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Pontefract coach reveals top tips for engaging females

Jayne Robinson with the group of female players she coaches at Pontefract Squash Club

By Sam France

From humble beginnings, Pontefract Squash Club coach Jayne Robinson now runs five female-only training sessions every week. Jayne tells us about her approach to enthusing more female participants to get on court.

Bringing new women and girls into a club can be a challenge for squash clubs, but Jayne says that tailoring your training to each individual is the key to making sure people come back.

A Level 2 qualified coach, she has played squash since her days as a junior, but she knows that not everybody takes up a sport aiming to be the very best player. Jayne takes a fairly relaxed approach to her sessions, using them as much as anything else as an excuse for a drink and a chat with new friends.

“For some women, it’s probably about getting out and doing something for themselves,” says Jayne. “They might have been working, or have families to look after, so when they get into squash it’s a bit of 'me-time' in a friendly and social environment.

"A lot of my players are actually very competitive and want to be the best they can be so we encourage that with them, and with others it’s just about coming to do some physical activity, having some fun, and making new social connections. I try and do some fitness work, so it isn’t all about just playing the game. I build them up with routines, they help and feed each other on the court, and try and get them running around to their level of ability."

She says,

"It’s not about being the best player that there is, it’s about getting the best out of individuals and welcoming them, keeping in touch with them, helping them meet new friends. You have to take each person individually."

“The women who come to my sessions are all all ages and abilities. I have women who start playing in their 50's because they thought it was a good thing to do and they wish they’d started earlier. Then I have younger women as well, teenagers, so we have a broad spectrum. Everybody can work to their own ability so nobody feels under any pressure to do anything they can’t do.

Jayne runs sessions for new beginners regularly, getting to know her new trainees and introducing them to the basics of the game before bringing them into a group session. Once they are introduced to a group, part of the challenge is getting them to encourage each other, bringing them closer as a group - and being patient if members can’t be there consistently.

“What I try and do is nurture the individual to be a part of the group by being very encouraging to people and promoting the social aspect. You have to have the patience,” she says.

"People can feel like if they miss it for a bit, they can’t come back, but it doesn't have to be that way. Particularly if women have got things with their families, or work, just drop them a text and make them feel welcome to come back when they can."

Watch: Squash Girls Can campaign promo video

Jayne's advice to anyone who is starting up these types of sessions is to have some patience.

"It can take a while for women to want to get involved. It does take time to build up, but the social aspect is the key. Word of mouth then becomes the biggest recruiter, if we do a great session that they enjoy, they’ll bring their friends in future which is something I actively encourage them to do."

Inspired to start your own female-only session? Head over to our #SquashGirlsCan toolkit for ideas on how to get started.