Youngsters take on squash hero

EAST Anglia’s most promising squash stars have tackled two-time Commonwealth gold-medalist Peter Nichol as part of a project called Looking Through The Glass Court

Eight youngsters won the right to enjoy time on the bespoke Canary Wharf glass court with one of Britain’s greatest sportsmen after winning the Squash Factor Series Finals weekend at their respective age-groups.

“I didn’t get on a glass court until I was 18 and nearly turning pro,” explained an animated Nicol, 36. “I still get the buzz now - to see the faces on those kids in the middle of a massive tournament takes me right back to being a youngster.”

Charlie Green (Ardleigh), Lucy Turmel (Martlesham), Bryony Paczy-Smith (Morten Hall), Hannah Jones (Maldon), Ben Turmel (Martlesham), George Waller (Ipswich) and Jack Jago (Connaught) shared rallies with Nicol.

Thirty ten to 16-year-olds also grilled world No.4 James Willstrop in an extensive question and answer session. Despite preparing for his ISS Canary Wharf Classic quarter-final clash with Witham’s Daryl Selby just 24 hours later, Willstrop found the time to deal with all of their questions after 45-minutes on the court and several photo-calls with them .

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“It’s about having aspirations,” Willstrop advised the group. “You have to find a balance as a young person. Don’t commit every hour of every day to squash - you should have a wide range of activities in your life otherwise you quickly burn out.”

The Ardleigh Squash Attackers group then stayed on to watch some of the world’s top players as round one of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic drew to a close. Three of the world top ten players were on show at the seventh edition of this Professional Squash Association Five Star tournament promoted by Eventis.

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Tim Garner who, along with Nicol, is director of Eventis commented, “It’s about three ex-professional players adding a breath of fresh air to the squash world.”

Emma Snook, junior representative of the Ardleigh Squash Attacker initiative, led a presentation that won a grant from Essex Youth Opportunity Fund (YOF) to spark the plan into action. Chris Vine and Lee Drew who share directorship at CREATE Connections CIC teamed up with Tony Green of Manningtree to ensure the dream became a reality.

“Our enthusiasm shone through during the presentation to Essex YOF and it was well worth the hard work; today was really brilliant ,” said 16 year-old Emma Snook.

Chris Vine said: “It’s the kind of thing that is going to inspire youngsters to push to the top. Not all of these guys will become professional squash players but I bet a few will. If you look at the performance pathway, they have an opportunity through CREATE to take that step from grass roots all the way through to the top of the pyramid.”

“Just seeing the court is a breathtaking experience; it provides bright lights, vivid colours and walls that you can see into but not out from. I hope that getting a chance to partake in a day like this at such a wonderful venue will truly inspire all the young people involved.” added Lee Drew, who is also head squash coach at Ardleigh Hall Leisure.

Those who made the trip were all given a camera with which they recorded the day’s events. A story board will be made from a montage of the images and displayed at galleries and cafes in acorn village and around the region.

“I hope the kids got as much out of today as I did,” said co-trip organiser Tony Green. “Now we hope to make links with Street Squash in New York - it would be fantastic for the group out there. Days like today are so integral to their all-round development - physically, mentally and socially.”

An ecstatic Charlie Green, aged 10, said, “It was a really good experience and a great atmosphere on the court. We gave him [Peter Nicol] a good run around!”

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