REPORT BY CALLUM HIBBERD
“My life was richer for knowing him, one of the kindest and wisest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing” says one member at Epping Squash Club who was always run ragged, but went home a smiling, improved player, whenever he shared the court with Les Sutton.
“Ah, unforgettable Les… A person like him, you are incredibly lucky to meet in life, he remains in my mind and heart with his brilliant teachings”, I am told by his friend in Italy.
“Once seeing me tense and worried during an important game, he gave me some advice: ‘Go on court and HAVE FUN’ With two words he made me understand a thousand things, as if he had talked for hours”, claims another.
Many more who knew Les would no doubt have similar things to say. Before he sadly passed away aged 47, on August the 28th 2019, Les imparted his wisdom and expertise to players of all ages and standards at Epping and Connaught Squash Club.
A combination of starting the game young with his brother in home country Zambia; regular practice and competitions at boarding school when he moved to The UK in 1988; competing semi-professionally in Italy, and studying Sport and Exercise Science at Birmingham University, meant Les knew everything there was to know about Squash. Put simply, he was an expert on technique, movement, fitness, nutrition and the mental side of the game.
All of this, plus his genuine passion for improvement and development, meant he could identify the slightest of irregularities in someone’s game, and suggest chronological, small tweaks to make an improvement.
Off the court, he was an intellectual and extremely friendly family man; you often heard Les’ distinctive laugh before you saw his face! I, and many others, cannot remember a time Les ever showed stress, or divulged into his personal life, as he was always so focused on helping other people and asking about them. This did not change, even when he started suffering from cancer.
“He never let on that things were bad, he never moaned”, says Double Dot Academy’s legendary coach Dave Webster, who has been instrumental in helping set the tournament up (The details of which are below).
It was so easy to listen to a man like Les on the court, and even easier to be friends with him outside of it. He was one of those incredible people who seemed good at everything, whether it be Squash, running, skiing, cycling, languages, cooking, or his later work in physiotherapy and healthcare finance. However, behind everything he did, there was 100% commitment, enthusiasm and an admirable positivity.
These traits show in his children, who are already thoughtful and mature beyond their years. Tristan is a British Under 11 champion in Squash, while Matthew sits inside the top 20 for Under 13 players. Francesca, seven, also loves Squash and has played in the Essex set-up for her age group!
A very typical Sunday – the Sutton family exhausting themselves after a day of outdoor sports!
It is not just Squash though, they are also handy with Athletics, Swimming, Football and Tang Sou Dao between them. Supporting them on is Olga, Les’ incredibly strong and resilient wife, who he met at their place of work in 2000!
Olga, who was born in the Czech Republic, says: “Les took all three children on the Squash court from a very early age, and taught them how to throw a ball, hold a racket and move well. He had limitless patience, love and understanding. He passed on the passion and love for the game. And best of all, he taught them how to be the best version of themselves!”
Penny, Les’ mother, also speaks glowingly of her son’s involvement in the game: ‘At Ndola Squash Club, as an infant, he would often be in a carry cot while I was having coaching! No doubt the thumping of the ball against the wall is a sound rhythm which has stayed with him. Look what that little acorn grew into!’
‘When young, him and his brother Ewart usually played adults, as there were no children who wanted to play the game, soon they became able to hold their own’.
‘While his earning career took him into Physiotherapy and eventually becoming a Head of operations for the surgery and cancer board at University College London Hospital, his Squash and general fitness were always a priority for him. And the legacy has been channelled to his children, who are all little stars’
What is the Les Sutton Memorial Junior Squash Tournament?
An official England Junior Squash bronze event, held in honour of Les Sutton. This means that all participating juniors can earn ranking points from the event.
This is the second edition of the tournament, and the first where ranking points can be earned. The first edition in 2019 was a much smaller and informal occasion held at Connaught.
The day will be made up of ‘Free-play’ Squash (I.e., plenty of matches for all to play against their own age group, with total match wins and games won contributing to the distribution of ranking points at the end of the day).
The age categories are Boys Singles: U11; U13; U15; U17; U19, Girls Singles: U11; U13; U15 U17; U19 and Mixed: U9
When and where is the Les Sutton Memorial Junior Squash Tournament?
Saturday the 3rd of July 2022, 9:00AM start.
Woodford Wells Club
Woodford Green, IG8 0NL
How can I enter the Les Sutton Memorial Junior Squash Tournament?
Those wishing to enter, or enter someone else should follow the usual steps on England Squash. The link for the tournament is https://squash.madeatsilverchip.com/competition-search/single/13549.
Entries are open now, and close on the 22nd of June 2022, at 17:00PM.
Who is involved in The Les Sutton Memorial Junior Squash Tournament?
Vickie Prow is the main organiser (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And special thanks go to Dave Webster, who operates as the main coach under his Double Dot Squash Academy set-up at Woodford Wells. Dave and Les grew close in the brief period they knew each other (From around late 2017, when Les started helping junior players at Connaught), and he has put in great effort to organise the tournament.
Great effort has also gone in to supporting Les’ children. Olga says that ‘Dave has done so much for them, personally and Squash-wise’ while Matthew remarks ‘We would not have got up to where we are now without him!’
Dave has been crucial to the development of hundreds of players, most notably PSA regular Richie Fallows. He has recently added the young and dynamic Gareth Naidoo to his coaching stable at the club.
Les will never be forgotten; he left a special mark on plenty of lives, including mine, and I encourage junior players from far and wide to honour him by participating in this brilliant competition. I am sure many are still missing him and channelling his brilliant spirit every day. Thinking of you, Les,