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How to engage new players through U3A

Squash 57 players at Princes Squash Club's U3A session

Photo courtesy of Michael Poole

Many squash clubs have successfully engaged new players through forging partnerships with their local University of the Third Age (U3A) groups.

We caught up with Jo Wallis, the coach at Princes Squash Club to find out how their new partnership with Chesterfield U3A evolved and how clubs can emulate their success.

“Our aim was to increase court usage at off-peak times when our courts sat empty. We have a facility that is available and we wanted to reach out to the local community who we felt would benefit from squash.

“Chesterfield U3A group has over 1000 members who are all looking to learn something new, develop their skills, and keep active. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to work together and offer a regular Squash 57 activity at the club.”

Having joined Chesterfield U3A, Jo attended a meeting to chat through the club’s activities. Squash 57 sparked interest amongst the group with 30 people keen to give it a go.

Jo and Shelagh, a Princes Squash Club member, now run weekly Squash 57 sessions for the U3A group which sees up to 20 players turn out each week. Many of these players have also started to get involved in other club activities.

Jo recalls:

“Learning about the game is important for the group - they want to understand the rules, the techniques and they want to improve. Equally as important though is the tea and biscuits and an opportunity for a chat! It’s important to get the balance right to keep them coming back,”

Jo and Shelagh’s ambition is to bring players to the standard where they can walk on court, confident that they know how to play social Squash 57.

Squash 57 players at Princes Squash Club U3A group

Photo courtesy of Michael Poole

How to get started

For clubs looking to emulate Princes’s success, Jo offers several golden nuggets of advice:

  • Become a member of the U3A group or find a club member who is already a U3A member. This gives you an opportunity to go along to the meetings and form a partnership.
  • Talk to the U3A group members – find out what they want from a session, alleviate any concerns and dispel any myths. Once they’ve met you, they know there will be a familiar face at their first session.
  • Have a social side - the tea, coffee, biscuits and chance for a chat is important for the U3A group. Make sure you build this into your sessions.
  • Keep in touch with your players in a way that works best for them. I email the group every week to keep them updated and included. This helps to develop your relationship with the players.
  • Finally, continue to get feedback from players. That way you can keep providing what they want. I found that players want to develop their skills, so I make sure that is included in the sessions.

Inspired to deliver group Squash 57 sessions? View our toolkit for further ideas, along with images, videos and posters to promote your sessions.