got elected into Squash Raquets Association Malaysia and also got nominated as VP of South East Asian squash federation. I'm still very involved with squash on top of my Academy, Malaysian Squash Tour and also my consultation work in Malaysia with ASB squash. Overall, I've been involved in squash development, which is constantly changing, trying to innovate to make squash more appealing to kids, and keeping them in the sport is a challenge in itself.

How is SportSpin doing?

Sportspin Events is a events company which I started just before I retired three years ago, we have executed many events, from charity events, a small event with Peter Nicol and Tim Garner, about 30 senior events and around 100+ junior tournaments nationwide.

The target is rural and sub urban squash development. I was already working hand in hand with the Association but now since I am a Committee Member, I work to prompt and work hard on grassroots, to have more kids learning the sport.

Indirectly the work I have been putting in is working well on getting numbers growing. This year I'm proud to say we will be running 10 to 12 $5k Men's events, 10 to12 Ladies' $5k events and we have a little WSF doubles circuit going.

What are your goals?

I will be running for Vice-President of Squash Racquets Association this weekend and I'm hoping I will be elected as I feel a lot of things still need to be done for Malaysia squash development.

We had a great showing in the recent South East Asian Games winning four gold medals and two silver, and our juniors really dealt with the pressures well.

But in fact, and more important, my main goal is SQUASH and its development in the country. I have a strong bond with the game and its dynamics and I will continue to have the passion on grassroots for squash.

How is the AISA Academy going?

It's going well and we have opened up in more states, working with my own home state Sarawak and also with Perlis, the Northen State, and it's mainly about getting more kids to play. AISA has a strong hold in East Coast Malaysia and we have a decent amount of players, although we are struggling to grow due to the amount of courts we have in the states I work in.

How many kids overall in the Academy?

Off the cuff we have 400-600 kids. not all play everyday but I also promote healthy living for kids so a lot of parents do send their kids over to get them off their lazy bums! It is also a great social experience for kids.

Last year, I hosted a junior camp and got kids to come from all different states and took them on city tours in Kuala Lumpur, and yes it was their first time in KL! For me, it was amazing to see their excitement in their eyes: squash made it possible.

Malaysian Tour: What's new on that front?

This year is an exciting year, as I mentioned we are moving hard for smaller PSA Men and Ladies events, the smaller ones, $5k, the reason being is that we have a lot of juniors at the moment transitioning to professionals and for them to fly out to play events will cost too much.

We have a great bunch of kids being exposed in these events: Ng Ean Yow, Mohd Syafiq, Sanjay Singh, Rachel Arnold, Teh Min Ye, Siva Sangari, Vannesa Raj just to name a few. These smaller events are vital to get a lot of match play and to a certain extent tune their bodies and minds to back to back events.

This year we embarked on a small Doubles tour as well. The reason behind this doubles tour is so we can get more match time for our juniors and some seniors to get used to playing doubles in case doubles were to be included in Asian games in 2018 - currently lobbying hard for it to be in SEA Games in 2017 in Malaysia and also to eventually get it in Sukma which is Malaysian Youth Games.

The thought process behind this is so that we (squash) have more medals at stake at these Multi purpose Games and the trickle effect is so that squash is a more prominent sport in the National funding aspect. I'd also like to highlight the great support we get from the Ministry of Youth & sports and the current Sports Minister Mr Khairy Jammaluddin who recognises squash as a sport that always delivers.

Your expectations/hopes for the near future?

My expectations in the near future: wearing three hats.

First hat: hopefully I getting elected as Vice president for Squash Racquets Association Malaysia to have more interaction with states on growing state programs through club systems, taping the data base of past national and state level players to be more involved in their states and of course to get a Malaysian Open going and sponsorship overall has been tough for the sport.

Second hat: as Vice-President of South East Asian squash federation I would like help the growth of the sport in our neighbouring countries as we had a great showing from Malaysia's neighbour countries, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines who were part of “reviving” squash in the recent South East Asian Games. The last time squash was featured was in 2007. So we need to keep this ball rolling.

My third hat is on the Sportspin’s front is to grow the Malaysian squash tour in size of prize money as our juniors climb in the world rankings, the goal is to have more foreigners based in Malaysia and to do the “switch around”.

When I was growing up and climbing the rankings I had to be based abroad and it was certainly tough so I would like to have more players based in this part of the world.

Oh I forgot... and my 4th hat, a dad. Hopefully number 2 ;D

Thanks Azlan, speak to you again soon ...

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