The more money there is in a sport, the worse it behaves ...
Rob looks at how well sports look after
their prime assets, the players ...

Rob Richardson


Sprung floor in
Brazilian shopping centre


Rob the Rub

after almost thirty years' experience massaging professional athletes in a variety of sports,
Rob Richardson has a tale or two to tell ...



Also from Rob:

Looking after
the Athletes




Badminton is quite well behaved, young up and coming athletes are well protected and make it to the international arena on a regular basis, but the Association sacrifices quality of play by staging tournaments in venues where “bums on seats” are more important than the playing surface. More on that later ...

Nice one, Squash

is impeccable. Just as I’ve never seen a racehorse run on concrete, I’ve never seen a squash match played on anything other than a sprung wooden floor. No sacrifices, whether it’s Wembley, NEC, the Albert Hall or where ever, a portable court with a proper sprung floor is not too much trouble.

It surprises me that badminton has never followed this example and I admire squash very much for never compromising on the issue of health and safety for the players and, of course, the standard of play has always come first.

Having said that, I’ve just read a report from Detroit where squash players in the “Motor City Open” were suffering on the “harder wood” floor, with lots of injuries and drop-outs. This takes me back a few years.

Badminton in a hard place

The old town halls with sprung wooden floors had been closing their doors to badminton players during the seventies and eighties. Many counties had no choice but to adopt the modern leisure centres as their new home, concrete floor or not. Top players from each county then had to find somewhere else to train. Players from Essex would either move house to Surrey or travel daily, elsewhere in the country this new regime in search of a wooden floor would be repeated.

When it came to finding a venue for the Nationals, in order to facilitate the spectators, it invariably dictated somewhere with a concrete floor. Even the All England Open at Wembley – a concrete floor! Top players rebelled, but the same thing was happening all over Europe. Even laying a rubber over-court on top to provide some cushioning did not take away the effects of the hard surface.

Players were suffering more injuries and in turn the tournaments suffered. As the accumulation of fatigue in each athlete increased with each round, sometimes the semis would be disappointing, well below the expected standard of play. Then the final was almost a walkover with one of the players looking completely and utterly spent. How the hell do you adapt?

Playing on hard surfaces

If you’ve played on that kind of surface – first and foremost you need extra recovery time over and above your usual. If you’re planning to play on a harder surface, you need to be extra light on your feet, think “cushion and spring”, be cat like, practice your movement on court by ghosting, listen to your feet on the floor.

If you are light on your feet there will be little to hear, if you are heavy footed you’ll sound more like a cart horse and I would advise you not to play on a hard surface. Even if you are light on your feet, hard surfaces are unforgiving, you need to pace yourself more than usual. Be as economic as you can in dispatching each opponent with as little effort as possible.

Save as much energy as you can for the later stages. Don’t forget though, whether you get to the final or go out in round one – you’ll need extra recovery time.

Football forgets it assets

There’s more money in football than many sports put together. This doesn’t make footballers more professional than other athletes, it just means they have more money.

Football is a vast industry which has one or more shinning lights, Arsene Wenger is one, amongst an enormous collection of dinosaurs and fossils. We are led to believe that standards, training facilities, medical backup, etc, etc at the top of the game are unsurpassed, but that’s all spin in most cases.

You only have to witness the trials and tribulations of Michael Owen whose game deteriorated under the training regime of Gerrard Houllier. Rio Ferdinand’s future was put in jeopardy by Harry Redknapp in 1999. His West Ham squad were so depleted through injury, that Redknapp risked Ferdinand’s future by asking the young injured player to have an injection before playing an end of season game, which at most would secure fifth place in the League Championship.

Had nothing been learnt from the way Terry Venables allowed Paul Gascoine’s potential to be ruined, by allowing him to play whilst injured in that famous FA cup game?

Tennis tests its teenagers

Tennis has a few bob, again a growing industry in terms of financial profitability. I’ve seen some badly injured players from many different sports in my time. I can talk about burnout and the different forms in which it can manifest itself.

Junior tennis takes the biscuit! I’ve seen ten to sixteen year old enthusiasts whose bodies have been tortured to the limits, and yes, I’ve I seen burnt out players in that age group and an amazing assortment of long standing stresses and strains.

In the past I have felt compelled to write to the authorities complaining that coaching methods at their Bisham Abbey School of Excellence was causing injury to many players.

Twelve year olds were being instructed to perform thirty press-ups. What more can I say? These kids are training mainly on concrete surfaces, twelve to fifteen hours per week and playing tournaments.

They play with senior rackets, whilst these rackets are known to be contributing to the unprecedented amount of injuries on the Senior tour. They don’t seem to have an end of season to recover, ready for the next one.

For all the money they have in tennis “it don’t buy common sense”!