James Willstrop: Something special at Pontefract

Pontefract Squash Club owner Mick Todd and coach Malcolm Willstrop.
Pontefract Squash Club owner Mick Todd and coach Malcolm Willstrop.
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Something special is happening at my club Pontefract. Owner Mick Todd and his staff have made a world-renowned squash club during the last decade, and even more importantly, a superb leisure facility for for the people of the area.

Underpinning all of this and the success are the coaching systems in place at the club, led by Malcolm Willstrop. Through him, supported by a strong group of coaches, the club produced two world number ones. It’s hard to track the number of national and international titles that have been won by the club’s players. The records of juniors coming out of the place is staggering, and now the club has three players in different age categories ranked number one in this country: Sam Todd, Ben Beachill and Ellen Cooper. Layla Johnson is also ranked two and could go to one soon. Not a bad record for one club. And the UK is not a weak nation in squash.

Success isn’t just about top rankings. Malcolm should be thrilled with this achievement but I know he is just as proud of those who go on to enjoy the game down the line at universities, league squash and coaching.

Producing world-class squash players has helped to inspire and gain support from councils and National Associations.

Such a standard does not happen by accident, or because of something mysterious in the air. Much of the formula is a result of discipline, hard work (with enjoyment!), repetition, framework, and a certain amount of coaching expertise. The players work hard, and Malcolm works day in, day out with them, providing a framework to thrive. He and the players always turn up, day after day, week after week. That’s what real high-class performance entails.

Both myself and Lee Beachill benefited hugely from the club and the coaching. I owe my career to it. When that support is there, inspired firstly by characters, big things can happen.