Credit where credit’s due.
I have been criticized recently for seeming to be harsh in my criticism of some of the decisions and choices that those in positions of power in our sport have either made or failed to make.
I am not a competitor in a popularity contest.
I have been a Squash professional for over 35 years and throughout that time I have done my best to push the boundaries of Squash.
The failure of England Squash and Racketball to learn how to develop our sport as a business, in my opinion, is a fact and a consummate disaster.
ESR have done other great things I am sure, but the fact remains that participation in our sport in England has declined sadly and in particular in the women’s game.
This particular piece is not, however, about that.
In the aforementioned 35 year span of my professional career in Squash, I have traveled far and wide and have had many and various experiences within the confines of our sport.
Even before I entered the professional ranks, I met some extraordinary people as a junior Squash player.
One of my fellow juniors left a lasting impression on me.
He was a wonderful player with probably the finest drop shot technique that I ever saw – even until today.
He was a great competitor and yet never felt the need to boast. He let his racquet do the talking.
Just before the end of his illustrious junior career he suffered with a debilitating health problem which is not particularly relevant to my story and so negates the necessity of me mentioning it here.
Fortunately he was able to overcome his illness and returned to the game.
For one reason or another he didn’t have a career on the world stage, although in my opinion had he elected to do so, he would have met with an unusually high degree of success.
After I became a professional and played professional Squash I played him several times. The best I ever did was to win a game from him in an inter-county match. He simply did the things that I did considerably better than I did them.
Later on in my travels representing several racket companies, I dropped in to visit him in one of his first positions as a coach and had the pleasure of watching him work with a talented 10 or 11 year old. I was fascinated to see the pressure drills and interpersonal skill with with he exhorted the boy to feats of athleticism that defied belief in a player so young.
The young boy’s name was Simon Parke.
In later years I had the pleasure of helping a young man that had been on my Essex U14 team. Tony Hands was ranked somewhere in the 20s in England at the time. I knew he had great potential and I also knew that I had no time or opportunity to work with him.
He had terrific athleticism and enthusiasm, but in my opinion lacked feel and touch. So of course I sent him to the coach who I believed to have the best drop shot I had ever seen. Under such supervision Tony Hands went on to become a wonderful and successful member of the World Tour.
The coach I am referring to had a number of difficult interactions with ESR. First because in the early years when some people had qualifications and some had not, ESR decided to alienate this coach by undermining him for a lack of official qualifications -despite his extraordinary and irrefutable track record.
After a brief sojourn in the USA, he returned to his roots in England and to Yorkshire in particular.
He and I once had a little disagreement about the technical aspect of the sport. When a few years later he changed his view, he went out of his way to point out that he had altered his view more in line with my own. This is a very rare quality in the coaching world of strong egos and personal opinions.
Later he was welcomed into the ESR fold and had several very successful years before he fell foul of political machinery that often produces casualties that have little to do with the performance of the individual, who then suffers from the wheeling and dealing that leads to their demise.
Despite perhaps feeling abused and unappreciated, this coach has retained his good nature. He never fails to greet a fellow pro when he sees them at an event, always taking the time to pass the time of day and to enquire into the state of things in that person’s own life.
But today, operating once again in his favored role as a trainer of Squash players, he stands out.
In my 35 years I have met many wonderful professionals, players, administrators, promoters, sponsors, benefactors and good old recreational club hackers.
But of all those professionals that I have had the pleasure of meeting, in my opinion, there is no finer trainer of Squash professionals and players than the man of whom I speak.
He is of course the coach of record breaking three time world champion Nick Matthew.
I salute you David Pearson.
Not just for the successes that the world knows you for, but for the years, months, days and hours of unending hard work, through thick and thin, personal highs and lows, that I know that you have endured and that have gone into the making of a champion’s coach.
You are truly a professional’s professional.