Local squash players last Friday got a rare opportunity to mingle with world champions in the sports after the international figures jetted into the country for the World Squash Federation (WSF) promotional initiative.
Hosted by the Parklands Sports Club and the Nairobi club,
Top on the list of the entourage included former world number 1 champion Nicol David from Malaysia, Camille Serme world number 3 from France and Borja Golan Spain’s former world number 5 engaged local budding players about their experiences and journey to the top of the game.
The top guns who mentored local players also had a chance to play with their hosts ahead of a weekend of clinic, exhibition matches, referring and coaching seminars that is geared towards raising the squash game.
The three together with a coach and a referee travel every once a year to a country to promote and help raise the sports through the WSF ambassadors programme.
Speaking at parklands sports club during the second day of the four-day visit, the Chairman Sam Waweru said squash was a key sporting discipline of the club since it was set up in 1906.
The chairman added that one of the key activities in the member’s club is squash among other sports but in terms of promotion, currently the club is allowing anyone who wants to play the game to access squash courts without any charges.
“To get Junior players participating in the sport, we want to set up an academy where we can get upcoming players to participate in the sport and any support we can get from programmes such as this one would be very welcome,” he said
Waweru added that having the programme here in the country and working in collaboration can take the squash game to the next level not only locally but regionally.
Africa, he noted still lags behind in the sport and thus encouraged the interactions that will take place during the workshop clinics will be able to further promote the sport.
Andrew Shelley the CEO of WSF said the future of squash is with the juniors noting that the academy that the Parklands sports club will be setting sounds exciting as the young ones are needed as the new generation of players.
“What the leadership of Kenya and also the clubs are doing through such an academic is essential,” he said
Shelley acknowledged that despite the WSF program starting way uin 2001 and them visiting the country then,it was high time now that in this future, involve a lot of juniors.
The visiting professionals termed Kenyan players as talented saying they did not expect a big number of locals who were willing and very engaged during the tournaments played.
“It is nice to see everyone getting into it and we hope this will create a great momentum for the next generation joining squash” Nicol David said
Belgian National Coach Ronny Vlassaks said there was definitely talent in Kenya since squash is not an easy game to play.
Through the workshops tomorrow , he added that they we will be able to teach participating coaches that squash is not about just hitting the ball but that the development should be before one hits the ball.
“You can teach all of them to hit the ball but you cannot teach all of them to play squash,” he said.
Referee Marco Podgorsek from Slovenia said the training of referees will entail in clarification and misunderstanding on the basics of the rules of the game and further develop the candidates knowledge on how to actually manage the game.
“According to the rules and to the basic principles of the game safety and fair play count and am confident that at the end of this workshop we should end up with quite a good few men and ladies who will be able to officiate the game of squash efficiently”, he said .
Parklands Sports Club Squash Coordinator Gakuo Ndirangu said the country has been lacking in terms of coaches and refereeing and through the next two days , the locals will be able to tap and learn a lot from the experts .
“We thank WSF Ambassadors for coming to join us to help boost the level of sport and am urging squash fraternity to learn and also share on what they have learnt thus making the WSF ambassadors visit worthwhile.
Mukhtar Nimji who is the number one squash player in Kenya said playing the pros was a good start because Kenya squash has been on a downslope.
“Such an event is a good way to pick it back up and gain more interest in the sport and for the squash fraternity, hopefully this visit will impact us in a way that we grow the sport more”, he said
Nimji further noted that there has not been much of participation in squash and not many tournaments thus the programme will hopefully increase more players to come out to hold more tournaments.
Nimji said junior players numbers have also been dwindling and there is a need for more participation noting that if the junior tournaments are held often players will be able to spark their interest again.
Launched in 2011, the WSF initiative aims at promoting squash sports to nations by bringing together the international players, coaches and referees to bring their expertise to player who show ambition and interest in the sport.
By Wangari Ndirangu