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Ignacio Sabate: Squash57 is a perfect complement to Squash

In a country where racquetball reigns supreme, one coach has been applying “empathetic coaching” to encourage a new generation of squash57 players, who are being drawn in by the sport’s tactical depth, aerobic exercise benefits and gentle learning curve for beginners.

As a coach and keen participant in a number of sports, including squash, squash57 [sometimes referred to as racketball in the UK] and racquetball, Ignacio Sabate is better placed than most to give his perspective on the merits of each.

The Costa Rican, whose first sport is traditional American racquetball, began playing squash eight years ago after moving to Spain, where he went on to fall in love with squash57 in Barcelona.

Now back home in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, Sabate is keen to raise the profile of squash57, which he says can complement the existing racquetball and squash scene well.

Ignacio (second from left) and some of his students on court

Sabate explains that he was drawn to coaching the sport by its health benefits and inclusivity.

Physical literacy is one of my main interests… so squash57 fits me very well.

“[Across a number of sports] a lot of coaches, they focus only on the best players in a party, but they don’t understand that there are a lot of people who won’t ascend to the podium. And those players suffer injuries and then retire because they are not treated as well as the others. So I mostly focus on the on the base of the pyramid.

“We need to be more inclusive and empathetic. So squash57 fits me very well, they physical literacy and inclusivity.”

“What I try to do is to be very empathetic, to understand their needs and their physical limitations. And I try to teach them several skills, not only hitting the ball forehand and backhand, but to stimulate them to understand what their own body can do, and what the body cannot do. And to encourage them throughout the process.”

After running squash57 clinics in Costa Rica and Guatemala, Sabate undertook the Squash57 Fundamentals Course to further improve his coaching methodology.

“I took the Squash57 Fundamentals Course a few months ago, online in Costa Rica.

“I found it interesting; I liked the models, videos and evaluation process. I think it was very well designed.”

He adds that he enjoyed being able to take the course at his own pace: “I did it quite slowly, it took me about three weeks. I would sit down and invest one to one-and-a-half hours per session, adding up to about 20 hours total.

“The evaluations [were the most useful part] – because you could not proceed if you had failed any of the questions. You needed good marks in all of the questions. That was interesting to me.”

Now that he has passed the course, Sabate passes on the skills he learned to other coaches in Costa Rica, whom he oversees in his role of Sports Manager.

With more coaches picking up rackets, Sabate feels there is great potential for future growth:  “Squash57 is growing [in Central and South America]. I know a lot of people from Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia [who have started playing]. In Bolivia, they had a big squash57 tournament recently.

“I would say squash57 is easier to pick up and teach [compared to sports like squash and racquetball].

“It’s pretty easy to play, to understand and, most importantly, to enjoy.

“There are similarities between squash57 and racquetball, but in order to play ‘good’ racquetball you need to be strong and hit with a lot of power. In squash57 you hit the ball with 50-60 percent of your strength. It’s more of a strategic sport.

“And it’s more of an aerobic type of training, whereas in racquetball you are not doing any aerobic exercise because it’s very anaerobic.”

Although he recognises squash57’s growth potential in Costa Rica, Sabate is well aware of the challenges the sport faces.

“First, almost all of the courts are in private clubs. That’s the challenge.”

Besides court access being limited, Sabate notes that squash57 has at times been looked at with distrust by the squash community in Costa Rica.

“Some squash players can feel threatened and don’t like squash57 because they feel that it will occupy or steal some players.”

However, nothing could be further from the truth, Sabate says. He explains: “What I tell them is that it will actually help squash, because it will introduce more people who can play squash57 while learning who could move on to squash. Because, I feel that squash is the more difficult sport to learn.”

While some squash players are yet to be convinced, Sabate is confident in his approach, with a number of his students becoming keen squash and squash57 players: “They enjoy it and come back every week – that’s the best metric!”

Find out more about the Squash57 Fundamentals Course

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