Squash is Thriving at All Levels in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire has always been a good breeding ground for squash players. Think Lucy Soutter and Fiona Geaves in yesteryear while more recently the likes of Nathan Lake and Tom Ford have been flying the flag for the county in some of the bigger tournaments around the globe. And it’s not just at the top level that the sport is thriving in this part of the world. Squash is thriving at all levels and Mark Toseland, the chairman of the Gloucestershire Squash Association for the past three years, couldn’t be happier. “Yes, it’s developing very well,” said 31-year-old Toseland, who only started playing the sport himself eight years ago. “We’ve got a strong County League competition and we’re actively driving squash forward by taking it into the schools. “Nathan Lake has spearheaded the schools’ programme and over the past two years we’ve reached 2,500 kids.” The fact that someone like Nathan Lake, who is in the world’s top 50, is happy to take time out from his busy schedule speaks volumes not only for him but the impact that squash can have. And it’s not only Lake of the top county players who are doing much to spread the word about the sport they love. “Tom Ford, Alex Parker, Dan Heaton, Jonny Harford and numerous others are all playing an active role in the association,” added Toseland, who lives in Frampton-on-Severn and himself is a level 3 coach. Toseland has certainly embraced the sport since picking up a racket to try something new for the first time at the age of 23. A student at the University of Gloucestershire – he has a year remaining on a Bsc (hons) Sports development and coaching course and looking to do a Msc in Professional Practice in Sports Coaching at the same university – he is also a self-employed squash coach at Riverside Sports Club in Gloucester and Stratford Park in Stroud as well as being a coach tutor for England Squash. So what is it about squash that he likes so much? “That’s a good question,” he said. “One of the things I like is that you can have a hit on your own. Obviously there is great satisfaction from playing someone but if there is no-one else around you can still play. “It’s very easy to get on a court and if you want to get better you can, it’s up to you. “There’s a real big mix of playing abilities at clubs and it’s a very sociable sport.” The aforementioned County League is for the more serious squash players, of course, and it’s certainly something that is very well supported with teams from clubs all around Gloucestershire taking part. Tewkesbury Park, Freedom Leisure in the Forest of Dean, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Dursley, Cotswold Leisure in Cirencester and Stroud Squash Club are just some of the clubs set to take part this season. Gloucestershire men’s team have also competed in the premier division of the inter-counties league for the past five years before unfortunately getting relegated at the end of the last campaign. However, the ladies’ team are still flying high and have continued their fine form to stay in the premiership division. And those teams at club and county level will all surely continue to do well if junior squash in the county continues to thrive. “We’ve got a few very successful nationally ranked juniors – Harry and Jack Bloomfield along with Bhuvana Senthil-Kumar,” said Toseland. “And while we obviously want all our young players to do as well as possible we are very much a sport that is for everybody. “My job is to cover all bases.” Toseland’s enthusiasm for all things squash comes through in every sentence. “If you play squash you don’t need to go to a gym,” he insisted. “It’s a very easy way to get fit and be active. Every decent squash player has a good body shape.” And Toseland is quick to give credit to those people bringing through the next generation of players in the county. “The calibre of coaches in Gloucestershire is unheard of anywhere else in the country,” he said. “There’s Gary Powell at Old Pats who brought through Nathan Lake, Tom Ford and Mark Broekman, Fiona Geaves at East Glos and Jonny Harford at Wycliffe College.” Toseland knows what he’s talking about because he knows his sport. He used to play rugby and was also a mixed martial arts enthusiast as well as being keen on snow sports. These days squash is his number one sport – and the sport of squash is very lucky to have him.