Every Saturday morning, large numbers of enthusiastic youngsters gather at the squash courts in St Clement ready to develop their skills and play with, and against, their peers. These young people are members of the Jersey Squash Academy and are amongst the 20 million people who play squash regularly world-wide in over 185 countries.
Whilst squash is a fast-paced sport that requires great eye ball coordination and skill it’s also a sport that’s open to all, even those who may never have picked up a racket or taken to other team sports in the past.
The Government’s micro-grant scheme, Connect Me: Connecting our Communities supports projects across the island who are looking to establish or expand to improve the mental or physical health of Islanders.
Read below about the difference this grant will make to Jersey Squash Association.
Having seen a recent boost in interest in squash the Jersey Squash Association (JSA), like many other sports on island, have struggled to keep up with the demand due to a lack of qualified coaching staff. Thanks to their fantastic part-time Sport Development Officer, Antony Harkin who is also the Association’s Head Coach and JSA President Andrew Lewis they have faced the challenge head on and have started a campaign to recruit more coaches.
The campaign led them to apply for, and be awarded, a grant from the Connect Me: Connecting our Communities Grant Scheme. This Government of Jersey initiative provides grants of up to £5,000 for projects which increase opportunities for Jersey residents to participate in arts or physical activities for wellbeing. Their grant is one of 45 different projects which have been supported by the scheme since being set up in 2022.
The grant has allowed them to train a number of former players and parents, to become level one coaches, a course which requires experts to come over from the UK. The increased number of coaches means that they are also able to further their ambition to promote Squash and Racquetball to hard-to-reach groups, alongside the development of a schools’ outreach programme. The programme will be designed and aimed at hard-to-reach groups, such as young people from underprivileged families and schools that have a high proportion of children classed as “Pupil Premium” and who may not be able to afford to participate in other team sports. There is no requirement for them to become members of the Club and there is no cost for lessons either.
For those who fear that their squash playing days are behind them, then racquetball may well be for you! Played with larger racquets and balls we’re told it’s an easy game to become a competent player at, in a relatively short period. It is also suitable for older participants as it has much less physical impact on the body than squash but remains a highly beneficial cardiovascular activity and equally as competitive. The JSA are also keen to attract more women to the sport and also encourage people to come and take part in taster sessions, so that they can take advantage of the St Clement’s based club which lies largely unused during the day.
The Connect Me: Connecting our Communities Grant Scheme, which awarded the funding to JSA, is administered by Customer and Local Services (CLS) and uses funds allocated from the Social Recovery Fund, which was established by the Government of Jersey to address the effects of COVID-19 and related isolation on the physical and mental health of islanders.