With the WSF World Doubles Squash Championships making a triumphant return last week after more than two years of COVID-19 disruption, WSF media explore how hosts Scottish Squash were able to deliver a hugely successful World Championships under challenging circumstances.
The manner in which Scotland was awarded the event was far from ideal for the hosts, with the federation stepping in with just four months’ notice after continuing COVID-19 restrictions meant that original hosts Australia were unable to deliver the tournament.
Speaking with members of the Scottish Squash team, it’s immediately obvious that one of the key reasons they could deliver such a successful World Championships, for the first time in their history, was through close relationships between the sport, the public and partners.
Explaining the importance of close relationships between parties all pulling together, Scottish Squash Director of Development Allan Mckay said: “Four months is relatively quick for a World Championships. But I think that’s testament to the Scottish Squash staff team who have really come together work together and get everything over the line in time. And then we need to recognise the partners that we’ve spoken about a lot, EventScotland, Team Scotland, Glasgow Life and World Squash all coming together and creating a real partnership approach to deliver it. It’s been busy, but really successful, because of everyone’s willingness to get involved and work work together.
“The first thing that we needed was a facility. We were really keen to host the event to support athletes, not just from Scotland, but all over the world, ahead of the championships because this year has extra significance because it’s a Commonwealth Games and Asian Games year, both of which feature the doubles.”
To get the facilities at Scotstoun, Glasgow – which was the venue of the 2014 Commonwealth Games – ready, the courts and centre were refurbished following investment from Glasgow Life, a charitable organisation that describes its mission as being “to inspire the city’s citizens and visitors to lead richer and more active lives through culture, sport and learning.”
Mckay said: “The facility here at Scotstoun is something that Glasgow Life were superb with. They’ve invested about £150-180,000 on the courts and to bring them up to the level that they are. So that’s a great legacy, firstly from the 2014 Commonwealth Games and now this event, to get the courts in perfect condition for the world’s best players and the public.”
“So now we’ve got four doubles courts in Glasgow that are back to a world championship level which will help with training.
“It’s really down to the partners that we managed to turn around in four months. We’ve also had great support and investment from Team Scotland through a Commonwealth Games Scotland Fund, which allowed us to grow the event together as then EventScotland came on board to support with the live streaming element of things, which has been fantastic.”
Mckay, whose role at Scottish Squash is Director of Development, goes on to credit the leadership team at Scottish Squash for fostering the culture that has seen the event being a success.
It’s about the whole team. We’ve got President Mark Adderley, Chief Executive Maggie Still, Paul Bell our Director of Squash, [Mckay’s brother] Garry who’s Chief Operating Officer. Then there’s the wider development team of Kirsty Lobban, Kevin Moran, Jack Brody and the other side of things with Kylie Lindsay and Stuart Monteith on performance, coming in to underpin out membership.
“It’s a small team, but it’s a team that’s really determined to make a difference.”
Mckay adds that the culture of togetherness extends to the Scottish players, coaching staff and volunteers.
“We work really closely with the players through our performance team, Paul, Kylie, and David Pearson who comes on board to support the doubles, are brilliant. They work with the athletes on a daily basis and, while in my role I’m not as close to it, from what I hear, it’s a really close programme. It’s really well supported and it’s built around making sure that it’s absolutely right for the players. We always put the players first in terms of what we do.”
That player-first approach certainly seemed to have paid significant dividends for Scotland over the course of the last week, as Scottish teams played above their seedings and won silver and bronze medals in the men’s draw, a bronze medal in the mixed, and secured impressive fifth-place finishes in the mixed and women’s draws.
Concluding, Mckay says: “The Scotland team have been fantastic this week and that will give them confidence going into the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Paul, and his performance team have done fantastically well. From what I hear, the players have really enjoyed competing in Scotland in front of the home crowd, which is probably one of the strongest ways to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.
“They’ve done great and are also really inspiring. We speak a lot about inspiring the next generation and it’s really helping to do that. You look around the venue this this week and you see loads of young volunteers and a number of young people watching. I think we’re so lucky with the athletes we have, they compete out there but also really do that extra bit to inspire and to support the next generation coming through.”