May 13, 2021 Sports
– Legendary English Squash Coach loses battle with Cancer
By Sean Devers
The Squash fraternity was thrown into mourning last week Monday at the passing of legendary English Squash Coach Malcolm Willstrop who guided Guyanese Junior National Squash Coach Carl Ince in mastering the skill of successfully ‘coaching from the balcony’.
According to Ince, Willstrop 83, who lost his battle with Cancer, was known not to spend very much time on court with the players, rather coaching from outside on the balcony; hence the documentary made about him was aptly entitled “The View from Above”.
The success of his son and student- former world number one James Willstop is testament to his coaching ability, but his reach was much wider, and his outstanding contribution to the sport has been honoured by many tributes over the past days.
His unusual but effective method of coaching and his record of accomplishments became of interest to Ince, who is always thinking ahead, during a visit to the UK in 2004 to prepare for his Level 4 England Coaching Certification.
Pondering the prospect of the changes age, undoubtedly, would bring to his physical capabilities.
With Ince as National Coach, Guyana won the Junior Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) Championships title for 12 consecutive years, but the hosts failed in their bid for a 13th title in the 2017 tournament which was won by Barbados.
“Coaching is a huge part of my life and has been for some time, despite starting late in squash.
I couldn’t imagine a time I would want to stop but I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to continue the rigorous and physical demands of pressure feeding and being so active on court with my students,” said Ince who, who resides on the highway on his farm at Loo Creek with his wife.
Not long after Ince achieved his Level 4 status he decided another trip was necessary if he was to explore ways he could stay effective in his later years.
So he returned to Pontefract in the UK, to spend some time with his old friend.
Ince stated that Malcom was slightly confused at the request, wondering what Ince as an elite coach was hoping to gain from their sessions.
Ince remembered how comfortable and empowering those sessions turned out to be as the coaches sat side by side on the balcony and Willstrop shared his wisdom and teaching methods, and the two exchanged experiences.
“It was so good when I realised the ticking of the clock did not need to signal an early end to my coaching. I had found a method I could develop in my own way before my body would do the inevitable and slow down!” said Ince who has produced a galaxy of starts including Caribbean Squash Queen Nicolette Fernandes.
Further reflecting on those sessions, Ince links the success of the players he has coached who have excelled.
“I think one of the most important things I got from our sessions was the importance of creating an environment for the student where they are anxious for what comes next. Malcolm highlighted that and it has been something that, with the right student, has exceptional effects,” continued Ince.
Willstrop’s passing hit Ince hard despite the time that had passed since they were last in contact.
As Ince increasingly employed the ‘coaching from the balcony’ method over the years, and utilized the strong, young and fitter assistant coaches for on the court training, the 77 year-old often thinks back to the influence of Willstop and the significance of that short time on Ince’s ability to continue coaching at his age.
“I will be forever grateful to Malcom for sharing his time and knowledge with me, and the squash community will be forever grateful for the amazing, unique man he was; for what he gave to squash and for the legacy he has left that no doubt reaches around the world,” disclosed Ince.
During this period of the Covid-19 pandemic other Coaches might be forced to adopt a similar approach in an effort to maintain the social distancing protocol.
After more than a year of suspending the junior squash programme in line with the Ministry of Health guidelines, Ince is eager to get back to coaching.
“It is such a shame that the players have missed so much training, competitions and the social side of being a part of the sport. Our athletes have a lot of ground to cover when we get back, but the talent is strong enough as long as they are willing to work for us to get back on our game,” lamented Ince sadly.
The Guyana Squash Association extends its condolences to the Willstrop family and recognizes his outstanding contribution to the sport.
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