World Junior Champion, and son of ...
How hard is it to have your dad as a coach?
I suppose people don’t really understand how a father and a son can work together, but we are fine! He has always done it. He is a disciplinarian, he disciplines everyone, he coaches the young kids, the adults, and I was part of that, like everyone else was. I’ve gone through the system like every other kid has.
Did he treat you differently from the other kids?
Of course there are differences because I am his son, and like any father, he is totally on my side, and he is going to be there. But really, I have been treated like anybody else, and like you see at the Nationals, when I play Lee, it’s both of us, not just me. But I have a total respect for him, and because I’ve got respect, we don’t fall out, I respect what he says, he respects what I say, it’s a mutual thing.
Do you make the difference between Malcolm as a dad, and him as a coach?
Yes, but obviously, squash is such a big part of both of our lives, we talk about squash a lot, we also do totally different things together. We both enjoy horse racing, so we go to racing together, we go to theatre, concerts… We have that separate time if you like where we are father and son, and that’s a great relationship as well. We get on great! But obviously, what we have to be very grateful for is that we still make the professional level work. So far, we have.
A coach is often a “mate” as well. Can your dad be your “mate”?
Definitely. Some kids might not confide in their father, but I do. I tell him pretty much everything, squash, personal things, problems, dilemmas I’ve got, I go to him. He will always be there to give me advice, I ring him from tournaments. I regard him as a close friend, not just a dad. And he talks to me about things as well.
Malcolm mentioned that you have been helping him as much as he has been helping you after the death of your mum.
I think we give each other support, you don’t think about it, but you are. I needed my dad during that time, and there are still times, it’s never easy, anyone who has ever lost anyone knows it’s not easy, it’s horrible, and it will be for a long time. There are times when he is fine, and I still find it very difficult.
Every now and then, I’ll do a practice session where my mind is not on it, and generally, it’s down to that, and he has to understand that, because it always comes on the court with me. He understands, we’ve both been there, it was a nasty time, but we got through it with each other, and our family as well.
Could you define Malcolm’s coaching?
I think that he is successful because he disciplines his kids. The other reason why I think he is so successful is because technically, all his players are excellent. He is a technical coach. His kids can move through and they develop great techniques, very simple techniques, very pleasing to watch. Look at somebody like Lee, his swing just looks great, very fluid. He also works in groups, which is different to most coaches, groups of all ages, of all standards. We can practise with some of the good lady Yorkshire league players, if they are here. It just works like that, we just mix in. There are always things that he can find for us to do.
The other thing that really makes his players good is that he gets them on court more than once a week. His kids are on court possibly three times a week, which is valuable. There is no way you can get better with a 40 minute coaching session every week. With Malcolm, they get an hour and a half session, and because he works in groups, it’s cheap, and parents can pay. The kids are constantly on the squash court, which is the most important thing I think in the end, and that’s why they come on so quickly.
How does it work?
There are four or five possibly on court at a time, and there will be down the wall routines, hitting the ball straight, always the simple things in the game. Basically, it’s about hitting as many balls as possible. The technique, he obviously gets into them at an early age, and the other coaches that are here, in the Sunday morning junior sessions for example, we know what we are to do: the techniques are there, and the platform is there for him to coach them. Obviously, they are getting top class coaching at the same time, and the feedback from the back of the court. It’s not just hitting the ball, and playing a lot of squash, you need to be doing the correct technical things…
So in short, simplicity and quantity, isn’t it?
Yes…. Not over doing it obviously either. The thing is about the sessions that my dad does, is that they are enjoyable, they are great fun. People sometimes say to me “you must have suffered so much in your childhood”, but oh no, they are so wrong! I came here, there were kids of my age, I had a great social life, I wasn’t bored sitting at home, my childhood was fantastic. I was playing squash, and I never fall out because the enjoyment factor is immense. You get to mix with four or five different people, in the evenings, you’re playing, having a laugh, playing conditioned games. They are enjoying it because they are not doing “pressure” sessions, and boring sort of feeding sessions all the time. Obviously, you need a bit of that, but not all the time.
3 words to describe your dad?
Funny, Frightening (at first), Passionate,
and great fun to be with.