A Father & Coach In One

A Coach & Father in One
“Where did it all begin?”, “Why did you start playing?”, “Why squash?”
The most frequently asked questions I get. I can personally say, it was bred into me. My entire family, me being the youngest of 5, had all participated in squash and competed at high levels. Although, my siblings were not the main source behind my choice of squash, for it was because of my dad that we all played.

As a kid I travelled to tournaments with my family to support my sisters who were playing and I also tagged along (more like got dragged along) to local competition nights with mum and dad, infact this all happened from the moment I was born! On many occasions I fell asleep under the stairs at the courts with my Mickey Mouse doll and mum would have to carry me to the car when it was time to go home.

Dad played at a reasonable level but turned mainly to coaching where his success came and mind you is still coming. He coached my sisters, numerous high achieving juniors, head coach of various state teams over the years and also works extensively for state boards behind the scenes.

So, It was one day after he had finished a lesson with young boy he was coaching at the time that I decided I wanted to have a go. I was just five years old, Dad put a racquet in my hand and a big yellow sponge ball in the other, and said ‘Have a go’ and I did, I hit the ball (on the frame), not very well but I chased it around the court and kept trying to whack it with this huge racquet I was holding!

From then on, I began having little hits with dad after he finished coaching each week, still travelling to tournaments with my sister but I was more interested in everything and anything else but playing squash. Gradually he showed me the little things- grip, swing, how to serve and so on. A casual introduction that was never too much at once. As I got better and grew in size (marginally!) I joined in some squad sessions, played a few games until I participated in my first tournament when I was eight years old.

My sister moved to Melbourne for squash full time and my parents found an opportunity to move to Coffs Harbour, where they bought a squash centre and still run it today. As most people say to me “oh that’s why you play” or “‘that’s why your so good”, not realising it’s ever so slightly insulting as they assume it’s easier to win and doesn’t actually take an effort to become good. Let me be clear, there’s a difference between living at the courts and actually stepping onto a court to play and train. I don’t deny its benefits of saving money or the convenience of courts on my door step but living there 24/7 makes you sick of it! The saying that ‘someone lives and breathes squash’ is fitting but it’s also exactly why I don’t ‘live and breathe it’ now.

Moving on, there was a long line of events that followed and whilst growing up dad was there for all of them- good, bad, ugly and the downright horrible. From the very beginning my dad was my coach, then I turned 18.

Having a coach who is also my father has never really been an issue. We managed to have a naturally successful relationship in both areas, I think it’s because we separated squash mode and daddy/daughter mode very well. So many times you see parents who are coaches to their kids really struggle with this. It occurs because of a few things, mainly a phase in growing up and commonly the placement of pressure. This pressure can be from the parent to push, wanting the best for their child and the child’s own pressure for themselves to make their parent proud.

Also, It’s understandable, if your in a bad mood and your coach tells you to do something you do it no matter what but when it comes from a parental figure you can get away with being moody! It’s the whole ‘unconditional love’ thing. Oh and don’t forget the natural rebellious teenager time when it’s not cool to listen to your parents, now those were fun days!

My Dad, taught me everything he knew and gave me every opportunity to help me become the best I can. Traveling all over Australia and internationally to get exposure and experience. He sent me to other coaches for outside advice and viewpoints, which many coaches would be against but Dad saw it as an opportunity. He wanted me to learn to make my own decisions about what is best for me.

Eventually a day came when he said “I can’t take you any further, it’s time to fly”. It was crushing but he encouraged me to pursue my dreams, deep down I knew it was time to leave Coffs Harbour. It wasn’t until I moved that I then realised the full benefits of having a father and coach in one. It was difficult for me adjust, I took for granted how genuinely caring he was about me, my career and my success, everything he did was in MY best interest. I was able to talk to him about everything and know he would understand. I could trust his every word.
My new coach had several players to look after, it was a tricky change. The style of my game, handling my moods, confidence, reassurance, feedback, criticism, communication especially between games were all different and I had to quickly stand on my own two feet. Being unsure that my new coach truly had my best interest at heart and only wanted the best in my game was a trying battle. Your not his only athlete and the other he coached were my opponents! It took time but everything fell into place and trust became strong over months and even a year. Since then I have continued spreading branches to constantly keep updating my views on the game. More adjustments yes, but I’m more prepared.

Today looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know where I come from, the reason I started and how grateful I am to have been given all those opportunities. Even now I still turn to my dad for advice, if I’m feeling stuck or unsure about something, I’ll run it by him for a second opinion. I know he will be honest and support whatever choices I make, be it in squash or in life.
The best lesson my dad ever taught me was to have dreams, ‘Dream big and just go for it’. I couldn’t be prouder to have had my dad as my coach but even more so as my Father. Thankyou Dad.DSC00037

& That’s My Athletes Mind…