REPORT BY LEE HORTON
As squash in Essex begins its return to relative normality following the Covid19 shut down, today we shine the light on Lexden Rackets & Fitness Club in Colchester to examine how they are handling the post-pandemic re-start.
Head squash and racketball coach Paul Allen, pictured above coaching Essex junior Mikayla Mann, has had to totally re-work his weekly schedule that previously embraced schools coaching, junior squads, one-to-one sessions and matches with club members.
“It’s fair to say the last few months have been a challenge,” said Paul, who has been at Lexden since 2008. “From total lock down, we are gradually re-introducing squash to our members, alongside tennis and swimming which returned a month or so ago.
“We are not running squad sessions yet, although England Squash has said we can work in small groups. Instead, I have been taking individual sessions with quite a few members, including many Essex Junior Squash players who were desperate to get back on court. I have four schools who have given coaching light and I will be organising those sessions quite soon.”
Lexden, like a lot of clubs, now puts gaps in their diaries when courts are aired and cleaned between sessions. Added Paul: “One of our club trustees works in the world of animal disease control and hygiene and has been absolutely brilliant advising us how to prepare and maintain the club. I guess we were ahead of the game when squash was given the signal to return to playing so we can count ourselves lucky there.”
For Paul, like most other squash coach, shutdown brought considerable financial challenges, so he is thankful that life is beginning to turn a corner. “Stage one has been to re-open the club and get people playing again. We have brought in a few new guidelines including sanitizing stations, staggered court times and only allowing players to use the bar area once you have showered after leaving the squash courts. The club needs a revenue stream, so if we have to adjust to the Covid19 situation, then so be it.”
England Squash is currently reviewing its playing guidelines and Paul is looking for a further relaxation of conditions and restrictions. “We are hoping for a little more flexibility in the playing bubbles that currently exist for players. Maybe players could opt out of one bubble, isolate for a period, and create a new small group of people to play. I’m hoping for an increase in players per court for juniors to make squads economically viable ”
Essex Junior Squash wishes everyone at Lexden good luck as they rebuild the club in these extraordinary times. Their determination, desire and expert experience certainly holds them in good stead.
To read more about Paul Allen, see this Q&A Essex Junior Squash posted in 2014.