For the Namibian Squash Association (NSA), the focus is very much on the future, as the sport’s governing body looks to grow the game among the country’s young population and increase the number of coaches.
Currently, approximately 500 players regularly take part in squash in the African country, with the sport particularly popular with those aged over 35.
NSA President Rudi Koekemoer says that this represents an opportunity, adding that increasing youth engagement is one of the primary goals of the NSA in 2022.
“It is imperative that we focus on talent identification and development to catalyse growth of squash in Namibia,” he says.
The NSA hopes to build on some of the successes of 2021, which saw an increase in junior engagement in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in the history of the NSA, a dedicated junior squash focus was implemented, with three major junior tournaments in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Windhoek encouraging talented juniors to get involved.
Now, work is underway to encourage schools to incorporate squash within curriculums as an official sport code, with a long-term plan of developing national inter-schools competitions to further develop the game amongst Namibia’s youth.
By introducing the game to schools, the NSA hopes to demonstrate that squash is open to all members of society. “We need to focus more on diversity and inclusion too and erode the stigma that squash is a sport for the privileged and certain segments of society,” Koekemoer explains.
Besides identifying talented players, the NSA will also look to expand its pool of coaches. “Our coaches have had an immeasurable impact,” Koekemoer says, praising them in particular for the successful delivery of the three junior tournaments, which saw 110 players compete.
However, with Namibia’s three national coaches currently balancing squash careers with jobs outside of sport, the NSA is determined to identify talented potential coaches in order to deliver continuity.
“We are aware that we need to develop coaches for continuity of development efforts and sustainability of squash going forward. Presently, we are materially at risk if we lose just one of our coaches,” Koekemoer says.
To address this, the NSA has recently connected with a number of talented players who have been performing as coaching assistants and will shortly begin taking online WSF coaching courses to improve their understanding of coaching. The NSA is also in discussions to resume an agreement that has seen squash coaches from South Africa present courses in Namibia.
At the top level, funding is being sought for full-time coaches who can travel across Namibia to present clinics and scout for talent.
With the NSA targeting places at a number of international tournaments in the summer of 2022 for its top players, any incoming coaches are likely to hit the ground running. The NSA currently plans to send players to the South African Country Districts tournament in Polokwane, South Africa in May; the Growthpoint Interprovincial Tournament in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in July; the World Masters Championships in Wroclaw, Poland in August; and is exploring sending a team to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England in July and August.
While Koekemoer admits that the scale of the NSA’s ambition is wide, he is confident that the NSA is well-placed to enjoy a successful 2022. “We believe with the right stakeholder support, that we can achieve our vision,” he concludes.