In part three of the new ‘Get to Know’ series, former World No.1 and Chair of the Coaching Commission Sarah Fitz-Gerald speaks to Carol Owens.
After a glittering career capped by Commonwealth, World Championship and World Team Championship gold medals, former World No.1 Owens wanted to give back to her sport by becoming a coach.
Since her retirement as a professional in 2004, Owens has been resident coach at the Eden Epsom Tennis & Squash Club in Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand, where she coaches junior and senior players.
When and where did your squash journey begin?
It began in Melbourne, Australia. I was 10 years of age when I was fortunate to meet my first squash coach, your mother – Judith Fitz-Gerald!
What an inspirational lady, who taught the art of squash technique to hundreds, if not thousands, of young Victorian/Australian squash players.
What inspired you to become a coach?
The desire to put back to a sport that has given me so much. The grassroots of squash needs knowledge and I was so fortunate to be given that knowledge by Judith Fitz-Gerald, Garry McIntosh, Vicki Cardwell, Len Steward and Paul Wright – I want to pass that knowledge on and inspire students the same way.
Can you tell me about a good, memorable coaching moment?
There have been many – no matter how big or small the improvements are, it’s my job for the student to want to return each week. If a new player turns up and they learn nothing but get frustrated, you can guarantee they are not returning!
I had a player learning on a spongy yellow ball for 2 years and made it to B grade – never say never!
Watching students love and enjoy the game is a great measure of success as a coach.
How about a difficult coaching moment?
It’s great to say that I’m unable to recall a difficult coaching moment! Finding solutions for students who find the sport difficult is what I enjoy the most.
Do you have further plans for your coaching career?
I’m extremely happy being a club coach. It’s so nice to share skills with all levels – some who may go on to great things and perhaps make a career out of squash and some who just enjoy the sport and sense of community in a club.
What’s your number one tip for aspiring squash coaches?
Understand that as a coach, you are only part of the puzzle that will make the player better. Share your knowledge and when you feel you have nothing left to offer move the student to another coach. The focus as a coach should be all about letting them go and making sure they explore new ways to keep improving; as the saying goes ‘there’s more than one way to fillet a fish!’