Squash it out!

Squash it out!

Squash is a relatively new sport and therefore not many people are familiar with it. Add to this the lack of sufficient facilities, and you know why the sport has remained largely inconspicuous. But if the response to the Squash Coaching Camp held in Thane recently is any indication, then things are set to change. More than 40 children, aged four to 19 participated in the 10-day free coaching camp which was announced barely a day before the camp began. From December 24 last year to January 02, 2005, the children of Hiranandani Estate, where the camp was held, religiously spared their afternoons to learn the new sport.

The idea behind the camp was to create awareness and introduce children to this wonderful racket sport, which also promotes physical fitness. Organised by the newly formed Squash Racquets Association of Thane (SRAT), and conducted by Indian Squash Professionals (ISP), the response of children and their parents was quite encouraging. In Squash, stamina is as important as technique. Therefore the coaches from ISP were focussing on building both fitness and skills of participants, who seemed to be enjoying the rigours, in spite of the hard work involved. Natasha Rajdev, a third-year engineering student of Thadumal Shahani College said, "I never knew Squash is such a tiring game. The first few days drained me out. But soon I found myself more energetic and active. I plan to continue playing even after the camp concludes." Vibhu Singh and Shreyas Gune, both class IX students from Hiranandani Foundation School, said, "Squash not only builds stamina but also de-stresses. We love this camp." Almost all the participants echoed similar sentiments. Parents too were as enthusiastic as their children. Alka and Manish Mahajan, parents of four-year old Abhay, who participated in the camp and was thoroughly enjoying it, confessed that even they were motivated by their son’s response.

This was the first event organised by the SRAT, which came into existence only last month. Anupam Ghosal, President of SRAT, said, "SRAT’s objective is to create awareness about Squash in and around Thane and also offer practical guidance to novices and professionals alike. For this, we are approaching large companies with offers of institutional membership." SRAT also plans to organise such camps in other places. It has also initiated talks with TMC to refurbish the squash courts at the Dodoji Kondeo Stadium, a move that is sure to augment the popularity of the sport.

Already, with top seeds in all age groups, children from Thane are making a mark at the state and national levels of the game. A few of these top seeds also participated in the camp, boosting the morale of other participants. "The children have displayed determination to succeed and have immense potential to go places" said Sunil Verma, who is the official coach of Jindal Steel Squash Academy (JSSA) and also coaches top seeds from Thane and Mumbai.

The coaching camp concluded with exhibition matches, played by such national top seeds like Naveen Jhangra and Laxman Joshi from JSSA. To motivate children, there were prizes for those who demonstrated talent and enthusiasm. But the real winner of the event was Squash, which now has more enthusiasts in Thane than last year.

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