Pontefract’s world number one James Willstrop gives readers the inside track on the competitive world of squash.
It was all about international duty once again last week in Nuremberg, Germany, at the European Team Championships.
England squash boasts an incredible record at this event so there is a certain amount of expectation it has to be said, but our squad has found a way of living up to this in recent years.
As a group of players we receive substantial support to operate as professionals on a day-to-day basis; England Squash and Racketball, through Sport England, have given us the tools so that we may perform to the best of our abilities at the elite level.
In addition to significant financial support, we receive expertise in coaching, physiotherapy and strength and conditioning amongst other areas. This event is one in which we can attempt to give back for that fantastic support, and help justify all the work that goes in.
The Europeans is always a different kind of tournament than we are used to on the PSA or WSA tours.
It is staged in a ‘proper’ European squash club, the sort of place with a bit of warmth: ie a bar area and facilities for socialites, or those driven by other modes of exercise; it exudes an integral feel.
Often the tournaments on tour are held in purpose- built national centres, often inert places which rank high in terms of facility but low on atmosphere. Nowhere is squash more vibrant and conducive to the team format than in a good old traditional, sweaty squash club and with the standards in European squash ranging wide, these championships were made for a broad spectrum of squash player and personality.
All over the venue last week at any given point of the day, passionate shouts in various languages – vamos! allez! – reverberated around.
Some nations, the Italians or the French for example, give off uber-expressive hand signals and body language too, as they urge their team-mates to eke out every last drop of energy on to court in their unique styles.
Every team and country does it slightly differently, but there is little doubting it makes for a combustible and competitive climate.
Our team find a good balance, work well together, and completed another successful week; the men beat France in the final 3-0 with one rubber to play, while the women halted Ireland’s solid run, winning 2-1, to do the double.