Squash club opens its doors to children to stoke excitement ahead of Commonwealth Games

Last summer, a year before the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, organisers announced that they wanted to give one million children an authentic Games experience.

Archery medallist Mel Clarke with kids.
Archery medallist Mel Clarke with kids.

On Friday, the Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis and Squash Club fulfilled that dream and opened its doors to schools and members of the local community to get them involved in six sports which will take pride of place at the Games.

Children from seven schools got the run of the club until 2pm, where they got to try out squash, boxing, wrestling, wheelchair basketball, table tennis, and archery.

Mike Harris was coaching the visiting children about squash techniques.

Helen Tottey, director of squash and racketball at the club, said: "You can hear the laughter as you walk in. I asked some of the children what they were excited for and they said "everything".

"We're very excited because the Commonwealth Games is really good for all sports and it's important to get juniors involved in sports.

"The Olympics united the whole country and Wimbledon puts the spotlight on tennis, but the Commonwealth Games has everything and gives people ideas about different sports."

The children even got coaching from double medal winning Paralympic archer Mel Clarke, who bought in her silver medal and 2012 Paralympic torch to show the children.

Paul Alexander, Carl Morgan and Lester Bertie, from Continental Stars Table Tennis Club

Community engagement manager for the Birmingham Games, Asma Ajaz-Ali, said: "We're hoping to celebrate and inspire, so children can take a piece of the game and have a go themselves.

"They can say 'oh wow, where can I go to do this' and coaches can signpost them to local clubs.

"It's nice for a facility like this to open its doors to local schools and communities and take advantage of what's on offer - we're trying to bring the games to the people."

Nishka Parkash, aged 11, from St Luke's Primary School, who tried her hand at boxing.

Children from St Luke's Primary, St Andrews Primary, Bilston CofE Primary School, Whitgreave Primary, Eastfield Primary, St Pauls CofE Primary, and Claregate Primary School all took part, before the club was opened to everyone from 2pm.

Commonwealth Games mascot Perry the Bull even made an appearance, posing with members of the public and getting involved with some of the sports on offer.

Reporter Eleanor Lawson is given tips from squash coach Mike Harris.

Mike Harris, head of squash and racketball at the club, is also head of Squash United, the Legacy Programme for Squash at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Mike said: "We wanted to take squash to the people and that meant getting it outdoors.

"To build an outside squash court or take one to a school - it's just not practical, you could only take a net.

"So we build these mini outdoor courts which are a quarter of the size of a usual court.

"The Commonwealth Games pledged to give a million children a Games experience, and Squash United has seen over 80,000 children so far.

"It was our responsibility to see 50,000 but we've done that and we're still going. We hope to meet 90,000 by the time the Games start and 100,000 by its completion.

"Squash isn't in the Olympics so we're very excited for the Commonwealth Games.

"It's time for squash to be showcased."

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