Says Donald Duff
There are few national sports teams in Guyana that can match the achievements of the national junior squash teams. Not since the national U19 team, under then president Chetram Singh, racked up seven consecutive Nortel title triumphs, has there been anything to match the achievement of this country’s squash juniors.
At the just concluded Caribbean Area Junior Squash Championships in Trinidad and Tobago the boys and girls’ teams won their respective team titles on the way to powering Guyana to its ninth overall team title triumph.
Nine consecutive overall team triumphs and eight team titles by therepresentative junior girls’ teams are not anything to scoff about.
Rather it speaks of harnessing the tremendous talent of our youth, with the discipline and dedication necessary to churn out champion athletes year in, year out
The Guyana Squash Association (GSA) must be complimented for over and over bringing glory to Guyana.
While Guyana has won the overall team title in nine if the past 10 years, the success goes back further than that.
Since 1992, Guyana has won the overall team title on a staggering 17 occasions and while of late it is the representative girls’ teams that have been dominant there was a period not so long back when it was the representatives boys’ squash teams that ruled the roost.
In fact, from 1991-1997 the boys’ teams won the team titles seven times, a streak which is oft referred to as the “Magnificent Seven.”
But the crown jewel in the Guyana teams’ performances over the years must be the performance of the 2011 squash teams which achieved a feat that had never been done before and will most likely be never be achieved again when they team reached the finals of seven of the eight individual categories winning five of those titles.
The five winners on that historic occasion were Ben Meckdeci in the boys’ U13 division; Nyron Joseph in the boys’ U15 division; Akeila Wiltshire in the girls’ U15 division; Jason Ray Khalil in the U17 boys’ division and Keisha Jeffrey in the U19 girls’ division.
No country has ever managed that feat in the history of the Caribbean junior squash championships and it is highly unlikely if almost impossible that any other country will be able to emulate, let alone surpass that feat in the foreseeable future.
So what exactly is responsible for the success over the years? One would like to think that the success is due mainly to the junior programme run by the GSA over the years.
The programme, which is ongoing has benefited from the expertise of Canadian coach Ron Hughes who spent a while here taking the junior players through their paces at the Mecca of squash in Guyana, the Georgetown Club.
Hughes’ work today is being carried out by Carl Ince along with the support from other local coaches and experienced players.
Ince, who returned to Guyana in the late 1990’s, is largely credited with the success of the various national junior teams and he has also worked with Guyana’s world ranked squash player Nicolette Fernandes.
Like most sports disciplines in Guyana squash does not receive any funding or subvention from the government and so support for their many programmes and tournaments not to mention participation at the regional championships comes mainly from the business community.
For years the local telecommunications giant Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company provided funding for the sport along with Ansa McAl and Banks DIH Limited.
Of recent however, another telecommunications giant Digicel has been the sport’s main sponsor.
While the sport has enjoyed great success at the regional level, the sport is still seen here mainly as a sport for the upper class citizens who can afford to play the game which is relatively expensive for most of the country’s youths.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of the squash courts are found in Demerara although courts can be found in the outlying areas such as Essequibo and Linden. There is also a court at Enmore but it is not altogether functional. In Georgetown the erection of the Squash Racquet Facility is a welcome addition to courts which can be found in such places at as the Everest Cricket Club and the Georgetown Cricket Club.
The Squash racquet facility has been a welcome addition to the sport and is in use by the Guyana Squash Association which uses the facility to run off some of its programmes.
Presently the facility is being used one day a week by Ince to run his programme but because of the fact that the court is unavailable on weekends, the sport is unable to kick off in a way that would result in increased participation by those interested.
Based on the success of the sport at the regional level a massive decentralisation drive by the GSA should be the next step while steps should also be taken to try and have this country maintain its stranglehold on junior squash at the regional level by exposing the junior players to higher and higher levels of competition.
Winning titles at the Caribbean level should not be the pinnacle of a junior player’s career. Those players who won individual titles at this year’s Caribbean squash tournament in Trinidad Nyron Joseph and Ben Meckdeci should be lauded and rewarded. The government should get involved and there should be discussion with the GSA as to which international tournaments the two should attend based obviously on their scheduling and school commitments.
Additionally greater recognition not to mention tangible rewards should be given to the members of the Guyana squash team and the officials which accompanied them to Trinidad from the business a community and the government for the pride and honour they brought to the Golden Arrowhead.
We as Guyanese must take pride in the achievements of our sportsmen and women whenever they do well. As a nation we are not known to rally behind our sports teams maybe with the exception of cricket.
The GSA will later this month stage the senior squash championships at the Georgetown Club because the floor of the Squash Racquet Centre is not altogether ideal.
The August 10-17 games will give the senior players an opportunity to match if not surpass the feats of the junior players. Success could go a long way to making this year and exceptional one for squash and could put the GSA in line for the coveted sports association of the year, come next year.
But for now the focus is on the junior players. It is their time to bask in the spotlight for a job well done.
Guyana’s Individual squash winners from 2005
2005 – Keisha Jeffrey U13
2006- Mary Fung-A-Fat U13; Keisha Jeffrey U15; Alex Arjoon U15
2007- Abishek Singh U13;
U13; Alex Arjoon U15; Ashley Khalil U15
2008- Victoria Arjoon U13; Mary Fung-A-Fat U15; Keisha Jeffrey U17
2009- Victoria Arjoon U15; Keisha Jeffrey U17
2010- Jean Claude Jeffrey U15; Victoria Arjoon U15; Mary Fung-A-Fat U17
2011-Ben Meckdeci U13; Nyron Joseph U13; Akeila Wiltshire U15; Jason Ray Khalil U17; Keisha Jeffrey U19
2012- Nyron Joseph U15; Mary Fung-A-Fat U19
2013- Ben Meckdeci U15; Nyron Joseph U17
Years Guyana won both boys and girls’ singles titles 2008; 2009; 2011; 2013