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arrow pointing leftBack 30 October 20 - by Elizabeth Botcherby

Families flock to the courts at Pontefract Squash Club

Ellen's family

Under the current COVID-19 guidelines, squash players have largely been restricted to playing as households or in squash bubbles. However, instead of seeing the restrictions as a hindrance, Pontefract Squash Club have used them to showcase the sport’s family appeal - and with great success!

The eight-court facility based in Yorkshire, have always championed family play but have seen an increase in the number of families hitting the courts post-lockdown.

“We’ve always tried to foster a really encouraging atmosphere for anyone who comes to the club to make them want to be there as a family,” explains coach Jayne Robinson.

“When kids come to coaching, I’ll ask the mums if they want to come to my women’s sessions or the dads to the men’s groups so they can get involved. We make sure that every family member can be included in an activity and encourage them to do something together.

"One example is 10-year-old Ellen who came to the club through the Foundation programme with her school. Her grandparents brought her along initially and then her grandma, who was 58 at the time, joined my ladies session. More recently, Ellen's mum, stepdad and brother have started playing, we even got grandad on court for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago!"

“Given we’re limited with who we can play against and who can be in our bubble, coming as a family – or a couple – is perfect!

“A few of the families are those who’ve never brought their children before lockdown and have thought ‘actually, we can do this with the kids’ Or parents wanting to have a go so we have new parents in. We always have someone around to offer advice on what games to play, like three quarters or only hitting above the line.

“We’re just saying to families ‘in you come!’ It’s all about encouraging that kind of play.”

The club has gained new members post-lockdown - something Jayne attributes to their family atmosphere and visible safety measures.

“We’ve actually had a little growth in membership and that’s because of the families and because people feel safe within our environment.”

“We have temperature checks on entry, signs up everywhere, sanitiser and a PuriFog system, track and trace, sign in sheets, the works.

“We’ve kept our pay-and-play option too because we have a good track and trace system. With the checks we have in place, we know who people are so if they come back again, we try and encourage a membership and the benefits of that.”

The next challenge for the club is how to keep the families engaged as restrictions are lifted but overall, they are feeling positive about the future.

“We’re competing in a world with lots of other attractions. It’s just a case of keeping our activities going and asking families what they want to keep them here.

“I think we want to push more family club nights, maybe some promotional offers at the bar. With club nights and social settings, families meet families, and it grows from there.

“It seems a long way off yet but here at Pontefract we have a can-do attitude.”