How I Fell in Love... With Squash!

It was nearing the end of term in my second year at sixth form studying my A-levels in Bethnal Green, London, England. My teacher decided to take our PE class to a leisure centre for a taste of something a bit different... enter Squash. We rented equipment at the front desk, none of us knew what we were doing (to give credit to the teacher, we may have been told how to serve and the basic rules, and perhaps some indication that we should not hit each other with the ball – good one to remember!). After an hour of most definitely running round like a headless chicken, dripping with sweat, I was addicted.

From that day on I sought out other opportunities to play this intense, fast paced, glorious sport in a box which allowed you to not only have a great workout (being very fit and health conscious by the age of 17 already) but also allowed you to smash the ball as hard as physically possible anywhere up against that huge front wall! It was amazing. I had been well versed in Tennis and Badminton, having to apply force much more carefully and accurately, but in Squash, it didn’t seem to matter where the ball went as it would keep coming back. Epic rallies were had with my classmate and the embers were burning, the candle had been lit in my heart for this beautiful game.

I found a squash club in North London, and I went along to their club nights for many months. It was a 40 minute cycle from my home in Hackney, East London, or a 3hr round trip by public transport, but I was committed. Every Wednesday and Sunday I’d rock up to club night with fire in my eyes looking to get another beating from one of the experienced old boys who loved to teach the younger ones a lesson in perfect drop shots, and insanely accurate lob serves. Occasionally I’d play someone really talented, encouraging them to play their best so I could get an accurate read on my progress. I was desperate to improve having come to the game so late already.

I joined the club eventually and joined the internal leagues in league 15 out of about 25 at the time, 1 being the top, with 5 people in each league. It would be almost 10 years of blood, sweat and tears until I eventually became Club Champion, but back then, I had my sights set on achieving that title, and the immortal ‘gold leaf’ that gets emblazoned on the oak champions boards held high in the Clubhouse.

I went to Loughborough University to study Mathematics & Sports Science and it was there where my thousands of hours practice came in. Sneaking into the bottom or the reserves of the third team in my first year in 2009, by 2012, I was President of the Squash Club. By this point, although I had the power to ‘place’ myself in the first team as other Presidents had in the past (naming no names) I like to think that I earned my spot at the bottom of the firsts before graduation.

Many years later, I’m a High Performance Squash Coach and I love the game. I love what it can do for juniors and the values that can be instilled, from honesty, integrity, fair play and respect, to the qualities and abilities that it develops in players – self confidence, determination and resilience. I’m still astounded to this day by the joy that fully grown adults take from playing a better quality backhand straight drive, or a beautiful forehand volley boast that they know their favourite opponent won’t be able to get back when they play them next.

Squash can and does bring joy to the young and the old – it’s an incredible sport.

‘You don’t play squash to get fit, you get fit to play squash’.

See more about squash coaching with me HERE and the coaching package HERE.

To Your Health,

Stephen Thompson