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Sandra Wu, from “naughty kid” to being “inspired to change lives through squash”

In the latest instalment of the ‘Get to Know’ series, former World No.1 and Chair of the Coaching Commission Sarah Fitz-Gerald speaks to former Malaysian No.1, WSF Level 3 Coach and a Level 2 Coaching Tutor Sandra Wu.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Sandra, could you start off by telling me a bit about yourself and how your squash journey began?
“I was born in England, grew up in Malaysia, played squash for Malaysia from 1989-1998 and became a Singaporean six years ago.

I was a naughty kid who played different sports at a club in Ipoh, Malaysia. I was fortunate that my first coach, Mr John Black, spotted me and got me to train with the state team when I was 10 years old.

He changed the course of my life for the better forever with squash. I was under his wing for four years before he retired and went back to England. Six days a week, he would drive 45 minutes to town, pick me up and train me with the state team without charging my dad a cent.

Where and who do you coach?
I was coaching the Malaysia World Junior Girls Team for two years and Singapore National Team for nine years before I decided to move away from high performance squash.

I now run my own Squash Academy (Ultimate Squasher) with the help of 12 coaches developing juniors in Singapore. We have around 100 juniors training with us.

What inspired you to become a coach?
Honestly, at the beginning it was familiarity, convenience and an easy transition. Office work was not my cup of tea!

It was also by chance that I started coaching when a squash friend asked me to stand in for his coaching while he was away for a three-month squash attachment in Europe.

Over time, the love for coaching grew and inspired me to change lives through squash like it did for me.

Describe a good memorable coaching moment
My philosophy is to teach values, coach squash skills and to empower through squash. It’s important for me to teach good attitude and values as much as squash skills.

I have tons of good coaching memories. My most memorable one will be during an Asian Junior Tournament when my Singapore player lost her match and before I could say a word, she burst out crying. During the team meeting at night, I asked her what happened and she said “she hated that she disappointed me”. I guess that shows the bond between player and coach, [because] she went home and trained doubly hard!

Describe a difficult coaching moment
Mostly in two areas:
#1: When adults want to make “instant noodles” out of players.
#2 When kids are pushed to play squash for the wrong reason and end up disliking the game. I play squash because I love the game and I wish it can remain this simple.

I had cancer five years ago and thank God, friends, family and squash that I am cancer free ever since. All the squash training before helped me to successfully overcome cancer.

Squash Coach Tutoring in Kuwait

Do you have further plans for your coaching career?
To improve myself as tutor, I recently completed my WSF L2 Tutor certification. I would like to get involve more in coach education going forward.

After 20 years in squash coaching and administration, I thought I will only be with squash for the rest of my life. Recently, I have been approached to help develop Padel in Singapore. It has opened up a different world to me ever since.

What’s your number one tip for aspiring squash coaches?
Learn and upgrade continually. Be open to learning even as a coach. At the beginning, I used to coach based on what I was taught and know as a player. Squash has evolved so much, therefore coaching methods and coaches mindset should evolve as well.

I would like to dedicate my squash career to another former coach – Major (R) Maniam for giving me many opportunities as a player. He helped me to become a better coach through attending all his coaching courses and now learning from him as a tutor. That’s over a span of 33 years. Thank you, Major.

Learn more about Singapore’s Team Ultimate Squasher Academy.

To find out more on the latest in world squash, follow the World Squash Federation on FacebookInstagramTwitterYouTube and LinkedIn. Watch live and on-demand squash for free at WORLDSQUASH.TV.

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