The Veterans Squash Rackets Club of Great Britain

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Nostalgia is not what it used to be

I invite all GB Vets members to raise a glass on December 19th when we celebrate 55 years since
our club was formed.

By chance recently, I was sorting some old books and came across a number of early copies of The Squash Rackets Association Handbook. I chose to read the 1963-64 one because it I was interested to compare the squash world today with that in 1963 when our club was formed. The only paid member of the SRA was Secretary John Horry who relied upon the huge support of
volunteers, who shared a love of squash, to make things happen. The SRA
Handbook had become the bible of British and International Squash largely
financed by over 1600 members (including 260 Juniors), 36 counties and
hundreds of clubs together with all the armed services, universities and overseas. It included articles on the rules of squash, marking and building of courts.

You can either wonder at the advertisement for a Spalding wooden
squash racket (round head of course!) on sale for 4.19.6 (with a present-day value of 101!) or note with interest the start of the Annual Report:

“However much a game may be expanding, there are always periods of stagnation when through complacency or lack of incentive the game gets
into a rut.”

The writer went on to describe the shock to British squash in 1962 when teams from Australia and South Africa first came over. Australia won 14 out of 15 matches while South Africa won 12 out of 15. The Amateur Championship of that season was won by Australian Ken Hiscoe.

Roy Wilson, who had won the Amateur Championship in 1954 and 1956 and ran Surrey County Squash who dominated the Inter-County tournaments, wrote that the impact of these two visiting teams resulted in “an explosion of
enthusiasm and the spreading of a wide net to catch the best talent.”

It is well documented that during the later 1960s and the 1970s our sport
expanded rapidly when squash became THE game to play inspired by the
phenomenon of Jonah Barrington and attractive to aspiring young people.
Building of courts by local councils and ambitious investors produced clubs with up to twenty courts compared with the traditional “members” clubs with four courts. However, as early as the late 1980s, clubs were beginning to convert squash courts for gym or dance or close them altogether. Since then, our sport in Britain has continued to decline despite continued efforts by the likes of The Jesters, Escorts, GB Veterans and, later, the England Masters.

It is evident that England Squash (the modern version of the old SRA) is struggling to halt the fundamental decline of our sport. With currently 17 members of staff (in itself a huge reduction on a few years ago), it seems to concentrate on “Premium Squash” with the PSA and the top, International players. Although they organise excellent programs for juniors, they seem to add less and less value to clubs and intercounty initiatives.

I would like to turn the clock back. Let’s energise the club players and the counties. Let’s try and ensure that young players, who learn to love squash at school or university continue to play the game in their twenties, thirties and onward.

Over the last 55 years, the Great Britain Veterans and England Masters have worked very hard, with limited funds but huge energy, to recognise the needs of the Over 35 squash players (both men and women). Let’s continue to make a difference!

Tom Hendry