Shropshire Squash Commonwealth Games Celebration Festivals

donwallington - August 14, 2022

We saw an opportunity to take the Commonwealth Games and harness the profile that accompanies it to promote activity, and squash in particular, to the people of Shropshire. Our target audience comprised all those yet to discover the joy of our amazing sport with a special focus on juniors. First we identified a week that would lend itself to multiple events, it started with 2 school festivals involving primary and secondary schools from across the county and ended with the CWG Baton Relay. Between these we found a car park in a central location where we could set up the portable glass court for the whole of Saturday to maximise footfall and engage as many people as possible.

For the schools we wanted to get the children playing games for as much of the time as we could. We ran a warm-up race and practised catch squash to get them to work on moving around the ball and each other. After some solo hitting challenges the players moved on to some cooperative rallying before they were able to play a small match. Best of 3 points across 4 rebound walls (using both sides) with the king court (or castle) being the portable glass court. Children moved around these 9 “courts” embracing the challenge and finding players at a similar level they could have competitive games against. The primary aim was to show that squash is not an elitist sport that needs a “proper” court; rather it is the most fun you can have with a ball, and a racket, and there is a version of squash that is suitable for all – actually done properly it is the most inclusive sport I can think of. The long, hot days (we saw 300 children in 6 groups of 50!) were made worthwhile by the beaming smiles on children’s, and teachers’, faces.

Next it was setting up in the centre of Shrewsbury, starting before the first shoppers arrived in the morning. It was brilliant to have people coming up, giving squash a go and returning with friends to go again. We had some squash finder flyers directing people to their nearest clubs, information about club CWG promotions (such as open days and summer fairs) and, of course, Squash Stars.

Lastly it was the big one. The Commonwealth Games Baton Relay Festival in Shrewsbury, on the hottest day ever. We invited juniors from all of the local clubs, and some adult volunteers, to run the court. Playing each group differently with some hitting with a top county player, friends organised into mini-tournaments and children challenging their parents to a match. We were inundated with people of all ages wanting to have a hit, and it wasn’t just for the squash prizes we had to give away. The excitement around the squash generated a lot of interest from the festival organisers and we have been invited to come back to the Shrewsbury Food Festival later this year.

These events generated a lot of interest in school squash programmes, Squash Stars (that is running at 4 local clubs from September) and adult club memberships. It was surprising how many people had played in the past but did not know how to get into the sport again as they didn’t have anyone to play.

We don’t know yet how many new players we will get, it’s too early to say, we are a small county with a shortage of courts and restricted access to those we have. We do know, however, that the profile of squash has been raised. People know we are still here, that squash is still a lot of fun and that there is an opportunity for everyone to play if they want. Teachers know that their pupils can find a pathway through squash to complete DofE qualifications, GCSE PE, gain national coaching qualifications, enter competitive tournaments and represent the county in teams. Teachers have also been shown that squash can be a part of their PE curriculum and we are working on supplying some schools with a squash kit bag and set of lesson plans so they can include squash alongside other school sports. All you need is a wall and a ball, it’s not complicated and it is accessible to all.

A  big thank you to all the volunteers who gave up there time to showcase squash including our young squash leaders: Izzy, Will, Dan, Georgie, Cam, Fin, Alex, Lee and Mr Squash. Also a massive thank you to the financial support from Energize STW, Shrophire Squash Association, Squash United, Shrewsbury Squash and Racketball Club, Shropshire Squash Club, Rowton Castle Country Club and Bayfield Van Hire. Without all of you none of this would have been possible.

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