Nicolette Fernandes is most outstanding player he has Coached
By Sean Devers
At the age of 76, Carl Ince is Guyana’s National Squash Coach and during his 20-year Coaching Career, which is not finished yet, he has inspired many Champions, none more so than outstanding than Guyana and Caribbean Squash Queen Nicolette Fernandes.
The multi-talented Ince, who spent a large part of his life in England, played cricket and Table tennis at School in British Guiana before migrating to England at 16 where he participated in Body Building at 19. He was then involved in Martial Arts as a competitor and later an instructor and was also a musician who played the Piano and Guitar.
He only became interested in Squash at the age of 40. It’s said that life begins at 40 but Ince’s Squash career began at 40 in the strangest of circumstances.
“As a musician I was playing at an Awards Ceremony and saw people playing Squash and thought it looked easy. But one day whilst training for martial arts a guy challenged my fitness, saying I wouldn’t last five minutes on a Squash Court.
I took up his challenge and proved him right by only lasting three minutes! That made me want to play as it required a high level of fitness and that’s how I started playing Squash,” revealed the Elite Level 4 Coach.
Coach Ince was born in February 1944 in Plaisance on the East Coast, Demerara and is one of 15 brothers and eight sisters from five Marriages.
“Life was not easy to say the least! Still we had a lot of fun swimming in Canals, playing in the back dams and getting into school boy’s mischief,” Ince remembered.
He attended Plaisance Methodist School before migrating to England where he attended the Openshaw Technical College.
“I didn’t grow up playing squash. I never played squash until my early 40’s and only played to club league level because I started so late in life.
I became interested in coaching when someone watched me play and asked if I would coach them. Because I was already accustomed to teaching, coaching came easy and I enjoyed seeing the progress my student made,” informed Coach Ince.
“My most memorable moment playing squash was when I played a much higher ranked player who I had been preparing well to face.
During the game I moved into a zone which enabled me to perform at my best and I came out on top. It was such a satisfying feeling that the hard work had paid off and it also gave me insight into how I could develop and of the power of slow adaptation and progression.
More importantly I realized I would be able to teach others how to utilize these tools,” the Coach added.
And over the last two decades he utilized those ‘tools’ to produce outstanding success, especially at the junior level.
With Ince as National Coach, Guyana won the Junior Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) Championships title for 12 consecutive years, but the hosts team proved that 13 was an unlucky number as Guyana failed in their bid to successfully defend their title for a 13th time in the 2017 tournament which was won by Barbados.
Guyana finished second with only Taylor Fernandes and Shomari Wilshire winning Individual Gold medals.
“I have been fortunate to have experienced many memorable moments as National Coach but my most memorable was the first time I stood with the team at the flag raising ceremony of my first Junior CASA in the Bahamas. Standing and singing the Guyana National Anthem gave me such a great sense of pride and I w
as so thankful that I was representing my country,” said the Great Grandfather of four.
Because of Squash, Coach Ince has been privileged to visit Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Bermuda, Tortola, Colombia, India, Sweden, Copenhagen in Denmark, Germany, France, Australia, Scotland and North America.
“Without a doubt, the most outstanding player I coached is Nicolette Fernandes. She was the most outstanding then and she still is!” proclaimed a proud Ince.
In last year’s Senior Squash Caribbean Championship in Guyana the 36-year-old Canadian born Guyanese beat number one seed 17-year old Bajan Megan Best to claim her sixth Caribbean singles title.
Nicolette turned Pro in 2003 and won Guyana’s only Gold Medal at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia. The most decorated Guyanese Squash player, she has participated in the World Open, British Open, Hong Kong Open and Qatar Classic.
Coach Ince, who resides on the highway on his farm at Loo Creek with his wife, explained the attributes of a good coach: “Patience, awareness, communication skills, knowledge and the ability to identify and meet student’s needs.
It is also important to involve students in the development process, setting goals together and encouraging reflection, empowering them to analyze their own performance. You have to be able to listen to your students, not just to what they say verbally but to what you feel intuitively,” the experienced Coach explained.
“The most challenging aspects of being a coach is trying to get across to youngsters that doing the same thing over and over again may seem boring but it develops muscle memory and builds a solid foundation. Also it can be difficult to get them to understand the value of patience in the game,” he continued.
Ince is very optimistic that Squash will soon become an Olympic sport. “It has already been on the short list to being included and it is just a matter of time,” he disclosed.
The veteran feels the standard of squash in Guyana is certainly good enough for Caribbean standard. “However, to go further afield would require more training time and senior players who have jobs, careers and family commitments are finding this challenging.
To get the game experience they would have to travel frequently and this requires sponsorship which is not always easily secured.
The future of squash in Guyana will depend on whether we get more courts, more facilities and some financial support,” Ince noted.
He informed the Junior Programme is in the very capable hands of Tiffany Solomon, whom he coached as a teenager.
“Under her dedicated leadership we have a great programme that, before the pandemic, was going very well and is getting better because we now have more qualified coaches.
With some support from the Guyana Olympic Association, I have embarked on a ‘Coaching the Coaches’ programme which will further enhance the teaching of our juniors and ensure that they continue to thrive,” added Ince.
Ince feels there are not enough Squash Courts. “We have GT club with three courts, the Racket Center with two courts, GCC and Everest with one each. And of course I have three courts at my residence at Loo Creek,” said Ince.
This year Guyana were favored to reclaim the Caribbean Junior title they lost in 2017 but due to the Covid-19 the tournament had to be postponed.
“Starting at the junior level our boys team is the strongest we have ever had despite the young age of the team. Beginning with Caribbean champion Shomari Wiltshire, then Samuel Ince-Carvalhal, Nicholas Verwey, Michael Alphonso and Mohryan Baksh, they are definitely players to watch. They are all so dedicated and are playing outstanding squash. I’m expecting to see some real developments from them all.
And for the girls, Abosaide Cadogan, Madison Fernandes and Kirsten Gomes are the backbone of the squad,” informed Ince.
“Young people are the future, the stars of tomorrow and if you can get to teach them early you can have a huge impact. Squash requires a long term commitment and takes years to reach the full potential so being involved with youth allows me to build a solid foundation with them.
I have been so fortunate as a coach to have been supported and helped along the way.
It all started with the kind and thoughtful Bobby Fernandes whom I depended on for advice and guidance, and who became a very special, lifetime friend to me in the process.
The parents of my students have also contributed in many ways to my becoming a successful National Coach. If I start naming names I might fill your page! Their support, trust and appreciation have kept me happy to be in this role for over 20 years,” explained Ince.
If youths in Berbice, Essequibo and Linden are to become interested in Squash the game has to be taken to them and infrastructure provided.
“We have already been discussing ways to decentralize squash by getting our coaches into schools to do something called mini squash that doesn’t require a court. The biggest hurdle is that the facilities are not available outside GT. If we can get enough interest in the sport through schools, Regions may work towards getting these facilities so we can broaden the scope.
Squash is generally seen as an elite sport and without facilities and coaches across the regions it will be difficult to change that concept, but the Junior Programme has grown tremendously and welcomes any young person interested in the game to come along and see if they like it.
We are limited in the numbers we can accommodate but we expanded across to the National Racket Centre last year to include younger players. So if anyone is interested they can visit the GT club and enquire about space on the Programme,” noted Ince.
“Even though I am advancing in years, and I was on the verge of retiring a few years ago, my grandson Samuel migrated to Guyana and took up the sport: When I saw his potential, his dedication and despite starting later than the other players, his rapid progress, it re-inspired me.
Watching him grow up in the squash family, that is Guyana Squash, has really been something special to me.
It was actually Juanita Fernandes, who laughed when she heard he was coming as she knew I was planning to retire when her daughter Taylor aged out of the Juniors.
She said “now you’re not going anywhere!!” I have to say though that coaching is a huge part of my life and I love what I do, so it is a privilege to still be the National Coach at my age.
The support and appreciation I receive from President David Fernandes has transitioned my role to utilize more the strength of my technical and tactical knowledge and allowed me to reduce my physical contributions; which better suits my aging limbs,” Ince stated with a chuckle.
He said most people think that talent is the best attribute of a good player, but without dedication, discipline, patience and self-belief, a player can never reach the top.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has impacted squash as much as all other sports and Ince informed that the GSA suspended the Junior Programme and also private coaching sessions, while local and International tournaments have all been cancelled.
“I have recently begun working with the squad via video to encourage them to do whatever adapted training they can within their limitations and also I have been continuing my ‘coach the coaches’ programme, despite being unable to do the work I really want to be with them.
This pandemic has been devastating around the world and the most import thing is we all stay safe so we can resume our programme and get back on track when it is safe to do that,” Ince concluded.
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