Aron's tips on becoming a more inclusive club
When the staff at Calder Community Squash asked themselves whether they were truly inclusive, the answer was a resounding no. This honest recognition led Aron and the team to embark on a mission to make the club a fun and safe space for people of all abilities, helping their local community access the sport they love. Here’s some of Aron’s top tips to becoming a more inclusive club.
Firstly, you need to look beyond the walls of the club and really put a big emphasis on the local community and the people who are not getting the same access to sport. Understanding that there is a huge amount of people that may never have heard of squash and possibly don’t know you are even there is really important. It’s just a matter of finding them. Look at what you have in the local area. Schools (mainstream & specialist), colleges, care groups and other mixed ability sports teams. Speak to people within the club and see if they know of anyone that may be up for trying squash.
Understanding the requirements of participants
You have to be prepared to adapt your sessions to suit the needs of that specific individual. Going in with an open mind and not too much structure is an important part of the preparation process as you will need to make the session work around them. Put the feelers out early to club members and see if anyone wants to get involved. The more the merrier and it can only help in creating a good atmosphere on the day.
Making connections in the community
This is an essential part of the process when trying to attract people to the club that probably have no experience of the game and potentially feel like it’s just not that accessible. There's loads of help out there and plenty of people that will be willing to help you, it’s just figuring out how to tap into it. All the resources you need are at your fingertips. When we set up the mixed ability squash 57 sessions, we spoke to the Magpies mixed ability rugby team in Calderdale who were more than happy to help.
Ask yourself if you're truly inclusive
Our ethos at Calder Community Squash and something we are incredibly passionate about is helping the communities we live in whilst growing the game we love. We asked ourselves a couple of questions before embarking on our open days. Firstly - are we truly inclusive? The answer to this was definitely no. Although Old Crossleyans squash club is a friendly, warm and welcoming club open for all to join, we don’t have any members with a learning disability. We saw this as a real opportunity to change that and felt as though running some open days would allow us the chance to explore the potential around mixed ability sport.
What an inclusive session can look like
At our first Mixed Ability session, we kept things really simple and fun. A quick hello, what’s your name and where do you come from and a few stretches, followed by general ball control and a quick assessment of standard. We had three coaches on the day and three courts so we quickly split people into groups. Some did shuttle runs/walks using the skills they had developed earlier. On another court we had people practicing hitting the ball against the wall off a feed. If someone managed to do it we made a massive fuss and put a big emphasis on the celebration. We even had a celebration walkway made up of cones! On the final court we managed to get the most able playing some games.
The impact being inclusive can have on the club and players
After speaking with several members, friends and the club committee we have seen the interest in mixed ability sessions grow, so we are now currently looking at putting together a mixed ability squash 57 team, with weekly training sessions and hopefully some competitive matches. Not to mention a few new members! We hope this will inspire others to do the same, and look forward to what the future holds for mixed ability squash 57 in Calderdale.
If you'd like more advice and resources on becoming a more inclusive club, please visit our inclusion and diversity toolkit.