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arrow pointing leftBack 22 February 24 - by England Squash

Phil Hancey Squash Fund helps England no.1 fulfil US Junior Open dream

For 14-year-old Luke McBride, competing at the US Junior Open was an eye-opening experience and an opportunity to test himself against the best players in the world.

Playing in the U15s competition, the [9/12] seed won four matches before bowing out in the quarter-finals, ultimately finishing in sixth position. A few weeks later at the 2024 British Junior Open, he reached the last 16, once again beating his seeding [17/32].

And the reigning British U15s champion believes these strong finishes are due in no small part to the support of the Phil Hancey Squash Fund, which was set up in memory of late squash player Phil Hancey by his firm Aiimi.

Organised by England Squash, the fund provides financial assistance for promising young players as well as supporting clubs and recreational players in engaging people in squash and breaking down barriers to play.

Luke, who is ranked No.1 in England at U15s, received £500 from the Phil Hancey Talent Fund, putting the money towards his trip to the USA and extra lessons with new coach, Sam Hodgkins.

Sam has introduced an holistic approach to Luke’s coaching, with the pair sharing an online calendar for planning his schedule and short and long-term goals, with dad, Ian, seeing a noticeable improvement both on and off the court.

“The combination of playing in the US Open plus his coaching with Sam has broadened his mind and understanding of squash worldwide and increased his ambition,” Ian said.

“Having the opportunity to play in the US Open reset Luke’s understanding about the level of quality within his age-group. He took that opportunity very seriously and I’d hope it motivates him in the future.

“I’ve certainly seen his attitude change and become more professional. As part of that, doing his schoolwork even if his motivation is to enable him to free up time to play more squash – it’s had knock-on benefits outside squash. With his coaching, the mental aspect of the game, especially around preparation, is where I’ve seen the greatest difference.”

Luke, meanwhile, believes increasing his on-court time with Sam has been invaluable. “Sam’s made quite a big difference,” he says.

“The fund allowed me to have an extra session a week and that’s really sped up my progress. Before, having one session a week, it was like two steps forward, one step back, but because I’m able to have two sessions, I’ve really improved.

“My technique’s improved, I’m hitting the ball a lot tighter and he’s good for me mentally as well. He’s calm and really good in between games. He went to the US Open with me. We went a few days early and without those sessions with Sam in the days before, I don’t think I would’ve beaten my seeding.”

This year, Luke has his sights set on winning the Dutch Open U15s after reaching the U13s final in 2022. Longer term, last December’s trip to Philadelphia has given him a taste for squash in the USA.

“It was great. The highlight was the Arlen Specter Centre – it’s got two full glass courts, 20 hardbacks, and the atmosphere was amazing. In the finals, there was about 1,000 people watching. Just going around the clubs was really cool,” he says.

“It was a really good experience. To get that exposure to other players and beat my seeding, I was happy with the result. And I’m going to try to go to an American university, so it was good to get the coaches on my radar.”

Find out more about the Phil Hancey Squash Fund.