On front foot
THE search for Ipswich’s next Sunil Seth is no longer being left to chance.
On Tuesday at the Brassall squash courts – where world-ranked Ipswich product Seth has spent uncountable hours pounding a little black ball into a wall – a group of Ipswich youngsters were being tutored by some of the best in the business.
“It is good for the kids to see and have a bit of fun,” Squash Australia media liaison officer Andrew Dent said.
Dent wasn’t speaking as a Squash Australia employee but as an Ipswich squash enthusiast whose son is involved in the program.
Squash Australia was represented by performance pathway manager Gordon Young, who admitted the race was now on to get kids playing squash again.
“We’ve got to make the sport attract more kids and give it more exposure,” Young said.
The Brassall program is proving that, when given the chance, kids enjoy the game. It began last year but, with the Christmas break followed by the floods, there were fears its momentum might be lost.
However, all but one of the kids involved have returned. On Tuesday, they got a boost with a visit from Australian head coach Byron Davis and a host of the Australia’s leading players, including world number 17 Donna Urquhart.
“We’re not losing numbers, now it’s a matter of getting more,” Dent said. “In the long term, the goal is to build up our junior program and establish a junior competition again.
“It’s been quite a few years now since we had one.”
It is easier said than done with sport no longer playing the role it once did for young Australians.
It is especially hard for a sport like squash, which can’t compete financially with cricket or AFL.
“There is a lot more choice for kids than there used to be,” Dent said. “A lot of kids don’t even know what squash is. You’ve got to fight for it and keep them interested.”
Davis and his entourage of squash stars did that on Tuesday, putting the Ipswich youngsters through their paces in a series of fun skill drills and exercises.
“A lot have tried traditional tennis and not liked it,” Dent said as his son Jack worked out on the court below. “They enjoy squash because the ball comes back to them.”
For Davis it was his first time in the Brassall facilities since he contested the Australian junior team qualifiers there in 1992.
“Definitely numbers wise it has probably declined a bit,” Davis said of the state of the game in Ipswich and Australia wide.
“But the kids are very enthusiastic and keen. And we still produce a lot of good players and top players in the world.”
Davis is confident squash can return to its popularity heydays of the past.
“You can fit a lot of kids in a small space,” he said.
“It is a matter of getting the right people involved, such as parents, and showing kids there is a pathway in the sport.”
The next aim for Dent is to start a similar weekly program at the Ipswich PCYC courts.
Anyone interested in participating at Brassall or the PCYC can contact Andrew Dent on 0414 745 921.