Swavesey Squash Club is a thriving and active club, with a great community feel and lots of activities. However, much of what’s going on today at the club is relatively recent. So, let’s look at what happened over the last few years to see how we got to where we are today!
Fenland Squash Club
Pre-2020, the club was known as Fenland Squash Club. Much of the structure of the building was in place, as we see today; however, there were many differences.
Originally built in the 1970s with the third court an extension in the early 80s, much of the building had deteriorated into a pretty tired state; threadbare carpet tiles, asbestos all over the place, original court floors (50 years old!), broken and insufficient heating systems, flickering fluorescent lighting… it really was fairly dilapidated and not an inviting place to play squash. Not surprisingly, membership was well down from its peak, which had been during the UK’s squash boom in the Barrington era (70s, 80s, early 90s). Of those few members which remained (~20), even fewer had paid their membership! The booking system had recently moved online, but it lacked even basic features such as the ability to cancel courts… it didn’t really matter as court usage was extremely low. Lights were operated by coins, with only £1 coins accepted. All in all, a pretty miserable place to play squash!
The pandemic – 2020
As you will all remember, there were some huge shocks to the world in 2020. And in the case of Fenland Squash Club, there were about to be some changes for the better. Ali Loke was a squash professional who had been working at other clubs in Cambridgeshire (Fenland at the time was unable to support a professional with such a small membership). Whilst the volunteer committee, aware of the club’s decline, had been making efforts to improve the club, none of them had the time or sufficient squash expertise to make the huge changes needed to change the fortunes of the club. With extra time available due to the lockdowns, Ali and her husband Richard started putting time and effort into resurrecting the club.
With limited ambitions initially, grants were applied for and used for buildings improvements, basic improvements were made online, and the club was brought into the 21st century. Once permitted, minor membership drives were made, with a slow but steady increase in membership. The club name was changed to the more logical “Swavesey Squash Club” (with Fenland being a completely different area of Cambridgeshire!). Ali came on officially in September 2020 as head professional at the club, managing the day-to-day operations and chipping away at the (many) tasks at hand.
Of course, the pandemic continued longer than many (including us at the club) anticipated! Many challenges were met, not least with the state of the building, as well as ongoing pandemic-related restrictions, but through persistent hard work, we got the club up to a state that made attracting new members much easier.
Swavesey Squash Club
With a better infrastructure in place, the club starting getting into full stride. Membership hit the 200 mark, which for a three-court club was just perfect. Many former members returned, but the majority of these players were completely new, to the club and even to the sport.
Buildings refurbishments continued, with our most major project to date the court renovation in December 2022. Ending up costing the best part of £30,000 (ouch!), we fully replaced all three court floors, replastered court 1, and now have three top quality courts that play like new. The rest of the club is looking really welcoming and cosy, and improving all the time.
Projects such as our junior squash programme have become fully fledged, with a growing cohort of enthusiastic young players, and three assistant coaches are now working with Ali to ensure that there are opportunities for everyone to train and improve their game. Regular beginner coaching courses and weekly gameplay sessions help those new to the game build confidence and their skills.
Team squash resumed after the pandemic. We initially entered two men’s teams (Div. 1 and 4) and one women’s in the 2021-22 season, and then when the 2nds got promoted we entered a 3rd team in the 2022-23 season. With the number of strong female players at the club growing, and the ladies winning their division in the 2022-23 season, we entered a 2nd ladies team in the 2023-24 season as well as the three men’s teams (Div. 1, 2, and 4, with the 2nds being promoted again!). This makes us the 2nd largest club in Cambridgeshire in terms of number of teams despite only have three courts, and the only club with two ladies’ teams, which reflects the healthy membership levels and good standard of players.
We are especially proud of how welcoming the club is for female players. Many of our female members have remarked at how different this club is from other clubs that they have tried in the past. With a large number of enthusiastic ladies playing at the club, brand new to the game or experienced players, it’s easy for new ladies to feel comfortable.
Most important is the community feel that we have created. It was always our intention to create a club that was more than simply a venue to play squash; rather, a social hub where players new and old could mix in and have a chat, as well as a knock-about on court. Everyone at the club is friendly and happy to help out. There are plenty of fun and friendly competitions, social events, and general weekly group sessions. It’s easy for new players to get involved straight away with plenty of ways to meet other players.
In short, we are so proud of the club as it exists today. It feels like a really special community to be involved with. We would love for anyone considering playing squash in the area to pop in and see what it’s all about!