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Top 3 Ways to Increase and Retain New Members

This article was created as a resource for club promoters who are trying to enlist the assistance of their members in the task of attracting new members. All of the articles in this series offer suggestions to club members regarding how they can help to attract new members. Club promoters are encouraged to link to it if they wish to provide suggestions to their members.

These days, we live in a grow or die business environment. Either your business grows, or it dies, and squash clubs are no exception to this rule. Either your club expands and adds new members, or your club loses a few members each year until the club runs out of money and closes.

When most clubs and provincial sport organizations consider who their core audience is, they consider primarily:

A) Competitive juniors and
B) Frequent adult A/B/C level players

As a result, most programming in squash clubs tends to involve junior high performance training (private lessons, group lessons, tournaments, etc.) and leagues and drop-in sessions for A/B/C level adults who already have a network of squash playing friends. Consequently, when most clubs think about ways of adding members, they tend to only focus on recruiting juniors or attracting frequent players from other clubs in the city.

While increasing junior participation ought to remain a priority of squash organizations, there is a relatively fixed and aging pool of A/B/C players. Moreover, the goal of most A/B/C players and their friends is, generally speaking, to play as much squash as possible, mostly during prime court hours, and pay as little money as possible while doing so.

To truly grow their membership base, the segment of the population that clubs ought to focus on is raw beginner adults who do not have a network of players already established. Not only are raw beginners highly motivated to spend money on lessons, leagues, and merchandise, but their enthusiasm for the sport is infectious and can spread to re-energize current members. While it’s important to not alienate the established players, squash clubs and organizations need find ways to attract and retain these enthusiastic new players.

A sport that squash can learn from is pickleball. Pickleball has been exploding in growth over the past few years. The USAPA membership base grew by 64% from 2010-2016, which likely only accounts for a fraction of the actual growth of pickleball participation.

Why is it that a sport like pickleball, with no certified coaches and a tiny high performance community, is growing like a weed?

While pickleball has some growth advantages over squash (court costs, easy to learn, etc.), the answer to why pickleball is growing while other racquet sports are stagnating is that pickleball communities are almost exclusively focused on participation rather than performance.

The dominant form of pickleball participation is beginner drop-in play. Without exception, every pickleball club organizes weekly drop-in times run mostly by volunteers, and players of all abilities, from raw beginners to frequent players, attend and play games with many different partners. Players who want to play at a higher level either enter tournaments or schedule matches with players outside of drop-in times. There are very few (if any) pickleball coaches or teaching pros and most of the clubs are organized and operated by “pickleball ambassadors.”

While there are some flaws to this model, the growth of pickleball can be attributed to the fact that the general focus of most pickleball programs is on increasing grassroots participation, and only a relatively tiny segment of the pickleball community is focused on high performance. In contrast, the provincial governing bodies of squash tend to focus heavily on high performance junior players, playing little attention to raw beginners. As a result, participation numbers in squash are dwindling and courts are closing down.

Here are the top three ways to cater to beginners:

1) Offer beginners organized drop-in squash during peak hours

Squash clubs ought to copy the pickleball model of offering weekly organized drop-in play reserved for beginner players. These drop-ins need to be held during peak hours and need to have somebody organizing the players, such as a pro, staff member, or volunteer. From a business perspective, it is better to have a lot of beginners, who are enthusiastically spending money at the squash club on memberships, lessons, and equipment, rather than lots of A/B/C players who will be looking for ways to economize their squash budget.

2) Embrace bad squash

I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out: not everybody wants to be a good squash player. When beginners join a club, the pro will typically suggest that they take private lessons to improve their skills and then go off and find matches with other club players. However, not everyone cares about proper stroke mechanics and efficient court movements. Lots of people will be satisfied with simply burning calories and chasing the ball around the court. Not everybody wants to take lessons, but everybody wants to get out and play.

Most squash pros will tell you that they get the most satisfaction working with high level junior players who spend several hours a week with the coach. However, for a squash club to grow, clubs need to have a large base of players who just want to chase the ball around and have fun.

3) Have leagues that raw beginners can join right now

After taking some lessons and gaining confidence, many beginners won’t want to take lessons anymore and will want to join a league. While Interclub leagues are a critical element of the squash community, the drawback for beginners looking to join an Interclub team is that interclub rosters are finalized by September, making it very difficult for beginners to join a team part way through the season.

Instead of telling beginners to wait until next year to join a team, consider different weekly league formats that make it relatively easy to add and drop beginners as necessary. If you have a weekly team house league, ensure that one place on each team is reserved for raw beginners and allow beginners to move up depending on how fast they improve.

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Squash Racquet Grip Size

Squash Racquet Grip Size
Squash Racquet Grip Size
Unlike tennis racquets for which grip size is critically important, squash racquets are not manufactured with different grip sizes. That is to say while there are differences between adult, junior and children’s squash racquets, one cannot purchase an adult racquet with a particular grip size.

Instead, squash players all start with the same grip size and then build their racquet handles up to the size they want by using a combination of grip and overgrip.

Many players are satisfied with a single grip. Some, with larger hands, will add an additional layer or two of overgrip while players with extremely large hands will often begin with two layers of grip followed by one or more layers of overgrip.

Only the highest quality squash racquets come outfitted with proper grip when you bring them home from the store. Most racquets, in fact, come with a very thin rubber wrapping that looks like grip. This is not a grip and should be replaced immediately. Even good quality racquets will usually require the installation of grip and string before you can play squash with them.

So how much grip and/or overgrip should you wrap around the handle of your new squash racquet?

To find out, hold the racquet in your hand as you would when you play. The squeeze the handle as tightly as you would if you were about to make contact with the ball.

The tips of your fingers should be barely touching your palm below your thumb. If they are pressing into your palm, the grip is too small. If they are unable to reach your palm, the grip is too large. Add or remove a combination of grip and/or over grip until it is the perfect size for your hand.

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Size 15 Court Shoes in Calgary

Racquet Network carries Calgary’s largest selection of size 15 court shoes for men. In fact, we have the largest selection of court shoes of all kinds. Come in for a fitting with our experts and leave with the perfect fit for your feet. We are open 7 days a week. Monday to Friday 10:00am to 8:00pm. Saturday and Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm.

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Choosing Squash Shoes

Squash Shoes
Come into our store and get some advice from our experts.
Whether or not you choose to have a designated pair of shoes just for squash (squash shoes) or a general pair of shoes that you use for multiple indoor racquet sports (indoor court shoes) is entirely up to you. The principles remain the same regardless of the decision you make.

Squash Etiquette

Squash etiquette (which is backed up by rules in most facilities) requires players to wear clean shoes with non-marking soles. This means that the shoes you play in should not be the shoes you wear while traveling to or from the squash court.

Outdoor shoes are not squash shoes; they are not squash shoes because they are dirty. Dirty shoes make dirty courts. Dirty courts become slippery courts and slippery courts are dangerous courts to play on.

Shoe Selector For a full list of shoes in this category, please check out our ONLINE SHOE SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.

Not Suitable for Squash

Basketball shoes are not squash shoes either. Nor are cross-trainers or running shoes. Almost without exception, black-soled shoes are not suitable for squash.

Badminton shoes or racquetball shoes can be substituted for squash shoes. However, tennis shoes are not squash shoes and should not be used for squash under any circumstances.

Gum Rubber Outer Soles

Squash shoes and indoor courts shoes typically have outsoles made of a blend of synthetic rubber and gum rubber. Pure gum rubber is blonde in colour and soft to the touch; however nobody makes pure gum rubber outsoles anymore. Virtually every manufacturer now uses a blend of gum and synthetic rubbers that is soft to the touch and sticky on hardwood floors.

The first thing you should be looking for when shopping for indoor court shoes of any kind is soles that are soft to the touch. If the shoes you are looking at have soft rubber in their outer soles, they are made for use on indoor courts.

Shoe Selector For a full list of shoes in this category, please check out our ONLINE SHOE SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.

Things to watch for:

Shoes that are too short may cause you to lose a toenail. The repeated pounding of your toenail against the end of the shoe will damage the nail bed. Eventually, the nail will loosen and fall off.

Shoes that are too tight will cause pain when your feet swell. Keep this in mind when trying shoes on in the store. Remember that your feet swell during a typical squash match.

Shoes that are worn out on the inside will cause your feet to hurt the next day. If your feet hurt signficantly the day after you play squash, check the inside of your shoes for wear.

Rule of Thumb

Serious squash players replace their shoes in a season as many times as they play per week on average. In other words, squash players who play squash three times per week will replace their shoes three times per season.

Of course, not every player wears shoes out at an equal rate. Players who toe drag, for example, will replace their squash shoes more often than players who do not drag their toes.

Shoe Selector For a full list of shoes in this category, please check out our ONLINE SHOE SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.
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Best Shoes for Court Sprints

Shawn asks: “My coach wants me doing five sets of court sprints during every practice. Should I be wearing running shoes or court shoes?”

Good question, Shawn.

If you are not sure what he is asking about, watch the video below.

Court sprints are a foundation drill for squash players. Squash players at every level do them. The higher the level, the higher the intensity, but all serious squash players do a lot of court sprints.

Do court sprints involve running? Yes, obviously. But more important, they require stopping and changing direction. If you watch the video again, you will note that he is stopping and changing direction laterally. In order to do this safely, a court shoe is required.

Asics Gel-Blast 7
Asics Gel-Blast 7
Unlike running shoes, which are designed for constant forward movement, court shoes are designed for movement in all directions. Moreover, they are designed for rapid changes in direction.

If you look at the outside edge of the forefoot on this Asics court shoe, you will see that the sole flares out significantly. This flare is important to the core function of the shoe because it prevents ankle rolls on sudden lateral stops. Running shoes do not have this feature because running shoe designers do not expect runners to be stopping laterally.

Perhaps more than any other court sport, squash players need to be able to stop and change direction suddenly and explosively. Therefore they need shoes that offer maximum traction and maximum stability.

Court sprints are considered a foundation drill in squash because they mimic one of the game’s core movements perfectly. For that reason, it is essential to be doing them in court shoes, not running shoes.