Monday, April 28, 2008

How to be a Squash Ambassador

Last week the squash community of Vancouver was given the opportunity to watch an exhibition match between the world’s number one women’s player, Nicol David, and five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald. The match was competitive and highly entertaining, with Nicol winning 3-1*, but there was something else going on that night at Hollyburn and it had more to do with the promotion of the game of squash than it did with entertaining the masses. As I watched Sarah and Nicol do their post-game thankyou’s and their Q&A’s, it occurred to me that I was witnessing more than just two players at the pinnacle of their game, I was watching squash ambassadors in action. (* Ed note: Sarah won their next match, the following week in Victoria, 3-2.)

The dictionary defines the word “ambassador” as “a diplomatic official accredited to a foreign sovereign or government . . . to serve as the official representative or his or her own country”. What we had that night, in Nicol and Sarah, were two highly decorated officials representing the game of squash. As all true ambassadors they have a mission and theirs is to promote the game we love.

What the hizzy is a Squash Ambassador?
A Squash Ambassador is simply someone with a passion for the game who is consciously promoting the game in their own way. No, you don't get to wear a red fanny pack or cute red hat if you decide to become a squash ambassador:)

Why do we need them?
Squash is at the cusp of something big: It’s played by around 15 million enthusiasts on all five continents and has been seriously considered for inclusion in the Olympics. In fact, squash has just recently been shortlisted (again) for the 2016 Olympics. The problem is that the sport still needs to increase it’s profile on a global level (thanks Mr. Delierre for finding a way to film it properly) and on a local level too.

How can I become a Squash Ambassador?
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s easy to be an ambassador of the game when you’re a elite player travelling the world but I’m only a local club player.”

What can you do?

Here’s a simple checklist that I’ve come up with that could help you on the road to becoming a Squash Ambassador. It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s a start. Got more? Send us your comments.

1. Learn the rules. This may seem obvious but it’s the first the step to a strong foundation. Check with your local squash associations and take a refereeing clinic or actually read the complete rules not just the abbreviated ones.

2. Teach the rules. Now that you know the rules it’s important to share the information that you have collected. As you move up the ranks it’s easy to forget that you once played the whole game without knowing when to call a let. Educate your amigos.

3. Become a coach. I’m not suggesting that you need to become a full time coach but why not offer some of your insight to players that are ranked below you? Take an introductory coaching clinic and teach someone new to the game how to play! You're a coach if you help a friend between games - helping someone with their game plan makes you concentrate on the game more.

4. Take lessons. A good player never stops learning or trying to improve their game and a great secondary benefit of this is that you will be supporting your local pro. It might be a good ide to fit in some drill time, with a partner, between matches too.

5. Be a good sport. Oh, this one sounds preachy but it can’t be over emphasized. Whenever you step on court to play chances are that someone (other than your mom) is watching and taking note. They might be considering taking up the game and your behaviour could colour the way they view the game. If you respect your opponent, and your referee, the game can’t lose. (Told you it was preachy:)

6. Support the game. Opportunities like the Nicol/Fitz-Gerald exhibition don’t come around much and if you don’t support them they will become less and less frequent. Go and watch! (To be honest, I was a bit disappointed at the turnout. Vancouver, you can do better.) Enter tournaments and join your city league while you’re at it.

7. Stay informed. It’s up to you to stay on top of what’s going on in your community but the resources are there if you know where to look. In British Columbia: > Our provincial association’s official website. Lots of info on upcoming clinics and a complete tournament schedule. > Vancouver’s original website for the squash fanatic and home of the best squashcentric t-shirts in the galaxy and a resource for info on local events. Check out their huge photo gallery too!

Next week: “Squash toys you never knew you needed.”

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