Club out to raise profile
Alnwick Squash Club have launched a publicity drive to try to raise their profile and attract new members, particularly at junior level.
The Bondgate Without club currently have around 25 junior players training in their squads every Saturday, with some of them doing more during the week and others competing in local competitions.
For two years now, head coach Liam Gutcher has been working with middle school teachers and PE co-ordinators and introducing squash in lessons with Year 5 pupils.
These lessons are then followed up with free squash festivals at the club, giving the students a chance to try squash out on a real court.
At the end of a fun session, parents are then given details of how to get their sons and daughters involved on a more regular basis.
Liam said: “Our last festivals were held on January 28, with 25 Year 5 pupils from local middle schools attending, and eight have signed up for Saturday squads already.
“We are always on the lookout for new juniors to join our squads, and hopefully any press coverage we get will help our cause.”
Squash is an indoor racket sport played by more than 500,000 people every month and was voted the world’s healthiest sport by Forbes Magazine recently.
It’s billed as a great way for kids to burn off a bit off energy and learn hand-eye co-ordination skills in a safe environment without ever being stopped by the weather.
The club were established in 1977 by squash enthusiast Hilton Charlton in the former premises of fishing tackle manufacturer Hardy Brothers (Alnwick).
The building itself certainly doesn’t look like a normal sports facility but it has a charming personality and quirkiness – from a stag’s head on the wall to a resident dog, who sits at the bar with members – not found in many purpose-built leisure centres.
Despite being on the northern edge of the Northumberland squash scene, the club have always been a great contributor to the sport in the region, discovering and developing some of its best players over the years, including Jane Martin, formerly ranked No 6 in the world and who has represented England, and John Dale, formerly ranked No 89 in the world and who played for England as a junior.
The current under-19 county champion, Chris Wiggins, is a local lad from Felton who started out at the Alnwick club and leads the first team.
He’s now training and studying in Newcastle, and everyone at the club has bright hopes for his future at senior level.
Liam added: “I’ve been coaching for eight years now, and I amcurrently a level-two coach, but in the middle of my level-three qualification.
“Along with my position at Alnwick, I’m the county coach for Northumbria, assistant regional coach for the North East and also head coach at Northumbria University.
“I’ve played squash for 20 years, was ranked No 3 in England as a junior and played professionally for a couple of years, reaching No 242 in the world.
“I have a real passion for squash and would like as many local people to have opportunites to get involved and to help every junior get the most out of their potential while having loads of fun in the process.”
Alnwick Squash Club is based at 33 Bondgate Without. For details, call (01665) 603280 or email info@ alnwicksquashclub.co.uk