Otago Daily Times

Pro­fu­sion of ‘pas­sion­ate peo­ple’ pleases

SQUASH

- ADRIAN SECONI

MARTIN Dow­son is start­ing to build a pic­ture of what squash might look like in five years.

The 53­year­old re­placed Jamie Tong as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Squash New Zealand about month ago.

The first chal­lenge has been to get on the road and lis­ten to what peo­ple in the dis­tricts are say­ing.

The re­con­nais­sance trip brought him to Dunedin yes­ter­day. Auck­land based, he is an alum­nus of the Univer­sity of Otago and it was while he was study­ing in the city that he fell in love with the sport.

‘‘Ev­ery district has a slightly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive . . . but I am form­ing views. But I’m care­ful not to make too many as­sump­tions at the mo­ment be­cause I’m only half way through,’’ Dow­son told the Otago Daily Times.

‘‘At the mo­ment the pic­ture which is emerg­ing is there is great ac­tiv­ity oc­cur­ring ev­ery­where I go. We’ve got great peo­ple, pas­sion­ate peo­ple, who work re­ally hard for squash and they are the life force of the clubs, re­ally.

‘‘And they are ev­ery­where, which is re­ally good. There is lots of cre­ative think­ing and good en­ergy.

‘‘But what I’m find­ing is it is all in pock­ets.

‘‘There is an open­ness to share and learn but it is ad hoc at the mo­ment, so there is a huge op­por­tu­nity to bring it to­gether.’’

Dow­son has spent the best part of the last 12 years work­ing for High Per­for­mance Sport New Zealand as the gen­eral man­ager ath­lete per­for­mance sup­port.

It was a re­ward­ing role and he at­tended two Olympics and two Com­mon­wealth Games.

He has seen first hand how sport and ath­letes can in­spire peo­ple.

The suc­cess of lead­ing New Zealand play­ers Paul Coll and Joelle King on the in­ter­na­tional stage has helped lift the pro­file of the sport again.

And the ar­rival of Covid­19 has, anec­do­tally at least, re­sulted in a slight in­crease in mem­ber­ship at clubs around the coun­try.

‘‘So many peo­ple you bump into will say ‘I used to play squash’.

‘‘So there is a lot of peo­ple out there who I think would want to pick up a racket. There is a huge op­por­tu­nity for us to tap into that and grow the mem­ber­ship while also sup­port­ing the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of squash for any­one that wants to play.

‘‘The goal is to have vi­brant clubs and just see­ing the smiles and the laugh­ter.

‘‘That is the heart of it. To have a buzz in the club.’’

 ?? PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON ?? Aim­ing high . . . New Squash New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Dow­son at the Squash Otago courts yes­ter­day.
PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON Aim­ing high . . . New Squash New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Dow­son at the Squash Otago courts yes­ter­day.

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