Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How Will Squash Change Post Covid-19

It feels like our lives are constantly changing at the moment. Just 1 week ago I was still working and going to the gym to workout. As I write this I am now back in Canada, for at least the time being. The Turks and Caicos border was closing for who knows how long and I didn't want to get stuck there without a job for a prolonged period of time. It's going to be tough for that country as they are so dependent on the tourism revenue.

I'll begin today by going quickly through my experience yesterday. Traveling internationally at a time like this was quite the experience. I was fortunate to get a ticket on the last flight back to Canada. It wasn't cheap and I had to check 3 bags so yikes it added up! There was nobody else in my row, but I'd estimate the plane was about half full. At the Providenciales airport there were only 2 hand sanitizer stations (1 of which was empty) and I only saw a few people wearing a mask. It's a pretty small place so it's not easy to maintain proper social distance. It was also the only time I've ever been at an airport without a single person in front of me at the checkin counter or going through security.

Not surprisingly there was no service on the plane which is fine for a short 4 hour flight. When I landed at Pearson Airport it was almost like an overnight glimpse of the airport (which I have seen once or twice). From 2 separate airport staff I was handed 2 double sided sheets about the self quarantining procedure I have to follow and it includes numbers to contact if you have any of the listed Covid-19 symptoms; fingers crossed, but so far so good.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got through customs in under 5 minutes and my bags (including a large guitar which was set aside in the overside and fragile area) arrived shortly after. These sorts of things just don't happen at big airport so it was a new experience for me. Most people at the airport in Toronto were wearing masks or trying to stay away from other people. Social distancing was certainly much more prevalent here.

 When I went to get a rental car to drive to London the guy behind the desk wasn't wearing a mask or gloves and was handling each persons cards and was just a foot away from each customer. That was my first experience here in Canada with someone not being overly cautious. I felt bad for the guy who even though was probably 10 years younger than me will not be able to avoid Covid-19 with his job. Should car rental companies still be open? I wish they were automated and we could just swipe our cards to do all of this. I cannot even imagine the strain the car rental and airline companies are going through. I just hope they will survive as these are all services we need and rely on to live, travel and work the way that we do.

So now I'm in self-quarantine at my brother's place for the next 14 days. He and his girlfriend also will now have to do the same because I'm here. I'm glad to be back in Canada, although wow it sure feels freezing out there! Goodbye flip-flops..

That's my update for the week so let's get onto some more fun stuff. There's been a lot of fun isolation squash and fitness challenges people have been posting. I took my shot at 5 you can all try from home. Here's they are:

This worldwide pandemic is wrecking havoc on the financial markets and most companies. On a positive note it is also bringing out some exceptional qualities in people and companies. I've heard of a lot of companies offering discounts and trying to help people out. As the saying goes, 'we are all in this together.' I want to follow in these footsteps so I've posted The Secrets Of Solo Hitting on my Youtube channel. I know it's not much, but as a squash coach that's what I can offer you to do my part in providing a bit of free entertainment and hopefully some useful tools for when you get back on court. Cause the way I look at it when we get back on court we are all going to need a good solo hit or two to get off the rust. So here's the film if you'd like to check out 30 of my favourite 'self isolation drills':

It's hard to wonder what life will be like when we get back to our new normal...but what about squash in particular? How will this impact the future of squash clubs, coaches, leagues and tournaments? Will people be worried about being in a place with so many other individuals? Will others be concerned about the uncleanliness of a squash court? Will some not have the money to pay for membership dues and take part in club events or private lessons? Will people wait for a vaccine until they go back into a public atmosphere? There will definitely be some changes, but hopefully we can pull through and support our clubs and their staff. Squash is what we all love and it's what keeps us off the couch and in our best possible shape.

I also can't help but wonder how many current squash pros are going to retire during this stretch? Some older players or people who were just scraping by may be thinking twice about going back on the road and taking unnecessary risks associated with travel? Annie Au is the first that I've seen retire during this stretch, but I bet there will be many more; perhaps just not the top ranked ones who get mentioned by the PSA. Will pro tournaments still have the same amount of sponsorships to continue making professional squash an actual opportunity for a select few to follow their dreams and make a living by playing their favourite sport?

It would be sad to see things deteriorate because what about the young kids who look up to and dream about being on the tour one day. Yes squash is not essential to life, but for some of us it is a big portion of our lives, it always has been and it always will. There's something about stepping out onto that court whether it's hit a few balls by ourselves or if we're competing in a match. We're trying to get better, become the best we can be and it's a great distraction from the real problems and stressors of life outside the court.

Anyone who has been injured and was forced out of the game for a significant amount of time will understand the emptiness that you feel when you're unable to tie up your laces and play. As someone who has dealt with a variety of injuries over the years, I know that when I step on court now just being healthy and bring able to move relatively well is the main objective and the result is not nearly as vital as it once was.

When I think about the coranvirus and how it relates to squash I believe they both reveal our true character. How we handle adversity is something that I always try and share with my athletes. It's easy to be a good sport when you're winning and not facing any problems, but how do you respond when you're on the other side of the scoreline? The same thing is happening nowadays with Covid-19. People who are not infected, but are self isolating to keep everyone else safe, while a select few are hoarding and trying to profit off of panic. As I relate this back to squash I recall one of the last practices I had with my kids where we discussed what would make their parents proud at the next tournament. Is it simply the result (which they all focus on), or would their parents be more proud of their on court behaviour, effort and obvious passion for the game? Because we can't all win, and even those that do if they don't do it the right way it will have a tainted taste to it. This is another reason why sport is so crucial and this is also what we are witnessing from many of the wonderful people around the world.

If you want to see some of my games from the past 30 years I've been posting a new game each day on the Serious Squash Instagram channel. That's all for this week. There's always something new to write about these days and hopefully soon I can start writing more posts about the fine details and tips for playing the best sport in the world. Until then keep your social distance and be safe.

Instagram @SeriousSquash

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