Zena leading the efforts to raise profile of squash

A Stourbridge squash player is leading from the front as she bids to take the sport to the next level on the global stage.

Stourbridge’s Zena Wooldridge
Stourbridge’s Zena Wooldridge

Zena Wooldridge OBE has held several top jobs in the sport, including vice-president of England Squash and president of the European Squash Federation.

Now, as the 59-year-old is appointed president of the World Squash Federation, she is targeting a rebrand to grow the sport globally.

“It’s a challenging time to come into such a role with the impact of Covid on sport,” she told the Express & Star.

“Most of the international events have been postponed or cancelled, so it’s a frustrating and challenging time. But it’s also very exciting for what we can do going forward and where we can take the sport in the future.

“Squash is a fantastic sport because it fits the modern lifestyle so well.

“It gives you a good all-round workout in a short space of time. It’s fun, tactical and very social.

“It has everything you want in a sport. We also have racketball which is an easier game to play and allows all generations to play together.

“It has so much to offer and we’re hoping to promote it. In some parts of the world it’s growing rapidly and in other parts where we have traditional markets we need to rekindle it and rebrand it to grow it again.”

Squash failed with a bid to join the 2024 Olympics in Paris and although Wooldridge has not ruled out another 2028 bid, they are focused now on next year’s Commonwealth games in Birmingham – where squash is a core sport.

“That is a real opportunity to showcase squash across the Commonwealth,” she added. “A third of the global population watch it so it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“It will brilliant for Birmingham and the West Midlands as the Commonwealth Games may well be the next global sporting event, with the way things are going at the moment. We’re looking to build the sport and it’s profile. To do what is right for the sport and if that does lead us to another opportunity for another Olympic bid, then we’ll take that.”

Stourbridge born and bred, Wooldridge has been a member of the Stourbridge Lawn Tennis & Squash Club since she was 13 years old.

She has won the ladies championships at the club 15 times, played county squash for Worcestershire for 30 years – winning four titles – and gained 25 England caps at Masters level. An injury has prevented her for playing for the last 10 years but the club is still close to her heart as she represents them on the world stage.

“I have been a member at Stourbridge for 46 years, since I was a young teenager,” she said.

“Despite living away for 12 years at university and at subsequent jobs, I still played and represented Stourbridge at local leagues. It’s always been my club. Although I am now injured and have not played for 10 years, carrying an old netball injury, I have still been a member.

“It’s my home. It has been since I was a teenager.”

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