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Thursday, 12 March 2020

Learning Squash: Should I have brought a helmet? #SquashGirlsCan

You all know I love an adventure … even if I don’t know EXACTLY how it’s going to go. But sometimes that’s part of the fun. Apart from those adventures which involve long runs and ornamental gardens … 

So when I was contacted by England Squash to ask whether I wanted to have a go at playing squash I said I’d love to … but I didn’t know how. And not only that, I didn’t know where or what or even whether being squashed was a necessary part of the game. 

Luckily, knowing how to play wasn’t part of the requirement. England Squash offered to help me get started by sending over some kit to use and set up a lesson with Ginny and 2 other ladies who were also fairly new to squash too. 



Massive nerves on my way ...!

England Squash were keen to challenge misconceptions around squash,and encouraged us to go to an all girls’ session so we could see how much fun it was, and join in with the 
 #SquashGirlsCan campaign. They also wanted people to see how easy it was to start the sport and get going… however, if you know me, then you’re aware that my coordination is a bit hit-and-miss. In the past, I’ve seen grown men run to get out of my way when I’ve picked up a tennis racket. Hopefully, I’d be a little more successful at squash. 



Eeek!

I turned up to my lesson in the correct kit, but clearly I was a shining example of ‘all the gear and no idea’. I knew next to nothing about the sport and I’d deliberately not researched it prior to my lesson as I wanted to start with a clean sheet. I was a little bit concerned that they may have underestimated my (admittedly amazing) ability to completely mess things up and hoped they’d warned the coach and the other ladies attending the lesson that I was a bit uncoordinated (*cough* VERY *cough*). Perhaps I should have brought everyone helmets and shin pads … I decided I should probably stand a long way away from everyone else and try to avoid wildly swinging the racket. 

I met Ginny who was the coach and she introduced me to Zoe and Reema who were being coached. Everyone was friendly and chatty and normal. No-one expected me to know what to do or to be good at the sport and Ginny told me that we could all go at our own pace. It was nice to know there was no pressure and that I was playing with people who weren’t expecting big things of me (like being able to hit the ball!). 



Reema, Ginny, Zoe and Me!

We started off with a warm up which was some very gentle jogging, a bit of galloping (I love a gallop!) and some dynamic stretches. Ginny then asked us to play a game. She told us the names of the lines on the wall of the court and gave us one of the squash balls. Our game was for the first person to throw the ball over the service line, the next person would allow it to bounce once and catch it and throw it under the service line, the next person would throw it over … we had three lives each and would lose a life every time we threw the ball in the wrong place or fumbled a catch until only one person was left. My coordination isn’t great … but put a bit of competition into a game and I am ALL OVER THAT. We laughed and had a grand old time and got used to the bounce of the ball. 



So the lines have names ...
I was surprised that the ball wasn’t half as bouncy as I’d expected. I’d thought it would be more like a tennis ball but it hardly bounced at all. Ginny explained that there are different balls for the game depending on the level of the player and really good players would play with balls which hardly bounced at all which would make for a faster paced game as you’d have to really run to get to it. 

Ginny fed the ball to us for the next part of the lesson by throwing it at the wall and we’d have to return it forehand and backhand. I was surprised that I found backhand much much easier! To hit the ball to the correct place I had turned so I was facing the side of the court with my shoulder towards the front wall. 

It took me quite a while to get used to this as it initially felt like I should be facing forwards but once I got it, it made it much easier to return the ball. 

We played another game to get used to returning the ball which was to try and keep the volleys going between us. It was really exciting to be able to feel as though I was playing the game – when I’d arrived today I hadn’t even picked up a racquet or squash ball before! 

Ginny taught us how to serve… and I got it in theory … but was just completely incapable in practise. Not only could I not hit the ball with my racquet, when I finally did, it flew up into the air and bounced off the lights! Twice! Ginny spotted what I was doing and I was throwing the ball, rather than dropping it – I was clearly getting too enthusiastic! 



I even hit the ball!

We were having so much fun, I was disappointed when the lesson ended. We did some gentle cool down exercises and stretches and then Ginny announced she’d baked some banana bread so all we went to enjoy that and grab a coffee. I’d planned to go home straight after the lesson, but was having so much fun with Ginny, Zoe and Reema that it seemed a shame not to spend some more time there! I’d expected to learn some squash, but some new friends was a definite bonus. Besides, we’d worked hard and the banana bread sounded amazing! 

So … will I go back? Yes definitely. I had a brilliant time and not only did I get a great workout in, I made new friends and am on my way to learning a new sport! I was also surprised that it wasn’t as pricey as I was expecting – I’m going to go along to one of the ladies only sessions which is every Sunday and £2 per session and mixed abilities. 

If you’re interested in having a go at squash, take a look at the England Squash website. There’s a whole section for women new into the sport here for the Squash Girls Can campaign where you can find a venue, lessons or where you can go to watch to build up some confidence. 

Ladies only mixed ability sessions ... AND cocktails! I'm in!


As mentioned at the top of the post, I wasn't paid for the post but Squash England gifted me the kit and set up the lesson for me to try :)

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