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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

100 Years of Squash

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HISTORY OF KWAZULU NATAL SQUASH This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the old Squash Racquets ( old spelling ) Association of Southern Africa and the first in the world ( apart from the U S A ) of a national tournament,as well as the 60th birthday of the Squash Racquets Association of Natal having been formed in 1949\50. Durban was the first squash league in South Africa mainly through the efforts Lieutenant Frank Gouws of the South African Air Force and his good friend Maynard Marais who were responsible for founding the league with only four courts available with just six teams but when the number of teams shot up to thirteen there was concern because the only way was to run a bye system.
One of the four courts was at the airforce base on the Bluff where matches were played with the traditional warm and convivial hospitality and more than once a car had to be extracted from the murky and salty waters of the bay ( on the way home, of course )! . Some of the original clubs were Garrison on Snell Parade, Gelmar later to become Dunlops, Jewish Club, Racqeteers, Royal Natal Yacht Club.
Our first big event was in 1955 when South Africa played a series of four tests against England in Durban where we lost to the visitors, the remaining three were won by South Africa. Interestingly the same five players represented South Africa in all four tests and a feature was that all five came from the same province, the then Transvaal, and even more interesting was the fact that all five came from the same club ( Johannesburg Wanderers ! ).
The standard of play improved, ambitions increased and in 1960 we played in the first Jarvis Cup tournament in Port Elizabeth over a week end ( the players were required to play twice a day and perhaps three times on the final day ! ).Our ladies played in the first Kaplan cup in Johannesburg at the same time, both tournaments were played at different venues but in 1968 both were played in Harare ( Salisbury ) and this arrangement of both tournaments running together has stayed ever since.
Our men have won the coveted Jarvis cup in 1971, 1985, 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2011 while the ladies have been successful in 1992, 1993 and 1995.
The next step up was the much vaunted “ squash explosion ” in the sixties and seventies when professionalism was introduced – we were visited by the legendary Jonah Barrington ( he showed the way to train and practice to get fit and not the other way around ), he also introduced the method of beating the dreaded “ pain barrier ” . The came the great Geoff Hunt of Australia, Ken Hiscoe, Hiddy Jahan, Cam Nancarrow and others. Our first professional was Roland Watson who was also world ranked in the top ten for several years. All played in exhibition matches, entered tournaments, gave talks and generally promoted the game. The overwhelming and resultant enthusiasm created for there were not enough courts, suddenly everybody was talking squash, the “ yuppies ” had to be seen in squash gear, courts shot up like mushrooms and, because of the lack of a top class match court, plans were made for one to be built at the plush Westville Country Club – here we had the most modern complex capable of seating 450 people, and in 1975 this splendid complex was opened and has been the scene of many test matches, inter club and inter provincial battles, coaching and development programmes and has always been the headquarters on KwaZulu Natal Squash.
Being part of the then Squash Rackets Association of Southern Africa, we supported the non racial stance in 1976 and before that, in 1967 South Africa was a founder member of the world body International Squash Federation made up of seven members : Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, India and Pakistan.
In the 1980’s the resident professional at Westville Country Club, Chris Hewitson, adapted very quickly to the new developments and showed a remarkable ability to not only play for his province, but to become a first class coach as well as to attract quality sponsors. Geoff Hunt, world champion, played an intriguing match against the entire Natal squash team, winning all five matches comfortable.
Then the great man, Jahangir Khan himself arrived in 1992 and he gave talks and met influential personalities, always promoting the great game and he too, played the entire Natal team twice and thus injected fresh enthusiasm and determination. In that same year we achieved unity between different bodies who had previously administered their own bodies and this has been most successful. Yes, a proud record and a remarkable history of achievements through the efforts of many people, consider that from a humble beginning a just a few enthusiasts and several courts we now have 21 registered clubs with about 1,000 members,116 men’s and 22 ladie’s teams,apart from schools universities etc and there are more than 82 courts in use for league. Not bad for a humble beginning and despite recessionary times.
This is just a simple story and I hope that it is of interest, it is up to all of us to nurture and protect a great game so that it may grow in stature.
Thank you to all of you who give up your time and efforts, congratulations on your achievements and well done.

With much affection

IAN DIXON
President – Kwazulu-Natal Squash Union

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