CLUBS – WINNERS
Adapting to a new leisure environment
The different types of club are reacting in different
The health and fitness clubs are integrating squash into
their overall package.
"In our multi-purpose clubs now we are finding people
taking up squash because it is part of the package they have paid for and
it adds an element of competitiveness that gym work doesn't," says John
Treharne, Managing Director of Dragons. "We have on average four courts in
a club and the pros are very busy. We have leagues and competitions but we
can also target groups like housewives by providing crèches, which many
squash clubs don't. In the new breed of multi-gyms we try to find an extra
edge over the competition and squash or tennis courts is often that edge,
so the game is developing again but in a different way." David Lloyd
Leisure have a similar philosophy: of their 28 clubs (six more are due to
come on stream this year) most have at least two squash courts, as well as
tennis and badminton. Likewise Pinnacle Clubs, seven of whose ten centres
have at least four squash courts.
A significant factor in the equation is that the
drop-out rate for gym members is 60%, whereas squash players tend to be
far more loyal.
The proprietary clubs are under pressure to make squash
profitable. In many cases this means diversifying and taking out courts in
order to provide gyms and other facilities (see Success Story 2).
Traditional member-owned clubs, which rely on volunteers
to carry out marketing and organise activities, must decide whether they
will benefit from taking on professional management. The costs are high,
but the rewards can be significant, as Dulwich Squash Club discovered (see
Success Story 3).
The question facing leisure centres, where squash courts
may only be used at peak times, is whether to put money and effort into
trying to attract players at other times or to convert courts for other
uses. Beckenham Leisure Centre recently agreed to run a pilot course aimed
at getting ladies who were attending gym sessions during day onto their
squash courts. In the first week seven turned up. By week four there were
25 women taking part – some playing squash, some racquetball – and by the
time the course came to an end, many were offering to pay to continue.
English Sports Council:
Sports Information Line 0171 273 1500 (2–4pm)
‘Running Sport’ programme 0345 585136
Publications 0990 210255
Sport England Lottery Line 0345 649649
Scottish Sports Council 0131 317 7200
Sports Council for Wales 01222 300500
Sports Council for Northern Ireland 01232 381222
Foundation for Sport and the Arts 0151 524 0235
Sportsmatch (Department of National Heritage and the Institute of Sports
Sponsorship) 0171 233 7747
English SRA 0181 746 1616
Irish Squash 01 450 1564
Scottish Squash 0131 317 7343
Squash Wales 01222 704096
Success Story 1
– Nottingham Squash Club
Nottingham Squash Club is owned and managed by its 800
members. It has eight courts and a small gym. Two years ago Nottingham
suffered its first serious decline in membership. Its response was to
spend £1,000 on a leaflet drop. Some 30,000 homes were selected after a
demographic study and the effect was almost instantaneous. Within the
first month 80 new members had joined and in the past year the total has
risen to 250.
The club’s location close to the city centre and its
excellent reputation for squash were Nottingham’s principal selling
points, but another significant attraction was the introduction of a
monthly payment option; 30% of full members now take advantage of this
scheme. The membership fee also includes court usage and lighting, so
there is no pressure on members to play frequently. Additional revenue is
raised from the bar, which is staffed by members (bar profits alone last
year amounted to some £30,000). Cost savings are made by not employing
reception staff and by managers answering the phones during the day.
Nottingham is in the process of making an application
for a Lottery grant. If this is successful, two more courts will be built
and the gym area extended, but the application process has been complex.
Lottery funding normally covers up to 65% of a project but competition is
fierce and successful applicants must meet strict criteria.
Tapping the market for new players
"It is patently untrue to say that you can't get people
to play squash; it just requires the right approach," asserts Tony Lorimer,
Manager of Dulwich Squash Club in South London. "Squash is a perfect
activity through which to meet a variety of people in a social
environment. It is a competitive sport which combines skill and fitness.
The development of lightweight graphite rackets has liberated squash by
allowing all to compete on equal terms."
The ‘right approach’ must encompass marketing and
advertising as well as club organisation. Telesales campaigns can be
successful in attracting potential members to the club, but the way they
are dealt with and followed up is crucial, as is monitoring the activity
of new members. "To persuade novice and existing players to join an
unfamiliar club requires a welcoming attitude easiest achieved within the
context of a Club Night," says Lorimer. "This should be held weekly and
organised either by a volunteer (perhaps rewarded with free membership) or
professionally including coaching. A suitably 'dead' night should be easy
A designated individual should be identified in
promotional information to present a human face and a point of contact for
new members. Non-members should be welcomed on payment of a guest fee.
Allowing people to attend without obligation reduces the pressure on them
– a relaxed customer is more likely to buy.
The standard on these nights should be deliberately
mixed to reassure new players that, once they are ready to enter the club
leagues, they will encounter players of a similar standard. Once they
join, it is a simple matter to allocate them a league position based on
the results of games played at the Club Night.
It is essential also to cultivate good relations with
the local press; it’s surprising how much free publicity can be obtained.
Reputation is also very important. The Racquets Centre in Thame have
worked hard to develop a good reputation. "When we first took over we cut
prices to make ourselves attractive," explains Manager Sue Downhill, "but
people want quality and will pay for it."
Success Story 2
– Thame Racquets Fitness Centre
Three years ago the Racquets Fitness Centre in Thame,
Oxfordshire, was taken over by new management. It had four squash courts,
a gym/dance studio, a bar and dining area. The Centre started as a pure
squash club but ten years ago the fifth court was converted into a
Last year it made a profit. According to Manager Sue
Downhill, it was a result of "hard work, and then more hard work! We set
about making the club more user-friendly, a more sociable, pleasant
environment by improving facilities and then we gradually increased
prices. If people enjoy coming to the club and feel valued, they will tell
their friends. Word of mouth is so important."
The addition of a gym was felt to be crucial in
attracting new members and recently the club further developed this idea
with the addition of a weights room and a specialist cardiovascular room.
"It was what the members wanted," explains Downhill, "so we felt that we
had to supply it."
The key to the club’s success is retention of members.
It now has 1,150 members, of which 450 are regular squash players. "Squash
players become hooked and naturally renew their membership, so the key for
us was to get the gym members to renew. The best way to do this was to get
them involved in squash because squash is a social activity and gym
isn't," explains Downhill.
Thame’s Squash and Activities Manager, Simon Martin,
stresses the importance of having people responsible for separate tasks.
"We work hard individually," says Martin, "but we are all part of a team.
We all have to treat every single member as if they are the most important
person. It’s customer service that counts."
Key Points –
Dave Courteen, Chairman of the Fitness Industry
- Know your niche; highlight and profile a section of
- Remember people have a choice of clubs so personal
attention is vital. Everyone wants to feel important.
- Leaflet drops raise awareness and interest. Quality
and presentation is crucial – it is often the first impression of the
- Offer incentives such as easy payment plans and
direct debit; free coaching; days when members can bring guests.
- Network with local businesses; offer corporate
- Use your local media. Run competitions on the radio
or in the press, weekly articles on fitness.
- Pump the referrals
- Emphasise exclusivity.
- Be zany; capture people’s imagination.
- And then some – offer more than people expect.
Your Club and
The Internet is an important and inexpensive new medium
for promoting and managing your club. Instead of sending out costly
newsletters, the club can keep members informed via a web-site. This also
involves the members in actively searching for information. Leagues,
fixtures and news can be e-mailed to members.
"If a club is actively seeking members the Internet is
an excellent promotional tool," explains
Steve Cubbins, Internet expert and
Manager of the Squash Player Internet site. "In fact a page in our Club
Directory is an absolute must for any club. Simply ‘download’ the form,
fill it in and send it back. None of the hassle and expense of
registering, designing and updating your own site; we’ll do it all for you
– free! You can even customise your page with pictures etc. at a very low
cost." The Squash Player site is at
Giving members what they want
"Those of us involved in the organisation of squash can
learn a great deal from the approach of the fitness industry," maintains
Lorimer. "They know that to attract and retain their customers’ interest
and commitment they must deliver what customers want – and continue to
Sue Downhill concurs: "Thame has developed a personal
touch to all dealings with members. The internal leagues are all
computerised but the participants receive their own personalised league
table and fixture list through the post. In doing this we feel we are
making the Centre an important part of each member’s social life."
Phil Songhurst of Nottingham Squash Club emphasises the
importance of the quality of the facilities and the need to keep things as
simple as possible for members, whether it is convenient monthly payment
schedules or simple booking procedures.
At Lee-on-the-Solent Squash Club in Hampshire they
recently introduced a Gold Card scheme whereby members pay more but
everything is included (squash, tennis, gym and snooker). Lee has enjoyed
a squash revival in the past 12 months and are now wishing they had not
converted one of their seven courts into a gym three years ago.
Key Points –
- Segregate tasks.
- Appoint a dedicated sales and membership manager.
- Involve members in all decisions and listen to their
- Use the personal touch.
- Keep procedures simple and convenient.
- Ensure quality of facilities and equipment is always
as expected; slipping standards equals slipping membership.
Success Story 3
– Dulwich Squash Club
Dulwich Squash Club in South London was opened in 1936
with two courts. A new clubhouse was built in 1972 and Dulwich now has
four squash and eleven tennis courts as well as croquet and bowls lawns. A
declining membership during the ’80s was artificially boosted in 1991 when
nearby Dulwich Hamlet closed but the overall decline continued to a low
point of 150 members in 1995.
Tony Lorimer joined the club in 1991 as a player and
started organising activities such as fun nights. He became part-time
manager in 1995 and has since built the membership to 216. Dulwich now has
20 leagues, a Pyramid Ladder and fun team squash.
"A Squash Open Day at Dulwich on the 7th March this year
produced a record 16 new members," says Lorimer, who now runs three club
sessions a week at different clubs, as well as a Pyramid Squash League for
a local authority centre.
(And in case you’re wondering what a Pyramid Ladder is,
"I would be happy to share my ideas with other clubs,"
says Lorimer, who can be contacted at Dulwich Squash Club on 0171 274
1242. "What has worked for us could help you find the new members you
CREATING A BUZZ
Activities for all abilities
Activities not only offer opportunities for players to
enjoy their squash and to meet others of a similar standard, but also
allow the club to identify those members most at risk of dropping out.
All squash clubs have a league structure of some kind
but frequently the 'no-show' percentage is high. As the Racquets Centre in
Thame has found, there are measures the club can take to increase
participation. For example, all their league players are required to phone
the two opponents below them, ensuring that everyone is committed in
effort and time and feels involved. "Prevents prima donnas," says Simon
Martin, Thame’s Squash Manager.
A corporate league has also been started at Thame in the
summer when court usage normally drops off. This has proved successful and
has widened the potential membership of the club. Importantly on these
occasions the emphasis is on creating a good social atmosphere so that
players are inclined to spend time (and money) in the bar afterwards.
Pyramid squash combines the competitive element of a
ladder or league with the added benefit of encouraging friendly games
amongst players on the same level of the pyramid. Instead of only being
able to challenge one or two people above you as on a conventional ladder,
you may have a dozen people or more to contact.
Fun Team Squash
Fun teams are composed of mixed abilities from club
champion to beginner. An ‘American handicap’ system is used (PAR scoring
is used and better players start with minus score) and every point counts,
so even beginners can contribute to the team score. Teams have silly names
(and even sillier T-shirts) to emphasise the fun element.
Club nights should be targeted at different groups. At
Thame, for example, Monday is Improvers' Night. The important thing is to
tailor the programmes to members’ wishes. Enthusiastic members will start
their own groups. Thame has about ten 'coffee morning girls' who play
squash on a Thursday as well as getting together socially.
Racketball is another activity that makes use of the
squash court and, because the ball is bigger and bouncier than a squash
ball, it is easier for less athletic and older people to play. If
approached in the right way it can also act as a feeder into squash.
Tim Guppy has experienced this at Club Kingswood in
Essex and Club Woodham on the east coast. When the clubs diversified in
1986 to accommodate gyms as well as squash courts, new members were
predominantly interested in fitness so they came to racketball with no
pre-conceived ideas. In fact many now use it as a part of their fitness
routine – classes one day, gym another and racketball another.
"The great thing about racketball is that it is easy to
play," says Guppy. "Where squash is a male dominated sport we have found
that women enjoy racketball because it is less vigorous. We have also
found that, as people develop better racket skills, they are keen to try
squash, so definitely racketball can benefit squash."
Certainly racketball shouldn’t be regarded as a poor
relation to squash. Treat it as something special, part of a membership
‘upgrade’. Make it attractive (free introductory sessions, free or hire
rackets, emphasis on a good workout); make it easy (partner-finding
service, flexible leagues); create variety (clinics, tournaments, ‘try
squash’ sessions); and make it ‘visible’ (videos, charity competitions,
posters, PA announcements).
Although the conventional white plaster squash court
still predominates, there are various other options designed to make
squash more appealing to the newcomer and consequently more viable for
centres to have installed.
Half of Armourcoat’s new courts, for example, have
coloured walls. German company ASB offer a Rainbow Court which, apart from
adding colour and vibrancy to the game, also provides target areas for
players and so aids coaching. ASB’s Game Court has movable walls that
allow three conventional squash courts to be converted into two doubles
courts or one larger space for activities such as aerobics. Edmonton
Leisure Centre had the UK’s first Game Court installed in 1991 and now
couldn’t manage without it.
If your club is considering new courts, it is worthwhile
investigating all the alternatives available.
Doubles – Twice the Fun?
It’s not necessary to invest in movable walls to get
people playing doubles squash. The Racquets Centre in Thame have found
doubles a useful way of keeping the older generation playing. As elderly
squash players become less keen to expose their increasingly frail joints
to the pressures of the singles game, they are more than happy to double
up and continue to exercise while participating in an active sport.
"The benefit of this from our point of view is that
instead of losing members, we are getting the courts used and attracting
four people at a time for lunch or a drink afterwards," says Sue Downhill.
Success Story 4
– Chichester Lawn Tennis & Squash Club
This Sussex club started in the early ’60s as a tennis
club, adding two and later three more squash courts.
The squash membership declined in the late ’80s and
early ’90s, when the club decided to upgrade its facilities and put in a
gymnasium, also adding a restaurant, bar, steam room and sauna. "We
changed our pricing system too," recalls Manager Peter Genever. "Until
then squash and tennis had been separate, but now a single fee included
both sports as well as use of all the other facilities. Court fees were
abolished so that for little more than £4 per week members could play as
often as they liked."
Another innovation was free membership for members’
children under 12. "There’s a period between 9 and 12 when kids do
everything and don’t know what they really want to do," says Genever, "so
we don’t start charging them until they’re 12." Then there’s a low fee for
12–18 year-olds and a medium fee for the 19–25s as well as a reduction for
students regardless of age.
The club now has 700 members, of whom 100 or so play in
teams. "But unlike many clubs we make sure team matches take place on
Saturdays and Sundays as far as possible," explains Genever. "The majority
of ordinary members get fed up if they can’t get a court in the evening
because of matches. It’s a matter of achieving a balance between serious
and recreational players."
Eighty-five per cent of the balls Dunlop sell are yellow
dot balls, which are not suitable for many players and especially
beginners. "This can't be good for the development of the sport, as many
people are playing with the wrong ball and the difficulty of the yellow
dot ball will put many beginners off," explains Dunlop’s Paul Walters. "To
develop the game we need to attract a new group of players and that is why
we are launching our New Ball Programme in June this year." The current
blue/red/white dot balls will be replaced by two larger, bouncier,
brightly coloured balls aimed at attracting newcomers to the sport.
All you ever wanted to know
about Squash Balls
The Pros of a Pro
A good professional can make a big difference to a club.
He or she can not only provide a vital service to members but also create
an enthusiastic atmosphere.
David Campion is the professional at Queens Sports Club
in Halifax and significantly sees his role as much more than being
available for coaching. "I think that for a pro to have a great effect on
a club he needs to create a bit of a buzz," explains Campion. "The pro
also needs to generate excitement by organising exhibitions and
In the bar after matches is a good time to approach
members about taking lessons. "The professional must avoid being ‘pushy’
and coaching should whenever possible be run on a casual, ‘drop-in’ basis;
people will learn more if they want to be there," says Lorimer.
"You have to make it fun," says Dave Clarke, Head Coach
at Edgbaston Priory, who runs everything from Junior Skills Programmes to
fun handicap tournaments where kids play in flippers!
Key Points –
- Be imaginative when it comes to organising leagues,
ladders, tournaments and team competitions.
- Emphasise the fun element.
- Consider racquetball as a way-in to squash.
- Investigate different court options.
- Give doubles a try, especially with older members.
- Exploit the new balls to attract new players.
- Make the most of your pro or coach.
Are you Running a
Club... or a Facility?
by Bruce Brunning
Bruce Brunning is a director of Brunning & Price and
a member of the SRA Executive Committee. He gives his view of what makes a
The trouble with the modern health club concept is that
it often misuses the word ‘club’. Many are not clubs at all but merely
locations where one can exercise, and they can be pretty boring places,
full of fanatics but seldom catering for any human need other than fitness
– not even good health in the broader sense.
Clubs, in the traditional sense, are about relaxation
and meeting people; they are a gathering of like minded people, the hub of
your social life. In fact the catalyst – be it squash, tennis, fencing or
whatever – matters not.
As managers or owners we must never lose track of this
concept of the club as opposed to a mere facility. The fitness we provide
is essentially a by-product of fun and competition between people.
Your members almost always debrief after their exercise
with a beer or a coffee. They are most likely good friends; indeed it was
possibly your club that made them so in the first place. Are they going to
chat about how the treadmill really got to them today, how it slipped in
another hill just as you were at your weakest – "the little bugger, caught
me off balance. Still, next time I’ll have it grovelling in the back
corner..." Hardly. For this you need an opponent, another human being.
Of course the real commercial plus of clubs as opposed
to facilities is, to use the health club jargon, a ‘low churn rate’. Once
a member loses interest in the gym (which most do sooner or later) they’re
off. Not so if their social life revolves around a club. They may move
down the membership ladder from Peak to Off Peak to Social – but they
don’t go. Come to think of it, how many health clubs even bother with
social membership – "Social, what’s that? This is a health club." How can
you call yourself a club if people can’t be members just for the pleasure
Here are ten ways to ensure that you are a club and not
a facility. But don’t expect an instant response. Remember: overnight
success takes around 13 to 15 years.
- Ensure that you, and all the people you employ, are
naturally committed to making others happy. This is the core principle
- Ensure that your club provides a good mix of
facilities, but don’t be afraid to fly the flag for squash or to call
yourself a Squash Club.
- Have a great bar and club lounge – and have it run
by ‘food and beverage’ people, not squash players or gym employees.
Don’t be afraid of allowing your membership to indulge in the bad
things of life. It’s probably why they joined you in the first place
- Have well run leagues and teams. Pay someone to do
it for you so that you can crack the whip. Competition is essential to
any good squash club.
- Always have a reasonably priced social membership –
to allow ex-players to remain a part of the club.
- Spend money on your courts with regularity. There
is nothing more off-putting, particularly to female players, than a
dingy, beaten up court. Paint the walls and change all the light bulbs
every spring, as well as cleaning the courts from top to bottom.
- Try coloured courts. They’re fresh, fun, bright
and, if the floors are appropriately marked, one of the best coaching
aids possible. It also clearly demonstrates your commitment to the
future of squash.
- Never import players into your club teams, and
insist that all team players participate in the club’s internal
leagues. No exceptions. Your teams will then be integral to the club,
everyone will know the players and will want to support them. You may
not be the best in the county in the short term but, given time, you
will get very near the top. The real bonus is that you’ll have a
respected club team.
- Have lots of organised internal competitions –
doubles, juniors, handicapped, etc. Run them over one weekend or at
most seven days. And always have a Finals Night with entertainment,
food and drink. Let your hair down and let your members do the same!
- Show an interest in the national and international
squash scene. Support your governing body and let your members know,
through your noticeboards and your own knowledge, that we Brits are
world leaders. Be proud – it’ll rub off!
Clubs need club
by Matthew McFahn
SRA National Development Manager Matthew McFahn
recalls his experience at Brentwood Leisure Centre and reveals the secrets
of a successful Club Night.
The brief from Brentwood Leisure Centre was to increase
court usage at weekends. Their four courts were fairly well used during
the week with a number of more or less active leagues, but pretty quiet at
We started by promoting a Saturday morning beginners’
course and a Sunday evening Club Night. We did both at once because the
two activities interact.
The Club Night was in effect subsidised by the courses.
It was a two hour session on a drop-in basis and we charged a very low fee
(with a further discount for league players). The centre put up
promotional posters and placed an ad in the local paper.
The first week we had 16 people on the course and 16 at
the Club Night. Four years later the Nights are still running, with around
The key to a successful Club Night is rapid turnover.
That means short matches (one game, PAR scoring), so that everyone plays
(and meets) as many people as possible and waiting time between matches is
minimised. Change the formula from week to week; a knock-out competition
one week (with play-offs for the losers), a round robin the next. It’s
essential that you, the coach, participate; it’ll be the highlight of
someone’s week to take a few points off the pro. And if you can’t make it
for any reason, make sure your replacement knows the formula and sticks to
Invite your course students to join in the Club Night,
but don’t pressurise them. Let them come and watch, and only join in if
they feel comfortable. We found that just over half did so. The important
thing is to keep the atmosphere relaxed and make sure there’s a bar open
The social aspect is crucial. Two people who came to
Club Nights at Brentwood ended up getting married!
by Zena Wooldridge
Zena Wooldridge is Sport & Recreation Manager at
Birmingham University and Club Captain of Stourbridge Squash Club, where
racketball is big business.
Stourbridge Lawn Tennis & Squash Club is a prime example
of the contribution that racketball can make to the financial and social
success of a traditional private members’ club.
Stourbridge has just over 1,000 members, more or less
evenly split between tennis, squash and racketball. The racketball section
has five ladies’ teams competing in the West Midlands Racketball League,
with up to 150 ladies competing in daytime leagues and in the annual
championships. But racketball at Stourbridge is far from being confined to
ladies and weekdays. All those macho squash players who pooh-poohed
racketball in the early days have become exponents of the game themselves.
There are also loads of youngsters, an increasing number of retired squash
players and tennis players too.
So where did it all start and what is the key to the
success of racketball at Stourbridge?
Racketball was introduced to Stourbridge in 1981. The
club had just completed an expensive extension when the recession hit. Two
long-standing members, Malcolm and Liz Bate, introduced to racketball by
friends, decided to bring the game to Stourbridge in an effort to offset
the decline in use of the club’s new squash courts. A door-to-door leaflet
drop inviting local ‘housewives’ to an introductory morning attracted an
astounding response. And the rest is history.
There is no doubt that racketball was the major factor
in the financial stability of the Stourbridge club over two decades of
economic recession. But other clubs and sports centres have tried
racketball, with limited success. Why? Because they have missed out at
least one of the essential ingredients:
l Build on a solid social platform. The social network
is the main source of new members – and racketball members can teach the
squash and tennis sections a thing or two about looking after new members.
l Have a racketball committee which organises
introductory courses, tournaments and social events. The ladies can also
run their own crèche.
l Keep fees for daytime (weekday) membership low with no
court fees. This will still generate a significant amount of revenue for
very little outlay, supplemented by takings from the gallons of coffee,
tea and soft drinks bought over the bar from 9:30am. Those clubs and
sports centres that try to introduce racketball without a lounge and bar
will inevitably struggle.
There has been a slight drop-off in daytime racketball
over the last couple of years as more women return to work. But there are
still thousands of women out there for whom racketball could be an ideal
source of exercise and of a new social network, whilst contributing to the
financial and social success of your squash club.
Squash and racketball are ideal partners. Marketed in
the right way they are wholly complementary. Try out the formula in your
club. Get it right and you can’t lose.
10 steps to
by Andrew Shelley
Andrew Shelley has spent many years organising
tournaments, from local to World Championship level. He lists some of the
main points to consider.
Whether you’re organising the World Open or putting on a
local junior tournament, the fundamentals are the same, even though some
flexibility is required according to the particular requirements of each
event. Here’s a checklist of things to remember:
1. Set the Style
Ask yourself the following questions: What type of
event is it? What is the ‘theme’? What standard of player do you want to
attract? Will you have different categories or age groups?
2. Make a Date
What is the best timing for the event – during the
holidays, over a weekend, daytime or evenings? Check with your national
association and county secretary that there isn’t anything else on at
the same time in the same area, then register your dates with them.
3. In the Club
Prepare an accommodation list for participants
(perhaps members will be willing to put them up), set up an ‘event desk’
(which could be at reception or in a separate room). Make sure that you
have access to phones and other office machinery such as a word
processor and photocopier.
When it comes to catering you’ll need to think of:
- the times players will want to eat;
- the type of food they will need (i.e. high in
carbohydrate) and any special dietary requirements competitors or
officials may have;
- a simple system for officials and press to get
free meals (e.g. vouchers);
- whether you’ll need to apply for a bar extension;
- ensuring there’s a continuous flow of coffee to
keep the organiser awake!
Don’t forget the social side and, particularly if it’s
a junior tournament, involve the whole family.
Is there a first aid room, a physio, a medical
officer? Will a stringing service be available?
And what about the spectators – have you considered
them? Will you be charging admission? If so, what about club members?
Oh, and don’t forget to book the courts!
4. Money Matters
Set a budget and fix the entry fees. Get quotes from
suppliers (e.g. caterers). Draw up sponsorship proposals (see page v).
Will you need extra insurance for the event? Most important, list all
the likely costs and make sure that income reaches the same level.
5. Team Building
Decide on your team ‘structure’ and find plenty of
helpers (better to have lots of people each doing a small job than a few
trying to do everything). Get your referees and markers and decide how
they will be accommodated, fed, clothed, badged and paid. If possible
involve the competitors themselves in refereeing and marking.
6. The Right Stuff
Check the courts well in advance and arrange any
necessary repairs. Do all the lights work and will the heating be on?
Make sure you have enough squash balls, markers’ pads and other
7. Up for the Cup
Recover trophies from previous winners and/or order
new ones and sort out the prize money. Don’t forget about the Plate
tournament. Get hold of other prizes and mementoes (sportswear,
equipment, vouchers, etc. – NOT cheap plastic trophies) so that no one
goes home empty-handed.
8. Quick on the Draw
You’ll need to decide whether to have one large draw
or divide it into two or more categories, e.g. by age or ability. The
latter arrangement makes things easier when it comes to allowing for
rest periods between matches. (It also means there are more winners.)
Ensure that that every player gets at least two
matches by running a Plate event. Distribute byes so that no one has to
wait too long for a match and, if possible, arrange matches so that
people are not playing people they know or play regularly.
Decide how you are going to produce the seedings and
compile the draw sheets (plus some enlargements for display) along with
other competitor information.
9. Spread the Word
Put up posters, send press releases, invite the press,
arrange a photographer and delegate someone to write regular reports
during the tournament. Think carefully about announcements and
presentations. Who will make them? Will there be an opportunity for a
rehearsal? Will you need a mike? Will it work?
10. Keep Smiling!
Make sure you get enough help to allow you to enjoy
the event and want to do it again. And remember why you’re doing it: for
the participants, for the club, for squash.
The Key to
by Howard Harding
Howard Harding is PR consultant to the SRA, WSF,
WISPA and PSA. He gives some tips on how to go about obtaining
Whether you’re running a local tournament or putting a
team into the National League, the chances are that you’re going to need
sponsorship to help cover the costs. But is it really a sponsor you’re
looking for, or is it just their money you’re after? If it’s the latter,
and you haven’t considered what you might be able to offer your ‘sponsor’
in return for that money, what you’re really hoping for is patronage.
Unfortunately there aren’t too many companies around
today that are willing simply to give their money away, nowever worthy the
cause, without seeing some return.
So the first thing you need to do if you want someone to
invest in your event or team (and it doesn’t matter whether it’s £100 or
£100,000) is to work out a range of benefits you can offer in return.
The most significant of these will probably be
You could offer title sponsorship – The Anycompany
Squash Classic or Team – so that the company’s name appears every time the
event or team is mentioned – on posters, entry forms, press releases,
tickets, etc. The new title may seem a little strange and unwieldy to
start with, but once you’ve lived with it for a while it’ll roll off the
tongue with surprising ease, perhaps even becoming an indelible part of
Remember the tin – and then bear in mind that the number
of people who might see the sponsor’s name on it will be limited to the
players and the spectators. Offer your sponsor this prime space of course,
but suggest also that you produce a poster which can be displayed in other
clubs (as well as libraries, sports shops, etc.) in the area in order to
extend awareness of the sponsorship to a much wider audience.
Hospitality is another key benefit that sponsorship can
provide; offer your sponsor a reasonable number of tickets to each session
or match and, if possible, a private room where the sponsor can entertain
clients and customers.
A further way in which you can help sponsors promote
themselves to their squash-playing clients is to organise a simple
tournament (perhaps during the last day of an event) for them. The
occasion would undoubtedly provide an excellent environment for both
enjoyment and business.
Sponsors may well be able to use events to sell their
products (which could be anyting from insurance policies to sports goods).
The audience at the event may be just the target group they are after, so
offer them the opportunity to set up a stand in an appropriate area.
Perhaps the names and addresses of your competitors
would interest the sponsor (though here you have to keep on the right side
of the Data Protection Act), or maybe the opportunity to include publicity
material in the next mailing to your club members would be of interest.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of benefits that
can be offered to a sponsor, simply an indication of some areas that can
be considered. All sponsorships are different and all sponsors have
different requirements. The key thing is to identify the aspects of your
package that interest each potential sponsor the most and emphasise the
benefits in this area.
At the end of the day you must offer sponsors something
their competitors will be envious of. And remember, above all, that it
must be a two-way relationship; it’s not just a matter of ‘take the money
by Peter Brown
Peter Brown is squash professional at the
Wolverhampton Tennis & Squash Club and a former SRA Area Coach. He
assesses the business aspects of coaching.
When you start coaching or join a new club, you’ll
want to advertise yourself, not only at the club itself, but in the
local paper and maybe on local radio. You could make a simple poster and
send it to local libraries and schools and other clubs which don’t have
their own coach. You might want to have your car signwritten.
But don’t overestimate the value of advertising. When
I joined Wolverhampton, I sent a letter to each of the 1,000 members
promoting my service. Two responded. By far your best advertising medium
is word of mouth. Always remember that you’re only as good as your last
lesson, so you must give 100% every time.
Sign people up for series of lessons. Most of my day
is now pre-booked by the same regular people, so I only have a few slots
I need to fill.
Your charges will obviously depend on your
qualifications and experience and on whether you’re paid a retainer by
the club, but in any case you should beware of undercharging – it will
imply that you’re not very good! You might also think it’s a good idea
to offer discounts at off-peak times. I once offered a discount during
school holidays, but I found that people started ‘bartering’ with me at
other times, so I no longer do so.
You should build into your fees an allowance for
overheads and travelling expenses and for court fees if necessary. If
you’re earning more than £51,000 a year, you’ll need to register for VAT
and that will mean increasing your rates by 17.5%. And, of course, as a
self-employed person you’ll need to allow for income tax and national
insurance contributions as well as a contribution to a personal pension
and insurance against sickness, accidents and injuries.
Of course, the most important thing is to give value
for money. No one will complain about paying £20 or £25 an hour if they
start winning against people they’ve never beaten before.
Being organised is not simply a matter of turning up
on time for lessons and keeping records of pupils’ progress. It’s about
managing your time. There are five programmes you should have:
- an annual programme
- a weekly programme
- a weekend programme
- a daily programme
- a holiday programme
At the beginning of each year schedule your courses,
with prices for each. Make sure you allow yourself time off during the
day; you shouldn’t work more than three hours at a stretch without at
least a change of scene. If you work seven days a week, give yourself a
week off every six weeks. You need time to be with your family and to
pursue your hobbies as well as to further your own playing career.
Try to vary your day as much as possible with group
lessons and fitness training sessions at various levels. Non-stop
individual coaching will eventually drive you nuts. About 30% of my time
is taken up with group coaching, where a different approach is required.
People who join group sessions are usually more interested in meeting
people and having fun than in becoming great squash players.
Try to get involved in area coaching or coach
training. Maybe aim for a tennis or badminton coaching qualification to
give you flexibility and variety. Organise mix-in nights, junior
mornings, tournaments and social events for the club. Put on exhibition
matches and clinics.
Make sure also that you’re a member of all the club’s
committees and have regular meetings with management. Let them know how
many new members you’ve brought in and they’ll be happy.
Learn to string rackets and set up some sort of
retailing scheme. Offer fitness testing or video analysis. Always
remember, variety is the spice of life.
taking fun seriously
An active junior section is essential to the future
of any squash club. But how do you get it started and how do you keep it
going? Duncan Carey (Squash Development Manager & Coach at Alleynes local
authority centre), Dave Clarke (Head of Squash at Edgbaston Priory club),
Mary Scott-Miller (junior development manager at Tunbridge Wells club),
Bernie Morris (junior programme manager at the Xaverian Club in
Merseyside) and Mike Platel (Tunbridge Wells Borough Sports Development
Officer) share their thoughts and experience.
"There’s no secret to it really," says Dave Clarke, who
started at Edgbaston in August 1998 with just four regular junior players
on a Saturday morning and now has more than 50 youngsters every week. He
began by offering two free ‘taster’ courses to members with children
(these can also be offered to non-members if club rules allow), who were
then signed up for a six-week course (with the first lesson free). The
first course was mixed age/ability, but subsequent courses were split into
juniors (i.e. the youngest children), intermediate and advanced groups.
Later an after-school session was added to the Saturday mornings.
"It’s important to have the right people," says Dave. "
They must be able to relate to kids and not put them under too much
pressure initially. The emphasis should be on fun, fun and more fun." At
Edgbaston they have crazy handicap tournaments in which the kids play with
frying pans or with rackets with only four strings, or wearing flippers,
etc. and there are prizes all round.
But the serious side is not neglected. "It’s important
also to work through the Skills Awards (children like to be awarded
certificates as evidence of achievement), but not until the kids have got
to know each other and built their confidence. Variety is the key; you
must avoid predictable patterns.
"And there’s also the social side; each course should
end with some sort of party – a barbecue in the summer, a Christmas do, an
Easter egg competition."
"You have to take a long-term view: these kids will get
into the teams and join the club once they start work. They are your loyal
members of the future."
At Alleynes (which is a ‘dual use facility’ – i.e. used
by pupils during school time) it was decided about three years ago to
establish a quality junior programme in order to halt the decline in
squash activity. The plan was similar to Edgbaston’s. Duncan Carey took
Top Squash into local primary schools, then offered free ‘taster’ courses
for 7 to 11 year-olds in the club itself, later splitting the children
into beginners, improvers and advanced and developing an after-school
junior club with swimming and table tennis as well as squash, and social
activities like visits to nearby Alton Towers.
The scheme attracted 50 juniors, which allowed Duncan to
revive the Staffordshire junior squash league and to enter teams in the
junior inter-county championships for the first time in years.
"It must be good value, good fun and have a good social
side," says Duncan. "Everyone is treated the same, whether they just want
to play for fun or want to take the game to the highest level. We treat
fun very seriously. It’s a slow process, but essential for the club and
for the game in general."
Bernie Morris started a junior section in 1994 at the
Xaverian Club – an Old Boys’ club offering a variety of sports.
"I realised that it was essential to develop a coaching
‘base’, to develop coaches and helpers internally." Bernie obtained a
coaching qualification himself and arranged a coaching course in Liverpool
so that others wanting to do the same didn’t have too far to travel. To
get them interested he introduced a ‘foster scheme’, whereby adult squash
players are encouraged to play against the top juniors to bring them on.
"It’s all about persuading people to do things," says Bernie. "The more
coaches you have, the less each has to do and the easier the whole thing
is to run."
Having got enough coaches, Bernie undertook a series of
roadshows, taking junior rackets and foam balls into school halls and
offering two months’ free membership and a free coaching session. He
studied old court booking sheets to choose the best times for junior
sessions (and in doing so discovered that some players don’t book but
habitually use the quiet times to play).
He started with a Saturday morning session from 10.20 to
13.00, then set up a lunchtime club and after-school clubs three times a
week. Once again the emphasis was on fun, particularly among the younger
kids. Now the Saturday sessions run from 9.40 to 11.40 and from 13.00 to
15.00 and there are between 90 and 100 regular juniors. Last season four
of the six Merseyside junior squad came from the Xaverian Club.
Down in Tunbridge Wells Mary Scott-Miller started a Tops
programme about two years ago and managed to obtain ‘Sportsmatch’ money
from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as it is now known, and a
grant from the local borough council to help pay for coaching as well as
equipment including a ball machine. The funding was provided on a
‘matching’ basis – i.e. the club purchased a certain amount of equipment
and the council paid for the same amount again. Additional SRA money
helped to get the scheme going (e.g. by helping to train coaches) but
within two years they had created a sustainable structure of coaches,
helpers and parents. Tunbridge Wells now has seven juniors in club leagues
and one girl in the Kent girls’ squad.
Of course, not all local authorities offer funding for
junior development, but it’s worth finding out what schemes are available
and whom to approach. You should also find out what the council’s
priorities are and try to align your proposal with them.
"It’s no good just going in asking for money," says Mike
Platel. "You must have a plan: you must know what you want to do and how
much it will cost. You must identify the need for what you are proposing
and what the benefits of the scheme will be. Normally it needs to be an
initiative that will widen access to squash in particular and sport in
general (for example, to children in deprived or rural areas)."
Councils don’t regard themselves as ‘funding’ things,
but as ‘enabling’ them – helping to make things happen, and they will put
in just enough to make the difference between things happening and not
"The scheme also needs to be sustainable over a long
period and you will need to show that you’ve obtained, or at least looked
for, money elsewhere (e.g. Sportsmatch funding or sponsorship).