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arrow pointing leftBack 11 April 24 - by England Squash

Northumbrian coach wins annual accolade for thriving squash programmes

Coach Bob Aynsley
Bob Aynsley, who coaches at Northern Squash has won the Coach of the Year award at the 2023 England Squash Awards for his popular programmes that have led to participation growth across the club.

Aynsley created the ‘Give Squash a Try’ programme after noticing low adult participation rates, despite strong junior numbers. The first of these seven-week courses took place in January 2023, with over 20 participants.

Aynsley, a retired police officer and Level 2 coach, said:

“We've now run seven separate courses, one after the other, with a session every Sunday. The latest one has got 58 participants and it's just grown hugely.

“There was a big junior programme running anyway which coach Richard Vitty had successfully run via the local schools for 15 years or so, but it was identified that there was a lack in adult coaching. That’s where I fit in, initially with two courses for men and for ladies, beginners, intermediates, and ones who want to return to the game.”

While his courses were thriving, Bob sought to ensure there was further opportunities in place to sustain newcomers’ interest. He explained: “What was there for them apart from going into the leagues? A couple did, and they were finding that they were a bit above their own standard.

“It can put them off a bit. So, I opened a ladies league about six months ago and that's run over a five-week period alongside the other main leagues, and that's been very successful. I also set up what I call a pathway league for men.

“It just gives them that extra little bit of motivation for what lies after the course. All the newcomers going off into their own pathway league allows them to gain confidence and then they may join the main leagues as well.”

On the award itself, Bob said: “Amazing. I was initially very emotional. I felt very humbled. And then in hindsight, I thought, well yeah, the last year and a half there's been a lot of progress in bringing a lot of squash into Northern Squash. I feel the hard work behind the scenes is being acknowledged, so I’m chuffed to bits.”

Alongside growing his current initiatives, Bob is seeking to work with local support groups and provide opportunities to those people suffering with mental health conditions and is hoping to work with local support groups on this soon.

He stated: “Getting back into squash helped improve my own mental health. I think it's that inclusivity, I know personally, it's given me a very positive outlet. So, I'm very empathetic towards people suffering from certain conditions and this helps them to get involved positively. I’m not saying it's going to solve their issues, but it can certainly help.”

Find out more about the 2023 Awards.