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Over the last six weeks LP and Little Man have been going to Squash Stars sessions each week, trying something new and making new friends. Squash isn’t something I’d ever heard of kids playing before but when England Squash got in touch to introduce us to their Squash Stars initiative I knew it would be something that the kids would love to try.
What is Squash Stars?
Following on from England’s squash success at the Commonwealth Games, England Squash is working to encourage young people across the country to try the sport through Squash Stars. The six-week programme introduces children aged 5-11 to squash in a really fun way.
Squash Stars helps children learn fundamental skills to play squash, and develop hand-eye coordination, racket work, movement and match play through fun games and drills. Everyone who signs up to Squash Stars receives six group coaching sessions, plus a free racket, a ball, bag and goggles to help them get started.
The Squash Stars course
We signed up to our closest Squash Stars course at Burghfield Squash Club and the children had their squash sessions at a convenient time after school. There were courses on most days of the week – including weekends – so it was easy to find a time that worked for us around school and other commitments.
The children had the same coach each week – Craig – who was fantastic. They really got to know him over the course and they got to know the children and their personalities through the sessions. He worked with them to make each session as fun as possible whilst helping them to learn new skills and, simply, enjoy playing squash.
The Squash Stars sessions
The Squash Stars sessions overlap by five minutes so the children got to have five minutes at the start and end of the session playing dodgeball or squicket as a warm up/cool down exercise. This was a fantastic ice breaker on the first session and something they really looked forward to each week after that.
The session then moved into group activities where all the children would do the same thing. It could be mirroring Craig’s squash moves, getting quicker and quicker as the time went on. Or, it could be running around and holding a squash pose when Craig said to stop.
There were so many group activities that the children loved like being different kinds of bean and holding funny poses. These activities were built in to get the children active and moving around but also to help them get used to each other, relax and have fun.
Amongst the group activities were squash based ones where the children would do a relay of different ball and racket exercises, or take it in turns to hit a ball back against the ball, hit the ball in a specific way or try to keep a rally going as a group for as long as possible. The sessions taught the kids squash in a really informal, natural way that they really enjoyed. It didn’t feel too serious – just a lot of fun for everyone.
After the group activities, the children split into pairs to play mini games of squash – really just taking it in turns to hit the ball against the wall, keeping it at the right speed and height to be able to return it.
It was obvious to me from the start that squash isn’t simply hitting a ball against a wall. It takes a lot of control and skill. It was fantastic to see the children adapting the way they hit the ball and the force they used as they played. You could see them learning as the sessions progressed, hitting the ball more gently so they could return it and learning to hit it at a slight angle to make their opponent work harder to hit the ball back.
Craig was fantastic at showing the children how to hold the racket, how to hit the ball, how to tweak the way they were standing and so many other things that really helped to improve not just their ability but also their enjoyment of the game.
One of Little Man’s favourite things was learning to bounce a ball straight up on his racket – like keepy uppys in football. It takes so much skill and concentration and he was so proud of himself for mastering it.
LP found squash the hardest out of her group. She isn’t naturally sporty and her main issue was actually being able to hit the ball. But, with Craig’s consistent coaching, by the final session she was hitting the ball more than she was missing it – and I was so proud of her.
It was amazing to see how all the children progressed through the sessions. Little Man was able to hold his own in a rally with Craig or one of the other children and LP got to the point where she could happily return the ball over and over.
As a family, we really enjoyed our Squash Stars experience. The children loved learning something new and it felt like a nice treat going to the sessions each week. We’re sad that the six weeks are over and would love to continue – if the sessions were slightly closer to home.
You can find out more about Squash Stars and find a sessions near you over on their website. The Squash Stars lessons have finished for now but is set to return in January!
You can see a Reel of the Squash Stars experience over on Instagram here: