Vicky Botwright is England’s head squash coach but was once the country’s top ranked player. Sportsister spoke to her about her transition from professional athlete to coach.
You made the quarter finals of the recent National Squash Championships in Manchester but lost to Madeline Perry in the final set. It looked a tough match, how do you feel about the result?
That was a tough match! I’m pleased I played well, but I hate losing. In reality though, I work full time so I haven’t played any of the top girls for the last three or four months now. I’ve gone from training twice a day, six days a week to just twice a week. I live and work in Manchester for England Squash, so it’s become more difficult to go that extra mile.
How rewarding is it to now give something back to the sport you love?
Yeah it’s brilliant; the programme I now run had already been set up by another player, Nick Taylor, before I stepped in. I got involved as I knew a lot of the kids from when I used to train here at the National Squash Centre in Manchester as a professional.
How does it feel not being a full time athlete anymore?
It seemed so weird at first as I was used to being trained rather than training others. The first few months working here were really strange as I saw all the girls I used to compete with training, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take the job that I’ve got. If I had continued to play for another year it wouldn’t have been available.
Can you feel a difference between the performances of the professional girls and yourself now?
It’s just a fitness thing really. These girls are top ten in the world, although I can compete with them, they have the edge as they are training full time. Two days training a week isn’t enough to be at their level of fitness.
Do you miss competing?
It has upsides and downsides. I miss playing with the girls; I was always the feisty aggressive one, I love competition. To put on an England shirt and play is just amazing – it’s like you’re a different person. But I don’t miss flying 14 hours on a plane and losing my match and earning no money.
You played in the final of the Worlds Open here in Manchester despite having retired 2 months earlier, how was that experience?
It felt very surreal. Getting into the final of the World Open is the pinnacle of most players’ careers. It took a while to sink in; it was just the most amazing thing. I was just so happy as I haven’t got a great track record of results in Manchester. I always wanted to do so well and put real pressure on myself.
When the World Open was on, everyone involved in squash knew I had just started working – I had actually helped with the set up of the event – so when it came to playing the matches, I didn’t feel the pressure I once had and just went out there and tried my best. I loved it.
Back in 2001 you caused controversy when you wore just a thong and a sports bra to play squash. This made all the newspapers, but why did you do it?
It was strange, the British Open was in Birmingham that year and English Squash along with WISPA were trying to promote the event. In order to raise awareness for the event they decided to create a scandal by having one of the English girls wearing a thong to play in and unfortunately the person that was nominated was me. So with the encouragement of the rest of the girls, I did it.
Looking back are you glad you did it?
If someone asked me now if I thought someone should do it, I would say no. After the event happened, every time I got asked for an interview, the topic would always come up and they wouldn’t be focusing on my performances on the court, which was really frustrating.
Initially the plan was to raise awareness for the British Open but in reality what happened was the attention was focused on me rather than the actual tournament itself, which was not what was planned at all. All we wanted was some coverage of the matches in the press.
What do you think could be done now to raise the profile of squash?
I think we really need to get some coverage of the game on television. About 10 years ago there was some coverage but the technology couldn’t cover a match very well. They used one camera angle where you couldn’t even really see the ball! With the technology we have at present I think that the game could be covered much better, making it more entertaining for the viewers.
Do you think that the lack of awareness of the general public links with squash not being granted a place in the Olympics?
I think by using the media, it would help to raise our Olympic profile. The frustrating thing is a lot of the public believe that squash is already in the Olympic table of events, as it is with the Commonwealth Games. For squash it would be the biggest event on the calendar.
What would you say to encourage girls to play squash?
Definitely give it a go. It only takes 30 minutes to have a good game. It’s really interactive, so you can go and play with your friends and have a good time whilst actually working out. I’d also encourage women to play racket ball, this is where the ball is bouncier and the rackets are larger so it allows you to get a rally going which is great for beginners.
Kimberley Blythe, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Photo credit: Squashpics.com
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