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Be there on the Square: squash showcase 1 year to go before Birmingham 2022

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Published in Squash
Monday, 26 July 2021 00:29

Squash United to build a lasting legacy for squash
By JAMES ROBERTS – Squash Mad Correspondent

Squash is all set to be showcased as part of a high-profile event on Centenary Square in Birmingham city centre on Wednesday 28th July to mark 1 year to go before the start of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Called the 1YTG (1 Year To Go) Celebration, it is an event for families from across the city and the region to come together to try out some of the sports that will be part of the Games in 12 months’ time.

Squash is fortunate to feature as part of the 1YTG event and will be one of just 5 sports to go on a year-long series of Community Engagement Roadshows in the lead up to the Games. The squash showcase is being coordinated by Squash United, the brainchild of West Midlands based squash enthusiasts, clubs and organisations with the aim of building a lasting squash legacy from the Games.

As Ming Lee, Finance Officer of Warwickshire Squash, puts it, “Our mission is to take squash into the community and grow the game from the bottom up, creating a global pulse from a strongly beating Birmingham 2022 squash heart.” Ming is also the Co-leader of Squash United, alongside squash coach Mike Harris, who has just become Head Coach at Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, having recently transferred from Edgbaston Priory.

Squash United is also recognised by the Birmingham 2022 Legacy Programme and comes with the full backing of England Squash, the Professional Squash Association, World Squash Federation and Rackets Cubed.

A new perspex-tive: the quarter-size mini squash court, designed by Melior Sports, will feature as part of a year-long series of Community Engagement Roadshows.

Squash is notoriously difficult to showcase away from traditional squash courts and using a full-size glass show court was not really practical, so the Squash United team needed to come up with a solution. A quarter size perspex mini squash court has therefore been developed, designed by racket sport courts specialists Melior Sports. The main benefits are that the court is instantly recognisable as a squash court, is easy to transport in a small van and is relatively quick to put together using just bolts and an allen key.

Co-leader of Squash United, Mike Harris (right) rallies with Gary Snowden (left) of Lichfield Squash Club on the mini squash court outside Edgbaston Priory Club.

The squash showcase at 1YTG will feature various challenges for the public to try, including ‘the longest rally’ and ‘Batak Wall Challenge’ which tests reaction times. There will also be a demonstration at 1:00 pm by some of the professional players who will be in contention for Commonwealth Games medals, including Joel Makin (Wales), Declan James (England), Tesni Evans (Wales) and Millie Tomlinson (England).

With the Commonwealth Games representing the biggest squash event the West Midlands has ever hosted, the Squash United team is determined to raise the profile of the sport, especially across the West Midlands region but also the whole country and globally. The 1 Year To Go event on Wednesday 28th July therefore represents just the start of Squash United’s plans to build a legacy for squash in the run-up to and beyond the 2022 Games.

Outdoor squash gaining ground: Project Beacon is a proposed outdoor squash complex in Chicago USA, one of Birmingham’s ‘Sister Cities’.

As part of its mission to ‘bring squash to the people’, Squash United is actively investigating the potential to install some outdoor squash courts in Birmingham, working alongside the city’s universities, thereby making the sport more visible and accessible to a wider range of people. Outdoor squash has been receiving quite a lot of attention lately within the squash community, recognising the limitations of promoting a sport that takes place on courts that are ‘hidden away’ inside often hard to access buildings.

Warwickshire Squash has also developed ‘Squash Stars’, a low cost, easy to access junior squash programme developed in partnership with Karakal, iPROSPORTS and Kirkdale Building. The initial cost is just £25, including 4 lessons and all necessary equipment (racket, ball, shirt, goggles, bag), places being bookable online via iPROSPORTS’ website.

In addition, a West Midlands World Festival of Squash is being planned to take place either before or after the 2022 British Open. This will be a 3-day event over a weekend staged at 4 different clubs and feature elite and graded competitions for all standards of play, including beginners. There will also be a series of social events organised as part of the Festival.

Squash has suffered perhaps more than most sports and faces significant challenges as the world emerges from the spectre of Covid-19. However, talking to the organisers at Squash United, there is a palpable sense of collective determination and purpose which points towards a more optimistic future for our sport. We at Squashmad wish Squash United every success with its plans and will be on hand to report on its future activities.

For more news and information about Squash United:

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Pictures courtesy of  Squash United / PSA Foundation / Mike Harris / James Roberts

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