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Liz Irving Part 4
"Simply the best coach in the world" - Nicol David


From the Start...

"The main reason I could come to Amsterdam is having funding from the National Sports Council of Malaysia. Without their support, even the thought of becoming a professional squash player would not have occurred to me. They are the main source of why Iíve done so well.

From a very young age, they supported me and up to now really. I canít see how I could have done it otherwise, and I am fortunate enough that Liz was here willing to take me on board, and I havenít looked back since.

Malaysia thought this was the way forward, and I made the most of what they gave me, and performed to the best of my abilities.

Back to Basics...

At 17, straight after school, I came here just to have a look for a month or so, just to get the feel of how it is, and I just loved it. I had seen a few other places, but when I came here, it just clicked. Already, the very little time I stayed here the first time, I learned so much, things I would have never even thought of, and she just opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of the game and that was the transition I needed. I had to take that step to move here, two years later. Yes, it took a whileÖ

First little hotel where Nicol and Sharon stayed in when they first arrived in AmsterdamAt the beginning, we shared a flat with Sharon Wee, that was set for us by the Malaysian government. It was great to have Sharon with me, to have somebody with her experience. It was much better that being on my own!

And I basically started fromÖ scratch! We went back to all the basics of technique, positioning, and everything that squash should be, elements I was not fully exposed to while I was in Malaysia at the time. That was exciting times for me.

The simplest things, technically, I really needed Liz, she is the one that made me technically with my squash. If it wasnít for her, the consistency and what I can do on a court wouldnít happen right now. The speed that I had, well, that was the only thing I could bank on before.

She saw I didnít have to keep running around, that it could be a good tool if I was to use it well, and working on really good positioning. And yes, now, Iím even faster, because I position myself well and I work on my volleys and being stronger to then dominate as much as I canÖ
How long in Amsterdam ?

I manage to stay here about 4 to 6 months in the year, probably more in the first part of the season Ė where there are less tournaments Ė than in the second part.

Amsterdam is a nice big town, everyone knows everybody, itís a very friendly atmosphere, very chilled, and when I come back to Amsterdam, Iím fully focused on my training, itís my priority, I feel that nothing will come in my way, I have all the time in the world to just keep training and keep going and going, that is my all focus.

People just let me do my things here, thatís the luxury of being in AmsterdamÖ

Liz is...

Liz is so easy going, chilled, and at the same time, serious, and puts 100% into what she does, she knowsÖ Her experience alone translates when she talks about squash, when she dispenses all her coaching advice, on and off court.

Sheís got so much wisdom on the game that you really get hooked on what she knows. You just trust her right away, and you think, this is how Iíve got to do it.

She also has steps she can see the players going through. If she sees a player, she can say, OK, if the player follows what I can offer, I can probably take the player to this point. That allows you to give you an idea of where you are, where you are going, and to set goals for yourself.

And you think "ok, if I stick to it, and really put all my heart and soul into it, it will all come together." I just trusted her and had full faith that she was the coach for me.

She is very patient on court with me and with all the squash players, sheís got a big heart, and she just never stops giving, all of us, giving us a chance to get better at what we are doing without actually changing us in who we are, just making us better.

She makes our strong points stronger, reinforces them, and corrects our weaknesses. And thatís a skill, you know?

Not many coaches can do that, because they only know what theyíve been taught and want that knowledge to be enforced onto the players, but with Liz, itís more the fact that she sees a player and sees what she can help with without changing that person into something else.

She just wants to make the best of what they are capable of and she is still doing that with me!!

Second to none ...

What Liz has set up here in Amsterdam, you canít find it anywhere else. She puts her heart and soul into everything, she is also a perfectionist in many ways, she wants to make it right for me and for all the players that come and work with her. She wants to give the best and cover every aspect of a squash player's needs. And for personal growth as well, because thatís what makes you a better squash player.

The people she brought in to work in the academy are on the same wavelength, on the same mode as herself, the team would never work if the dynamics were not there. She doesnít take just anybody, she puts a lot of emphasis and time into finding those people to get involved, thatís not an easy task.

She also relates to all her players. And she does all that on her own, she doesnít have any kind of support from any association or anything. She just goes in, and does it herself, covering all expenses. Because she loves it. And because she wants to see us do well. She believes in what she does, and it shows in performance, and results. She never takes credit for anything because in her mind, she is there to assist and to give. And itís up to us if we fully utilise what she and her team are offering us.

Also, to have that openness to say you know what, there are some experts out there that can do certain things that I know about, but I would like them to look after my players as well. So she gives us the best opportunities, facilities, even coaches. Some of us have been to Sarah Fitz-Gerald or Vicky Cardwell, who are of the same Australian upbringing.

Liz is happy for them to come on board to give pretty much the same advice, but in a different way, and she sees that as a part of growth, not like a threat, as if we were going to move somewhere else.

A lot of coaches donít see things that way, and itís truly unheard of to be honest! You donít find that kind of coach often, and that's what makes Liz stand out from the rest.

The best coach in the world basically."

With Andrew Davidson SquashCity manager & Geoff Miller, director

Liz in 3 words

"Trustworthy, bighearted,
very humble, respectful, knowledgeable..
yes, thatís my three words, too many words"
Nicol David

Part ONE  |  Part TWO  |  Part THREE  |  Part FOUR

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