presents his views
from the world
of squash ...
The question most asked by people not in the squash world is
"Why is squash not in the Olympics ?", and as 2012
approaches, it really is remarkable that, without
denigrating any other sport, the Olympic committee, in its
wisdom or in this money orientated sporting world, have
managed to exclude it.
It came very close to inclusion for 2012 when it topped the
list of sports to be included, but was excluded on a vote
which one of the most eminent Q.C.'s in the land considered
illegal and was prepared to challenge. However the sport's
governing bodies preferred not to challenge so as not to
Much good that did, since here we are in London some four
years later, overtaken for 2016 by golf and rugby sevens,
splendid enough sports, but hardly fulfilling some of the
principal Olympic requirements, such as universality and
involvement of the young - two criteria that squash
certainly does, played in 140 countries and with massive
child participation. Golf clubs hardly encourage children
and no doubt the attraction was Tiger Woods before his
personal and now playing demise.
It is difficult to conceive that the Chinese would not have
gained inclusion for a sport in which they excelled in
Beijing and since England excels at squash: Nick Matthew
[world no.1] James Willstrop [world no 4], Peter Barker
[world no7], Jenny Duncalf [world no 2], Alison Waters
[world no 5], and Laura Massaro [world no 7], it is
disappointing that the British Olympic committee did dot
exercise some influence.
The game is simple enough to stage: the O2 arena along with
any number of other buildings in London could easily have
housed the glamorous glass court. The standard at the top of
the world game is better and more entertaining than it has
ever been and since the reputable American Forbes magazine
rated squash the second most demanding sport in the world
after boxing, no-one can doubt the athletic and physical
What countries want most, of course, is medal success and
the inclusion of squash would almost certainly have
guaranteed England of medals. Ironically sporting bodies are
now seeking athletes with slim English qualifications to
increase their prospects. Yorkshire and England could have
provided three with serious medal chances, whose English
heritage and allegiance could hardly have been questioned.
It was some thirty years ago that Gresham's School, Holt,
travelled to Lancing College to play in the quarter finals
of the National Schools championships, run by Major Ted
Millman, father of Paul.
Some the players involved in the match were: British under
18 champion Richard Le Lievre, brother of John;
Christy Willstrop, British udner 16 champion; John
Cordeaux, England Junior international; and Captain of
Lancing James Barrington, now senior executive of
Cathay Pacific and main mover behind the wonderful Cathay
Pacific Hong Kong Open.
The schools had two famous Headmasters at the time,
Cambridge contemporaries and International rugby players
Logie Bruce Lockhart and Ian Beer, later to
become President of the R.F.U. The controversial match,
controversy which was a product of the concrete floored
courts, has remained a central topic whenever James
Barrington and I meet in Hong Kong, and truth to tell, since
he knew what was afoot that fateful day, he should be
ashamed of himself, especially as he now holds such high
However some good recently came out of it all when James and
I, at James B.'s request, visited Lancing to coach their
players for a day.
In the days when Public Schools produced the top players:
Jonny Leslie, Phil Ayton, John Easter (father of Nick),
Peter Verow ... Lancing were dominant, to be followed by
Barnard Castle and later by Gresham's, all having runs of
success in the Londonderry Cup, the championship for old
boys of Public Schools.
Graham Stevenson coaches extensively there now and he, Chris
Crowe, Director of Sport at the school, and Dominic Harman
all made us feel very welcome.
One of the courts, which was the focal point of attention
many years ago, is still in existence and James, highly
suspicious of slippy and dangerous courts, could scarcely
believe his eyes: the dark concrete floors, a grill to help
with condensation all along the sidewalls where a worthwhile
angle would be played.
As someone who has suffered with slippy courts - on the
glass floor in Bermuda at the World Championships and more
recently at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi - he now saw
that the story I had given him over the years, which I
suspect he thought was exaggerated, was in fact the truth.
No longer will he give any credibility to the aforementioned
James Barrington, who will surely regret that he engineered
the Lancing visit.
Anyway we enjoyed our stay in Sussex, staying with Ann
Kerrison, who did so much for Sussex girls squash in days
gone by and we hope that some of the boys we coached took
something out of it. Maybe the ghost has been laid, but
surely it proves that the game of squash creates lasting
memories and friendships, even out of adversity!
Finding out from Rugby
Tony Smith, Warrington Wolves, the outstanding coach in
Super League, is a keen squash player, who, whilst in charge
of Leeds Rhinos, brought his players to Pontefract for a
morning's squash on several occasions as a break from their
He has continued the practice since moving to Warrington,
who have been twice recently, and having won the Rugby
League Challenge Cup for the last two years and currently
heading the Super League after a barren 25 years, it was
time to visit their training ground at Chester University to
see what David Campion, James Willstrop, Mick Todd and
myself could learn about the process of performing to
It's an early morning start and arriving before nine, things
were already in full swing in the gym. Star names abound:
Adrian Morley, Lee Briers, Michael Monaghan, Brett Hodgson,
Matt King, but as players moved from gym to running track,
to training ground and to the lecture room for other
purposes, one thing was for sure: here is a happy, cohesive
team enjoying their work.
There was some intensity and seriousness, but plenty of fun
and laughter, Tony in the background as his staff, Willie,
Richard and Bubble put the players through their paces. He
is close to the players, so much is obvious, but when he
draws attention to the videos relating to Friday's match
against Leeds at Headingley, there is no doubting who's in
charge or the respect the players have for him.
No stone is left unturned as the strengths and weaknesses of
the opposition are revealed and Tony makes it quite clear
what is required to exploit the weaknesses and gainsay the
strengths. Players are invited and do offer their
observations: Michael Monaghan and Lee Briers, playmakers in
chief are main contributors and the affable Matt King has
his say, unable from all accounts to speak without the odd
Tony clearly has winning in mind on Friday, but he never
talks of winning and losing, only performance. The frequent
interchanges of activity keep everyone happy and alert and
the first class facilities at the University are a major
plus, as are the friendly and welcoming staff there.
After lunch back with Tony to his office, where the work
done by computer wizard, Emma, relating to players'
performance, emphasises the professional thoroughness of
everything we have been privileged to witness.
David is engrossed, despite his ignorance of Rugby League;
embarrassingly he didn't know who Lee Briers was! He will no
doubt carry back to his National squads some of what he has
learned today; James has watched Tony work before at Leeds,
but remains fascinated and Mick, deeply impressed declares
it a wonderful experience.
Let no-one doubt the value of such experiences: different
sports have various requirements, but they share common
ground and to watch a master craftsman at work is always a
One thing squash and rugby league do have in common is that
the players of both sports at exalted levels are modest,
friendly and approachable. Odd to think that the best of
them will earn in a year what many soccer players earn in a
week! What a strange sporting world we live in.
Rugby League link as strong as ever
The link that has been established between Squash and Rugby
League, since the days of John White and Ellery Hanley and
when Tony Smith was at Leeds Rhinos, remain as strong as
So far this season Super League teams Bradford,
Hull and Warrington have all visited Pontefract
for a morning's squash as a break from their usual training
Bradford's captain, Andy Lynch, is a member at
Pontefract and is a more than competent player and Hull's
coach, Richard Agar, plays whenever time allows.
Tony Smith, who was first to introduce his then Leeds
team to squash is a keen player and is often at squash
events, most recently at The Chapel Allerton-Pontefract
National League match, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Now, as
successful at Warrington as he was at Leeds, he thought it
worthwhile to bring his squad of 30 players to Pontefract
and since that visit Warrington are unbeaten, having won
their last three matches, seeing off St.Helen's and Leeds in
He has always followed the careers of Lee Beachill and
James Willstrop, who is soon to go to Warrington with
David Campion to watch Warrington in training.
There are always some of the players who show promise and
there are some who have already played a little. There is no
doubt that if they were able to play more, several would
make up into team players. Danny Tickle always seems
to enjoy his time on court and new Hull signing, Sam Obst,
had played a bit and looked useful.
Warrington's Micky Higham, never having played
before, took an immediate liking to the game and Lee
Briers, as might be expected showed promise, as did
several of the Warrington outfit.
Andy Lynch, with his regular involvement was in a
different class from his Bradford team.
The Rugby League men have had the benefit of Beachill,
Saurav Ghosal, Kirsty McPhee and Deon Saffery
coaching them and were quick to acknowledge the physical
demands of the game.
One thing's for sure that if The Rugby League players look
big on T.V they look even bigger in reality. The Kiwis are
monstrous and when I'm giving out instructions they are told
that they can please themselves!