Squash has been played in Shetland since the building of the Lerwick Squash Club courts in 1979 at the back of the Isleburgh Community Centre. That same year saw Isleburgh build two courts within their Centre. Sadly the courts within Isleburgh were closed but the Lerwick Club courts continued until the new courts were opened at the Clickimin Leisure Centre. It had generally been the opinion that courts at Clickimin would be advantageous to the development of the game throughout Shetland, as it would raise public profile and not appear to be an elitist sport only played in private clubs.
Constant lobbying from Squash groups, Individuals and perseverance by the Management of the Clickimin Leisure Centre, has after 20 years come to fruition and we have since the end of January 2005, three top class squash courts at Shetland’s centre of sporting excellence. These 3 singles courts can also be converted into 2 doubles courts. In general, squash doubles matches have been played utilising singles courts but doubles courts are now being built and professional tournaments and world championships are now taking place all over the world. We can feel extremely lucky and proud to have the only doubles courts in Scotland. The next closest facility at the time was Manchester. Both Glasgow & Orkney now have similar facilities.
In 2001 Shetland applied to host the Island Games in 2005, which allowed an opportunity for other sports to participate that previously had not been represented. Shetland Squash submitted their proposal which was finally accepted with sufficient interest by a number of other Islands and Squash is now one of the core sports included in the Island Games. This was due in some part by the timeous proposal by the Shetland Recreational Trust to build squash courts at their Flagship Leisure Centre at Clickimin. This now compliments the facilities at the other leisure centres throughout Shetland.
The courts at Clickimin have been busy this year, starting with the build up to the Island Games in July and should have culminated with the Squash Intercounty against Orkney. Due to the vagaries of the weather in March some events have had to be held over until April.
The Island Games were an unprecedented success in general and in particular for Squash. The Clickimin Leisure Centre worked closely with Shetland Squash, the Island Games Association and the Shetland Island Games Association, in producing an event in size and organisation bigger than anything previously held. Much praise must go to all who were involved, Organisers and Competitors alike. The feedback from the other Islands involved in Squash was full of praise and adulation for the smooth running of the event and the facilities provided. From the spectators came a big “thumbs up” for the viewing arrangements which were generally full to capacity.
Another great success is the Monthly Squash Leagues run by the Clickimin Leisure Centre which currently has 60 to 70 people playing every month in mini leagues. It has to be said that the Lerwick Club at its peak could only manage 40 to 45. The continuance of interest and demand to join the Leagues is extremely encouraging to see and augurs well for the future.
There have over the winter months been initiatives to develop the interest in the game by running “Come and Try” sessions and coaching at all levels. The Junior Coaching has been in much demand and has had to extend the number of sessions originally planned. The Adult Coaching is tiered on two levels, beginners and intermediate and this again has proved popular.
The Shetland Squash Association have worked closely with the Management at the Clickimin Leisure Centre in encouraging Scottish Squash to bring to Shetland four of their top Juniors to train at Clickimin and play exhibition games of singles and doubles. Scottish Squash also took up their Ladies Doubles team along with two others of the Scotland Squad to practise doubles prior to the World Championships at Melbourne in January. Spectators are encouraged to come and watch at any of these organised events in the fervent hope that it might attract even more interest in the sport.
The sustained future of any sport is a legacy left by the old for the young. This can only be done by providing the necessary impetus through facilities, development plans and a genuine desire to pass on the enjoyment derived, thus, encouraging the younger members of our community to take an active part in sports.