What a week of watching great squash played by nearly 800 players from over 50 countries. For example:
- Omar Elborolossy (Egypt) master-classing the 35+
- Craig Rowland (Australia) grinding out the 40+
- Craig Van Der Wath (South Africa) smoothly gliding around the court in the 45+
- Sarah Fitzgerald (Australia) still cracking the ball in the 45+
- Sue Hiller’s (Australia) ruthlessly simple execution in the 50+
- Brian Cook (Australia) skillfully winning the 65+
- Peter Hill (Singapore) nearly toppling the giant, Brett Martin, in the 50+ semi-final
- the 80+ guys putting on an astonishing 5-setter exhibition
One of the biggest things I took away from the event is that using the excuse of…
“I’m too old!”
…as a way to stop your body from keeping fit and being able to move around well, either on or off court, is just that – an excuse.
The way some of these players of all ages were moving was inspiring, which leads to another big thing that was confirmed for me. That is, don’t confine your squash development to just your own country.
It’s a big world out there with lots of great advice and examples of different styles and approaches for you to soak up and find out what works for you.
From Little Kids Helping Out To Oldies Belting It Out!
The feel of the tournament was an extremely friendly vibe mixed in with top-quality squash.
The guy who kick-started and drove the tournament through from conception to the actual week, Malcolm Kerr, said to me a couple of times beforehand that it’s his favourite event.
I hadn’t been involved with a World Masters’ tournament but now I think I understand his love for it.
It’s made up of so many different kinds of players & people who have traveled massive distances and sacrificed time, energy & money just to be there:
- Former pros who have continued playing for years and still play at a phenomenal level
- Former pros who had stopped playing but something sparked in them to take action toward achieving a specific goal
- Club players who have never aspired to ‘reach the top’ and just play for the pure love of the game
- New players who were playing their first ever tournament!
- Friends & family who want to watch and drink and cheer!
- Organizers & volunteers who want to be part of and help make a great event
Obviously the standard of professional tournaments, like the Hong Kong Open next month, is higher.
However the spectrum of different kinds of people is narrower.
Last week, there seemed to be a detachment and matured realization that squash is just a game yet at the same time there was still an obvious high-level competitive edge to the matches.
The David And Goliath Match
One of my favorite matches was that of training partner, Peter Hill (former world #26) taking on Brett Martin (former world #2) in the semi-final of the 50+.
It was a tenacious fox trying to topple a giant!
I think most in the crowd – the packed crowd that saw just as many if not more spectators than during the illustrious Hong Kong Open – were expecting a 3-0 whitewash to Brett.
Peter had other plans.
After he essentially threw away the first game, we watched a supremely physically conditioned Peter break down an out-of-shape Brett.
But after being up 2 games to 1, Peter eventually lost in 5 with Brett’s determination & skill getting him through.
William Hosey played awesomely to eventually beat Brett in the final but I reckon he owes Peter a beer!
Gliding Around The Court Like A Gazelle
Another great aspect of the tournament is meeting and watching great players you have never heard of.
For me, one of those was Craig Van Der Wath who reached somewhere around top 30 in the world as a professional.
His movement around the court was effortless – quite a pleasure to watch. It never looked like he was rushed.
Most players have at least some sort of up and down motion when they move around court – you can see their head bobbing up and down, to whatever degree, with each step they take. When Craig moves, it’s like his body is gliding on an even horizontal plane.
It’s probably because he has a neutral posture – his spine is impeccably straight with no discernible muscle imbalances.
To see his movement in person definitely offers another goal to work towards. And that’s not to mention the articulation in his wrist-action which gave his grip power & control.
What Dictates Squash Fitness Is Alignment – Not Age
I chatted with quite a few players who were over 60.
Each of them, despite their age, play squash regularly with no major injuries or obstacles to their physical movement.
The common thread was that they have stayed active consistently throughout their life which has prevented or minimised muscle imbalances in the form of chronic tension becoming a major issue.
If you stop exercising and stop being active, your body adapts and becomes used to not moving.
Usually when people stop moving, they do so in a passive way (as opposed to active relaxation) in postures that encourage dreaded muscle imbalances – like sitting at a computer all day or watching television for hours on end.
It’s inevitable that with repetitive hours of this the joints in your body will become misaligned.
The 2 results here will either be:
- You don’t do any physical exercise because you tell yourself ‘you’re too old’
- You do physical exercise in a frustratingly limited way which probably leads to injury
Even if it’s something simple & easy like what the 65+ champion, Brian Cook, was doing leading up to the tournament – stepping up and down on a single step for minutes on end… doing some kind of squash fitness workout (almost) every day is vital.
Squash Fitness Is A Grind
In terms of squash fitness being the difference between winning and losing, my obvious pick is that of the 40+ champion, Craig Rowland.
He doesn’t have amazing shots where he destroys an opponent. He just hits a consistent line & length at a sustained fast pace.
His quarter-final was the first match that pushed him physically. Eventually though, his ability to maintain consistent pressure wore down his highly skilled and conditioned South African opponent.
He faced another South African in the final, Zuko Kubukeli. The scores in each of the games didn’t reflect the rally-by-rally sea-saw of the match.
It could have gone either way.
The fact that Craig wore down the supremely fit Zuko says a lot about his conditioning for this tournament.
And after the final point, Craig’s reaction was yet another example of many others during the week where you could see how much the win meant.
Missing Some Great Matches
The tournament was split between 2 venues so I didn’t get to see a lot of the matches, like one of the 80+ round robin games which I’m told was phenomenal.
A packed crowd watched two guys over the age of 80 run around a squash court for 45 minutes in a 5-set thriller. They played crafty nick shots as well as extended rallies that had people watching on the edge of their seats.
There are many others that I didn’t get to watch and don’t have space to mention here.
That’s the thing about the World Masters – you have to be there to appreciate how cool it really is!
The 7-Day Fitness Challenge
On the final day I faltered with my 7-day squash fitness challenge! After the long week and final day I ended up socialising with some new friends I had made.
Two things I drew from this:
- I persisted with my squash fitness workout throughout the week in a way that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t set the initial goal.
- Sometimes you don’t reach every goal you set – the important thing is the journey once you have set it, the process of keeping your mind focused as best you can, falling but getting back up, and being adaptable.
The next day I was back again making my body stronger and more pliable. And after being a part of the World Masters Championships, I now have something extra to work towards.
If you ever get the chance, check out the event – it’s awesome!
And, of course, keep yourself fit and ready so you can kick ass when the time comes 🙂
Have fun & play your own game!