Bar Chairman at Wigginton Squash Club
Wigginton Squash Club is a thriving local sports club and has supported its members throughout the pandemic. We spoke to Nick Clifford, bar chairman and long-term member of the committee about his love of squash and why the club is such a great community asset.
Q How long have you been involved with the club?
I moved here in 1983 and chose Wigginton because of the squash club. My parents volunteered and helped to run their local squash club in Nottingham. When I left home and moved to this area, Wigginton Squash Club was perfect because a) I could get into it, b) they were very friendly and c) they had a bar! So apart from two short absences, I’ve been involved here ever since. It’s definitely in the blood!
Q How can you describe squash to someone who has never played?
The sport itself is played in a sealed room hitting a rubber squash ball, allowing it to bounce once, not going above any outline, and the ball can be hit off the back wall or side wall and direct onto the front wall, but at some stage, it must hit the front wall. You play the best of five games in a match, and you can play doubles. It’s great aerobic exercise, keeping you fit and healthy, providing some competitive, individual and team sport complete with a good social scene as well.
Q When did the club start and how long has it been at its current site?
It was founded in 1979. A man called Chas Hall, who played squash and was looking for somewhere to play, ended up booking a court at the University as they had three courts. He called them, and when he gave his name, they said: “Ah yes Dr Hall.” He didn’t say anything but every time he booked, he was called a ‘Dr’ until one day when he was there, someone saw him and said: “You’re not Dr Hall!” so he no longer got away with it! He lived in Wigginton and got together with about 20 residents and they raised funds against their houses to secure most of the finance to build the club. They also signed up 200 members without having a court—squash was very popular back then! They built it and within two years added another court and the bar. All you need is an effort from some volunteers and a club can run itself.
Q The club is run by volunteers, do you get any funding?
We are a not-for-profit organisation. We did apply for a Lottery grant and were able to develop an area into a little gym for members. We also added solar panels and new boilers. The only people who get paid here are the bar staff and the cleaner and anything else we make goes back into the club.
Q How many volunteers have you got?
Technically every member we have here is a volunteer. We could put a call out for help, and we have many members who would respond to whatever needed doing.
Q Quite a few clubs have closed, how has Wigginton bucked that trend?
Basically, by the enthusiasm of the members. When we opened up after lockdown, people were so keen to come back in. The bar was open before the courts, so people came in and saw that it was a great social scene, brought their families down and then decided to give squash a try too. My ethos has always been to make people happy and welcome. We have 144 full members. Members per se, which doesn’t include toddlers and juniors, totals around 400.
Q How can you encourage more people to play squash, and in particular younger people?
Once parents come in to play, they nearly always bring their children along too. It just blossoms from there. We have coaching sessions run by a really keen member called Hughie on a Monday morning for tots. At 3.40 pm, there’s a 40-minute session for 3 – 4-year-olds. We need more coaches, we’re always looking.
Q Does the club take part in wider tournaments and leagues?
The ladies are, possibly, in pole position for winning the York & District League for the first time ever this year—the only trophy that the club has never won. The men have condensed their league into half a season so should get two seasons into one. We have just won the men’s local league so we are currently one ahead of our arch-rivals Dunnington—that means over forty years we have won it ten times and they’ve won it nine times. We actually won the County Cup and the Yorkshire League title three times, which is amazing when you consider the massive Yorkshire clubs involved such as Sheffield and Pontefract.
Q What do members get for their membership?
Obviously, the access to the courts and playing squash. We have a small gym (a warm-up fitness room). There is a great social atmosphere, competitions, mini-leagues, competitive sport. Over the years, we have worked hard to try to keep it as a supportive community hub. It’s just £120 for the year to be a full member and then £3 for a court. And you also get a discount on drinks at the bar where there is also Sky Sports.
Q Do you do one to one classes or coaching classes?
We have coaching for juniors on a Friday night (11 years upwards). The bar is open from 5 pm on a Friday so parents can come in and wait for the children to finish—a great atmosphere. A coach comes in on a Saturday morning for about twenty children. Monday morning/afternoons are for Squash Tots. We do run individual coaching sessions too.
Q What have you done to support members during the pandemic?
Our volunteer committee was very good at keeping in contact with members throughout and letting them know when we could open and what the regulations were. We decided to make everyone ‘Squash Marshalls’ to make sure Covid regulations were followed. We did videos showing how to let yourself into the bar area, how to turn up already dressed and ready, handwashing stations etc., and we made all members watch and agree to be a Marshall to make everyone accountable.
Q Social events?
The function room is hired out for birthday parties and celebrations. We have children’s Halloween parties, Christmas parties and Race Nights for adults. To encourage more ladies into squash, we are running more social nights. We’ve recently held a health and wellbeing night, gin night and a fashion show. Anyone can hire out the function room for a party.
Q Do have any plans for an open weekend?
We are having an Open Weekend on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th February. People can pop in to try squash or racketball and have complimentary coffee/tea and cake. Coaches are on hand all day to point you in the right direction.
Q What long term goals does the club have?
We were talking before lockdown about extending as we could do with an extra court or maybe two. This means we could run more competitions with seating so people can watch. The building was built over 40 years ago so our accessibility also needs to be upgraded for functions. Members are looking for an outside terrace overlooking the tennis courts so there are many possibilities!
For more information about Wigginton Squash Club, visit their website at www.wiggintonsquash.co.uk or call 01904 763567.
How old were you when you started playing squash?
I was 6 years old. In those days, we used wooden rackets with small heads – just like playing with a chunk of wood. Nowadays, thankfully, we have balanced rackets for children of all different sizes.
Q What’s your proudest moment?
Marrying my wife Sheila! Sport-wise I’m a nearly but not quite. So, I haven’t really got a proudest moment, but I would’ve swapped everything I’d ever done to win the club championship just once! I’ve lost 7 times, 5 times to the same bloke. I had to wait until I was over 40 in a O-40 club competition—I had a chance of winning for 7 years, until my nemesis turned 40 too!
Q Favourite squash player and why?
Jahangir Khan. When I was manager of Durham Squash Club, occasionally we would have an exhibition match in a glass-backed court with an ex-British number one player and I was able to get some photos with him. He went over 5 years without being defeated.
Q Owl or Lark?
Owl! I’ve always worked in hospitality, so you often work shifts with late nights.
Q What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere where there is wildlife to spot – I’m a bit of a twitcher.
Q Cooking for yourself or meal out?
Oh, a meal out! Much better.
Q Who would you have at a dinner party?
My sporting hero, Brian Clough from Nottingham Forest. And also, my great grandfather, Walter Roe-Lymbery—who I never met. He was the original founding member of Nottingham Forest. There were 15 at the time who played a game of Shinney—a type of hockey game—and he called a meeting, got someone to chair it, and that person became the first chairman of Nottingham Forest Football Club. My great grandfather was the first treasurer/secretary of the amateur days. He was the first captain of Forest and, also, scored the second-ever goal for Forest—the first one that didn’t involve the use of a hand. I go to all the games as a season ticket holder with W.R. Lymbery on the back. I have a real passion for the club—so much family history to be proud of.
Q Playing or coaching squash?
Both! Coaching is very rewarding—I’m an England Squash Level 2 coach—because you can enthuse on the sport, and we have such a lot of people who want to play. For example, on Thursdays 8–9 pm we have a beginner’s session which could be up to 16 people playing, and then a dozen people 9–10 pm.