Fantasy Squash Academy Head Coach - On the road.

As a few of you will probably be aware our very own Academy Head Coach, Josh Taylor, has been on the road on a tour to mark the gap between finishing his degree and before starting work full time on the Academy. The tour sees him visit three places, San Francisco, the British Virgin Islands, and South Africa, using squash, both playing and coaching, as the vehicle of the trip. Here is the first of his posts about his stay in the Californian sun of SanFrancisco.

San Francisco

So I must say that these next few months are some that I really have been looking forward to and have been using as motivation to drive me through my final exams at University. I have really enjoyed my three years at Birmingham studying Sport and Exercise Science. There were ups and downs, but the whole experience I feel has set me up well for life and taught me a lot in terms of myself, my squash and as well as the important ingredient of the degree itself! It really culminated in a brutal few months of work load, in the end I was working from 8.00 in the morning till 10.00 at night, with 2 short breaks in the day just enough to eat and train for an hour. So the rest and break was well deserved before starting work in the really world!

I have been very fortunate that my parents have allowed me to travel a lot over my childhood. I think out of all the places I have had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco is right up there on my list of favorites. This was my third visit. I first came when I was very young, and did all the tourist stuff, my last visit was just less than a year ago as an offshoot of probably my last proper family holiday. I took a detour last year to visit a good friend of mine Charlie Johnson, who at that point had just started life out here, having taken a coaching job. When I was planning my trip this summer a return visit was well on the cards. My last trip was so much fun, and gave great in site into American squash and how the sport is prospering so well in the clubs out here. I find it really interesting being a fly on the wall in different settings picking up and acquiring new ideas on how other people go about delivering squash or other sports programs for that matter.

So I arrived on the 6th June. After a long flight with a stop in New York, I was pretty jet lagged, I made the mistake of adjusting meal times to New York when I stopped, which meant I eat lunch about three times! After I arrived Charlie picked me up from the airport and we went out to one of the clubs he works in nearer his home, and to meet Doug another coach out here who he lives with. The clubs out here are run in a very different more commercial way to the UK. Figures are even more key, and the facilities are kept to the highest standards to deliver the best product, and each club tries to build their own unique selling point.

The chain of clubs that Charlie works at is the Bay clubs, which have a lot of different clubs across California. PAC, is the club nearest where Charlie lives and is more of a resort with multiple pools and outside facilities as well at 5 squash courts, a big gym, and large changing rooms complete with jacuzzi, large steam room and a sauna. Due to the weather in this part you see large changes, which can be as much as 10 degrees Celsius as you move into the city and around the bay. Out near where Charlie lives you get much more hotter climes, suiting the outdoor facilities.

That weekend Charlie, entered me into a tournament over the Golden Gate Bridge, in a place called Marine, which is a nice suburb of the city, a lot more open with plenty of green space. This was another club in the chain. It was a good way for me to get some competitive matches and get into the swing of things ahead of my tournament in the British Virgin Islands. In the end I managed to win without dropping a game, winning a nice Dunlop Biomimetic Elite Racket.

Early in the week I spent most of my time at Bay Club San Francisco, doing a little bit of coaching each day and training. This club is the one which Charlie is primarily based out of, and is the best one for squash, featuring really high quality facilities, but with less outdoor space due to it being in the heart of the financial district, just down from the Ferry Building and below Coit Tower, two major land marks of the city. Over that week I ticked off these sites, the Ferry Building is a great place to catch some food especially on market day. Coit Tower gives great vistas across the city and acts as a great viewing point of all the major sites of SF, from there you can see across the bay area.

In the evenings we did a couple of nice things. One evening one of the guys I played in the tournament, Nathan, invited Charlie, Eric the club pro at the Maine club, and myself for a meal at his place. It was a really cool evening, his place was amazing situated in the hills with great views of the bay, the food was fab and the company was equally great. Nathan is a professional musician and from the guitar I heard I can vouch of his skills! I also managed to go watch the baseball at AT&T Park, which has to be done. We spent most of the time laughing at rest of the spectators and the Americanisms and taking in the views rather than actually watching the sport, which can at times be quite tedious. AT&T Park stands out as one of my favorite stadia, a must to tick off the list if you’re ever in town.

Later in the week I got chance to go with on of the Pros at PAC, Frank, to go to the Olympic Club which is a very old prestigious club in America. It has fantastic facilities, some of the best I think I have ever seen. I got chance while I was there to play a bit of American Hardball Doubles. This is a bit of cross of squash and rackets. Played on a larger court with a harder ball. The rules are basically the same as squash doubles, but shot selection is reversed and anything you would class as a bad shot in squash is a great shot in the game! I managed to get on court with some really good players, one of which was a ex pro squash player and had reached a high of 4 in the world of doubles, so great people to learn off. I think with a few more goes I could adapt quite well to it!

I did my best to catch some sun in the gaps throughout the week. I finished the trip off with just a bit of training at the Bay club, and a little bit of catching the sun ahead of my trip to the BVI.

I am looking forward now to the next leg of the trip in the British Virgin Islands and my first main draw appearance in a PSA event, as I am sat in the airport typing this up! I will post an update on the beaches, sun, Caribbean, oww and some squash over there when I am visit New Yorks JFK airport for yet another stop on my way back!