Female Casual Squash @ Melbourn
… or in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity
[thanks for that one Albert]
Melbourn Squash Club recently began running Casual sessions for Women and Girls. These are on Tuesday evenings, running from 7:00-9:00pm on a fortnightly basis – between now and Christmas there are sessions on 30th November and 14th December, recommencing in the New Year on 11th January.
The Women’s Casual sessions are open to female players of any age or ability, already existing members and non-members alike. The cost is £2 per person per evening. The club provides balls and has racquets available to borrow – all anyone needs to bring with them to get on court and play is some suitable clothes for exercising and a pair of trainers with a non-marking sole.
The sessions have grown nicely since they started in October - we now have a mailing list with ~15 names on it, and attendances have ranging in the 5-10 bracket so far. Given the success to date, the Women’s Casual Sessions will be an ongoing offering from the club.
Session organiser Nicole Rincon commented "It’s a nice feeling that we’ve brought people back to the game who haven’t played for several years. All saying how much they’ve enjoyed playing again."
Why have Women’s Casual Squash?
So, why a Womens and Girls Casual session, then? How did we come to be here?
Well, the 15 months of on-and-off lockdown got the committee at Melbourn thinking. Yeah, I know, dangerous. It was obvious that our membership numbers were going to drop precipitously, and it was going to take specific efforts to rebuild them again to get the club back on an even footing. That was a general point, but were there any other trends that predated worldwide events that we really should have been addressing anyway?
The answer was obvious: yes, two. One, the number of Juniors playing in the club, was something we were already attempting to rectify with the Junior coaching, both in conjunction with the Village College and standalone club sessions, which we launched in late 2019 (no awards for timing there). But there was another demographic that our numbers said we had been failing to engage well with recently: female players.
Female playing numbers on our courts, both taking up membership or those visiting on an irregular non-member basis, had been in decline for many years. The sad demise of our Women’s team attests to that. They were good, County Champions in 2017 no less, but whilst the squad definitely had lots of quality, it lacked depth – only 6 members strong. When family reasons saw the skipper stepped down a season later and two of the other players withdraw from team play, there simply weren’t the numbers to carry on as the conveyor belt of new blood to take their places… well, there wasn’t one!
Not our issue alone, of course. This appears to be a national phenomenon. And one other people have been trying to address already. One such initiative was just around the corner, locally-based professional player (top 100 these days) and coach Ali Loke running open casual sessions for Women and Girls at Swavesey Squash Club.
Ali (grey top, fifth from left) with one of her female-only groups
This sounded like a plan. So we ran a pilot, getting Ali along to our club for an evening back in September. When this drew 7 people along, many of whom hadn’t played Squash in years, it was clear that the appetite was still there in the Melbourn area to get on court… if the right sort of encouraging, supportive environment could be provided.
And therefore the Melbourn’s Women’s Casual Sessions were launched.
What is next?
So that is where we are today. But what next for Female Casual Squash at Melbourn? Well session organiser Nicole is currently seeking feedback from the mailing list over whether to continue with fortnightly sessions in the new year or run weekly instead.
The Club are also delighted to announce that we have secured a generous grant from the Melbourn Parish Council Community Fund that will allow us to bring a professional coach in on a bi-monthly basis to run Tips, Hints and Advice sessions. We will look to continue to develop on what has been achieved so far, to rebuild the base of Women’s Squash in Melbourn and the surrounding area.
For further information on the Women’s casual session, or to join our mailing list please contact Nicole Rincon on 07762 908461, firstname.lastname@example.org or by Facebook.
For information on this and other activities at Melbourn Squash Club please contact Club Secretary Jan Brynjolffssen – 07730 406688 or email@example.com.