Column: We don't just want to produce champions at the Academy, we want to inspire
I decided around six months ago that I wanted to set up a squash academy.
A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes since then and I was delighted to launch it at Sheffield Hallamshire Tennis & Squash Club last Thursday.
There is a picture of me on court five when I started playing at Hallamshire at eight years old when the racquet was bigger than me! I have now played at the club for 27 years and I want to turn Hallamshire into the most prominent squash club in the world.
Hopefully we can produce a world champion or two but that’s not the main aim. The purpose of the academy is to inspire the next generation. This is my way of putting something back into the sport which has given me so much in my career.
Neil Guirey, the Director of Squash & Racketball at Hallamshire, is on the same page as me. He was my best man at my wedding and the perfect person to preach my ideas on a daily basis. We want to introduce squash to people who have never given it a go.
It is difficult in squash as there are a lot of other sports you are competing against and we haven’t got that Olympic carrot at the end of it. It is tough to get the creme of the crop and get kids into squash in the first place.
There are a lot of sports who are in the same boat as us so it’s a great challenge. Through my academy, I just want to help get kids playing sport and, if it is squash, that’s a bonus.
At the moment, we are in an incredible era for England Squash. The old guard, like myself, James Willstrop and Laura Massaro, are still competing hard at world level and hopefully we can carry on doing well over the next few years.
Some of the younger guys are starting to make their move but they might be one or two years from being totally ready to win the major titles.
Countries such as Egypt have got a conveyor belt of talent. At junior level, South America, USA and Asia are starting to come to the fore so there is a big danger that the Commonwealth countries are getting a bit left behind. It is promising that some of the Commonwealth countries have taken steps to close the gap but only time will tell if they are the right decisions.