In 2020, women and girls represented only 23 percent of club members in Scotland. Could H//T, a bespoke programme developed by women for women and launched last year, be a step towards squashing this gap?
Cara Shearer certainly thinks it could be. Shearer, Women and Girls Development Manager for Scottish Squash, explains that H//T Squash, a free 10-week programme that alternates 10 minutes of squash with seven minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is addressing issues of inactivity and changing the perception of squash among women.
“Traditionally, women and girls don’t perceive squash as a sport ‘for them’ and we wanted to change that,” Shearer explains. “H//T Squash strives to create a safe space for female participants of all ages and stages to learn a new sport and push themselves out of their comfort zone.”
By targeting women of all fitness levels and experience, H//T Squash – which was developed in partnership with Scottish Women in Sport and with funding from Sport Scotland – is inclusive and has encouraged women who would not traditionally consider squash to pick up a racket.
Laura Harris, a 37-year-old mother of three, is one such woman. “I saw a post on Facebook advertising the sessions. My husband plays and I was keen to learn but didn’t know where to begin with it and was probably a bit nervous to try something new,” she explains.
Since starting on the programme, Harris has fallen in love with the sport. “It’s been life changing in all honestly. It’s gotten me into a new sport which my family now plays. I got to realise that you can pick anything up at any age or stage and get fit and have fun! But it’s brought out a competitive side of me that I’d forgotten about since having my kiddies and I love that!” she says.
Harris’ experience is typical of the 70 participants who have taken part in the pilot scheme. Shearer says that the H//T programme has developed a network of women who are no longer intimidated by the prospect of joining a new sport, with some feeling empowered to become leaders within their own clubs and create positive culture changes in the wider squash community.
“The H//T squash network connects women and girls across the squash community, empowering them to try something new, build confidence and lead active lives. By combining introductory squash skills with fast paced high intensity training, H//T squash provides an excellent work out in a fun and engaging environment, it encourages participants to work together and support each other both on and off the court, creating a thriving female community,” she adds.
Harris concurs, explaining: “I really enjoyed meeting new women in a similar situation in their lives as me and it made me feel less intimidated about trying a new sport. I loved that there was a guaranteed workout as part of it as I’ve recently had my third baby and needed the exercise. But mostly I loved learning squash! It’s a totally addictive sport.”
The H//T Squash pilot scheme has been extremely well-received by the participants across the trial sites in Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, to the extent that even a global pandemic couldn’t stop it. To keep participants active, motivated and connected during lockdown, fully online ‘H//T Squash from home’ sessions were organised.
Now, as Scotland continues to reopen after lockdowns, the in-person sessions are back and as popular as ever. In more good news for potential new members, Scottish Squash is planning to launch the H//T Squash programme nationally early next year, in a bid to welcome as many women and girls into the squash community as possible.
You can find out more about the H//T programme via Scottish Squash.