The old traditional view of Squash Clubs was of isolated, funny-shaped buildings where dribbles of monastic-type people, with white baggy pants, knobbly knees and round, strangely-shaped bats gathered in dark, dingy tunnels before paying their tithes, and entering their lighted shrines to seek fitness and friendship. Once finished, they would, perhaps, shower in a cramped and cold change room, and disperse, to other more lucrative activities. Maybe squash players can be likened to psychiatric patients who need to be kept away from normal society because as things have changed, clubs are still, mostly, in isolated buildings. However, they are now, much smarter, more inviting, with glass-backed walls, bright lights, bars, lounge areas, shops, kitchens, and more spacious, but still “economically” designed change rooms.
But bricks and mortar, glass back walls, and bright lights do not a club make. In the Retail world , they talk of “The Iceberg Principle” where 20% of the consumers’ decisions of where to spend their hard earned money, is dictated by the perceived price perception and range of that outlet. The other 80 % is made up of a basket of other factors like convenience, friendliness, excitement, activity, helpfulness, cleanliness, safety… and the list goes on. The warm and fuzzy stuff that creates the character.
October and November will see club committees balancing their pennies, signing off their books and sending out AGM notices, most of which will probably be deleted, or conveniently forgotten. On the day, a straggly few regulars will gather to make a quorum, and with one or 2 changes, the straggly few regulars, will be re-elected , to once again, drive the club. Sadly, it is usually just those straggly few, but Port Elizabeth is fortunate to have some passionate “straggly few”. Some clubs will continue to drive at 60km/ph and get from A to B, taking part in leagues, and doing the regular things. Others, will put foot on the accelerator, take some detours, hit some potholes, maybe, even have the odd collision, but somehow the club will be taken to places it has not been before.
What can your club do, to take itself to another level ? Some of the following ideas have been stolen from beery conversations, some are original and the others have been stolen from an article by Bruce Brunning in The Squash Player magazine.
First and foremost, the squash, the membership fees and the leagues that your club offers, are that 20%, of the Retail Iceberg. The other 80% is the Hub of Club. Is it a gathering place for like-minded people, to relax, and meet and greet ? Squash is the catalyst. The vehicle for you to offer the warm and fuzzies mentioned earlier.
Keep your committee small, if your constitution allows. ( Maybe that constitution needs to be reviewed. When was it drafted ?) Less is often more and fewer people often make better and quicker decisions. But then seek people to act as “Project Managers” – for short periods where they drive their project and then go back to their little lives.
Squash is your “core business” and your Leagues must be well organised and effectively run. The Competitive Spirit is a wonderful fuel for your club, if mixed with sportsmanship and camaraderie. And I have yet to see an effective ladder or challenge system. I know Westview and Crusaders are dabbling with proposals…
Apart from Squash, does your club offer a good mix of facilities ? Secure areas for kids to play, exercise bikes/gym equipment, secure parking, a squash shop, convenient and effective booking system. Having a bar and ideally a braai or lounge-type area at the courts, for your members to shoot the breeze, analyse their matches and socialise, is ideal. “Don’t be afraid of allowing your membership to indulge in the bad things of life. It is probably why they joined you in the 1st place” says Brunning . And a Club Tour, embracing players from all Leagues, should be an integral part of your Club’s annual programme
Once you are comfortable with the structures of your club, make sure that you maintain, by cleaning, painting and sanding where necessary. And keep the club interesting with posters, and pictures and well organised, up-dated information-baring Notice Boards.
Attracting new members ? Stealing and luring players from other clubs with financial offerings ? Let’s not go there. I also query the need to incentivise 1st League players unless they are re-committing those funds into coaching or mentoring. Surely Membership Fees should be for the benefit of all members. But inviting players, and particularly students and juniors to your club to participate in Fun activities and impressing them with what you have to offer, must be encouraged
You cannot have enough internal competitions. This is where you can differentiate. Your club must be a hive of activity. Some ideas - Summer Leagues, Doubles evenings, Junior Tournaments, Junior Leagues and Coaching, Beginners Courses, Housewives Leagues, Training sessions, Markers and Refs Talks, Coaching Leagues, Pitch-and Plays, Handicap Tournaments, Blitz Competitions, Exhibition Matches, Club Nights where Squash and Social are mixed. Be creative. And apart from drawing people to your club, they also generate funds
Club Fees, Light Monies and Fund-raising are always contentious issues but squash must be, arguably, one of the cheapest sports available. Some believe that Squash has sold itself short as the “Poor Cousin”. It is difficult to start increasing fees, substantially, to create funds to implement ideas, but maybe this is necessary. Break down your club fees into months, and then matches, and you will realise just how cheap squash is – and then think of the enjoyment you get out of those 45 minutes. And to really make you feel really good, compare those costs to that of our bigger, more beautiful, richer cousin, Golf. But maybe, we can also steal some ideas from him. 10 year memberships, flexible membership options, soap in the showers ?
Be aware of the Bigger Picture of Squash, and get involved in Squash SA and Eastern Province activities. While you may wonder sometimes what these bodies do, if you went behind their closed doors, you might be surprised. If Squash continues to grow, your club’s potential is in your hands.
Some pitfalls to avoid, and to look out for.
Never disregard the value of having a 1st league side.
Look after the women in your club. They have different needs to the average, amenable man, but ignore them, and your club will wobble
Watch out for Cliques in your club and allowing them to become too powerful.
Are you holding players with potential and aspirations back ? Sometimes throwing these players into the deeper waters of a higher league, catapults them forward.
Port Elizabeth squash has seen huge innovation this year with both Londt Park and Crusaders taking leaps of faith into renovating their courts, and apparently plans are afoot at Westview and Old Grey. Westview implemented a Fingerprint Light and Security system , Crusaders followed suit and also tried an “All In” Lights Fee, Old Grey continued their development adoption and employed Scotty Moffat to help their members. One of EP’s favourite sons, Richard Driscoll has come back to try to fix our top provincials players’ woes and prepare them for 2012.
We, squash players, are very blessed in this city. Imagine if we could just increase the numbers of those “few straggly ones” who drive our clubs and our sport forward.
Talking about innovation, it is always exciting to see new brands entering the World of Squash, and this month we see the launch of sports clothing giant, PUMA, leaping into the battle for the feet of Squash Players.
Irrespective of your ability, you will not go unnoticed. One of the Vellum 2 range is bright, and I mean bright, yellow, and for the less adventurous, there is a black partner. Very light, comfortable, with good support and very eye-catching , the PUMA Squash Shoes are a welcome addition to the Squash Shoe Market. Standing the test of time is always the acid test for Squash shoes but at R699, they will be very competitive, and make you, even more competitive.
The Crusaders Corporate League launched further innovation into EP Squash where teams from Khuene & Nagel (Behr), Ex Es (Behr) , Aurecon, Investec, Itec, Pioneer Foods, S4 Integration, Finmap, Gentic, and Old Mutual gathered on Thursdays through October with players ranging from capable to crockety, from eager to experienced, and fit to fatigued. But with squash as the catalyst, new friends have been found, much fun has been had and if a few have been converted or re-awoken to the joys of squash, then success has been sealed. And the winner of the Holy Grill will be fined.