Maroochy Squash manager Steve Faulkner naturally is a big supporter of the sport.
Maroochy Squash manager Steve Faulkner naturally is a big supporter of the sport. Brett Wortman

Squash is 'best sport' for fitness

SQUASH is undergoing a resurgence across Australia with dozens of courts going up in Bowen, Townsville, Innisfail and the Gold Coast ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

But on the Sunshine Coast, the number of squash centres is declining despite squash once holding second-top position behind netball as a participation sport in Australia in the 1980s.

Squash Australia reports that for the first time in decades, new courts are being built across Australia instead of being replaced by apartments, car parks, gymnasiums and shopping centres.

"The sport is entering a new era where most courts will no longer be housed in stand-alone centres, but rather in multi-sport complexes run by local councils and not-for-profit organisations," SA boss Gary O'Donnell said.

"We may never get back to the number of courts we had in the '70s and '80s, but we believe the downward trend has at least been halted."

But the Sunshine Coast is yet to witness the comeback, with the closure of centres in Caloundra, Kilcoy and Cooroy in recent years, and relocation of the Nambour courts to the Police Citizens Youth Club.

Maroochy Squash Courts manager Steve Faulkner said numbers had remained steady at his centre as junior members increased due to the fitness benefits and sun-smart nature of the sport.

"It's probably the best workout you can get in such a short time," he said.

"You're indoors so you don't have to worry about sun safety which is another benefit of playing squash."

Leading US business magazine, Forbes, in 2010 declared squash the healthiest sport of all.

Forbes asked fitness experts to score a selection of sports in four areas - cardio respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility - and also incorporated scoring on calories burned and injury risk.

Squash won.

Out of a possible five points, squash scored 4.5 for cardiorespiratory endurance, three for muscular strength, three for flexibility, the maximum five each for muscular endurance and for calories burned in 30 minutes, and two for injury risk (total 22.5).

Rowing and rock climbing tied for second, with swimming, cross-country skiing and basketball close behind.

The saying goes, you don't play squash to get fit, you get fit to play squash.

And legend has it that Geoff Hunt, Australia's eight-times winner of the British Open - the Wimbledon of squash - was so supremely fit, his heart expanded.

Apart from the obvious reason of prime real estate yielding better returns than $20 an hour for hiring out a court, the emergence of sports such as touch football and aerobics and the surge in gyms hurt squash.

Gympie Squash manager Susan Kerr believes a lack of promotion also led to the demise of the sport.

"We have world champions in this country and no-one knows their names," she said.

Australian and three-time world champion Michelle Martin agrees and says the benefits of getting children into squash will give them skills that will last a lifetime.

"I'm a big believer in teaching children hand-eye coordination," Martin said.

"I mean, you can always ride a bike, but you can't coordinate your hand and your eyes.

"So if you get that taught as a child from a young age ... it doesn't matter what they'll do - their feet follow in squash, their feet follow in tennis.

"You teach them that skill, they've got that for life and then they'll be able to develop any sport from there."

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