As you walk in the doors of Club Kelburn you will now see a display of thehistory of Squash and Squash rackets, and Club Kelburn! Take some time to have a look at this and appreciate the advances made in the technology of squash rackets and the rich history of Club Kelburn! We have rackets owned by 3 world champions, and our oldest racket is from the 30s!
Squash developed from a game called racquets, which was itself a modified version of fives in which a ball was hit against a wall using the hand. Racquets originated in prisons but became popular throughout the UK during the 18th century, probably because it simply required a wall, ball and two racquets. The game was especially popular at Harrow School in London and, as boys impatiently queued up to wait their turn on the only two racquet courts available, they improvised, practicing on any available wall with old balls.
Jahangir Khan– Arguably the best player of all time. World Open winner in 1981 at age 17. Dominated squash until the early 1990s, at one stage going 5 years 9 months without losing.
Reputedly, one area in the school grounds, known as “The Corner”, was particularly popular. With two side walls and a front wall with a buttress, this was effectively an enclosed court. Alleyways and buildings in the vicinity presented other architectural quirks, including drainpipes, chimneys, ledges and window frames, which sent the ball off on odd trajectories.
New Zealand’s greatest ever squash player, and arguably the best woman to ever play, Dame Susan Devoy.
This street version of racquets required fast reactions and split-second decisions, and the boys who played it modified the standard racquet by shortening the handle and used a softer ball which did not bounce so predictably or ricochet so quickly. This may have been a rubber ball or a punctured racquets ball. Either way, it squashed against the wall on impact, rather than bouncing back. This was a key element of the game, and gave rise to the name squash, though the sport was initially known as baby racquets or soft racquets.
New Zealand’s finest squash player Susan Devoy became world number one in 1985 at age 21. She won the British Open 8 times and the World Open 4 times. Susan retired in 1992.
This more compact version of racquets took off, and purpose-built squash courts were a feature of Harrow by the 1860s. These were roughly a third the size of the racquets courts. By the late 19th century, squash was popular in public schools and universities throughout Britain, and in 1908, a squash sub-committee of the Tennis and Rackets Association was formed to oversee the sport. This bastardised version of racquets was called “baby racquets” or “soft racquets” or “softer” (in those days the word “racquets” was spelled properly). Baby rackets was perfect for the Harrow boys and, on 20th January 1865, Harrow officially opened a new complex of rackets and fives courts.
Evolution While the parent sport of racquets dwindled to near oblivion, squash spread from the UK around the globe, helped by its simplicity and the fact it was played indoors and was, therefore, unaffected by inclement weather.
Ross Norman, New Zealand’s best ever male player, represented NZ from 1978 to 1994, attained World Number 2 ranking, and in November 1986 gave Jahangir Khan his first loss in under 6 years to become world champion.
By the 1920s, the rules of the game had been codified and the British Squash Rackets Association had taken over administration of the sport by 1928. In 1973 (for women) and 1980 (for men), the categories of amateur and professional were abolished, so that squash became an open game.
Leilani Joyce from Hamilton New Zealand won the British Open in 1999 and 2000, and attained World #1. Joyce was runner up in the World Open in 2000 and 2001.
By the early 1990s, there were 12 million squash players worldwide, and today there are around 50,000 courts. Squash has a particularly strong tradition in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Egypt. In the US, a form of squash known as American hardball is played, which differs by using a hard ball, a larger court and having slightly different rules. Additionally, the American scoring system for (softball) squash is based on a 15 point game, rather than the English game’s nine points. References to squash in this article relate to the English style of the game, unless otherwise stated.
Carol Owens, World #1 in 2003 and 2004. Born in Australia, she saw the light, shifted to NZ and changed her nationality. She won 2 World Opens in 2000 and 2003.
NEW ZEALAND SQUASH HALL OF FAME
NOVEMBER 2009 WILL SEE THE FIRST 8 SQUASH LEGENDS INDUCTED INTO THE NZ HALL OF FAME. WE HAVE A DISPLAY AT CLUB K FEATURING A STORY ON EACH OF THE 8 INDUCTEES, WHICH LOOKS GREAT, AND IS WORTH A READ.
TAKE A LOOK AT IT NEXT TO OUR RACKET GALLERY AND SQUASH HISTORY GALLERY BY COURT 4
YOU CAN ALSO CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO TO THE HOF DEDICATED WEBSITE.
NOTE THE THEN AND NOW PICS OF STU- THE RAVAGES OF TIME!!!
New Zealand cricketing great John Reid was very much a squash trail-blazer in 1963 when he opened what eventually became Club Kelburn. The John Reid Squash Centre was hugely influential in making squash a popular sport in New Zealand; soon becoming the focal point of the emerging sport in Wellington, creating a demand that resulted in the building of a number of private clubs- before him the sport barely existed in the city.
THIS IS A LINE DRAWING OF THE JOHN REID SQUASH CENTRE TAKEN FROM JOHN REID’S BOOK-SWORD OF WILLOW (1962)
Reid modelled the commercial centre on a complex he had seen in Australia. It had five courts, a restaurant, snack bar and shop, and hosted Wellington inter-club, senior and junior tournaments, and mid-week women’s matches. Businessmen liked to play there at lunchtime, and students from nearby Victoria University were attracted to the centre, an association that has prospered, including the creation of the University Squash Club which existed for years. Two of squash’s greatest players Australians Heather McKay and Geoff Hunt, appeared at the centre. Later three more courts were built along with a golf driving range.
JOHN REID WITH THE NZ SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR TROPHY AND OTHERS, 1955
The centre was bought by the New Zealand Squash Rackets Association, later to become Squash New Zealand in 1978, and renamed the National Squash Centre. Four more courts were added.
Since Rob Walker’s appointment as manager in 1994 there have been a number of significant developments. These include changing the name to Club Kelburn in 1995 as the centre diversified with the establishment of the first gymnasium area. Walker revived the squash leagues and the golf driving range, introduced a business house squash competition, and increasingly catered for the rapidly growing gym membership. The multi-million dollar Hell Pizza business was started in the area now occupied by a physiotherapist.
Winning Team Wellington squash squads have trained at the centre under Walker’s supervision, and he helped guide Tamsyn Leevey to a national individual title, she then went on to win world championship and Commonwealth Games doubles medals. The centre has hosted many of New Zealand’s leading players and the national secondary schools championships. It has been very profitable in Walker’s time, earning more than two million dollars for Squash New Zealand from 1994 to 2009.
Story by Peter Bidwell