A team of junior squash players head to Bermuda this week to participate in the Caribbean Area Squash Association Junior Championships, hosted by the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association.
All Cayman players – ranging in age from 12 to 17 – are members of the South Sound Squash Club and train under coach Mark Chaloner and world ranked pro Cameron Stafford.
This year’s junior competition runs from Friday until July 19.
The South Sound Squash Club junior members are in good hands, training under the Cayman Islands National Squash Association junior program.
Chaloner was the England squash team captain from 2001-03 and ranked No.7 in the world rankings and No.1 in the English rankings. He won Commonwealth Games gold in 1998 and won Commonwealth Games bronze four years later. Stafford is currently ranked No.193 by the Professional Squash Association.
Confirming that the junior team members have applied themselves extremely well in recent months, Chaloner said each player has improved on their skills and even though they are keen to “just play games” some time has been dedicated to overall development.
“The other part of their improvement has been their fitness,” he said. “We have increased the amount of physical training to help them to improve this aspect of their game.”
Chaloner said this is a constant challenge these days with so many distractions for youngsters which can lead to physical exercise not being their top priority.
He said the opportunity to travel to Bermuda to represent Cayman will be a life-changing experience for the youngsters.
“As a child, to get the opportunity to travel overseas and compete against similar aged players from different walks of life is such a great chance to learn about yourself, others and different cultures,” Chaloner said. “When you get to compete against other people, as long as you approach competition with an open mind and willingness to learn, there is an abundance of knowledge to be gained from this too.
“The social aspect of traveling and being part of a team helps you to develop your social skills, which is a great life lesson and one which will help you throughout your youth and adult years.”
Alongside several donations from local firms, the players and their families worked hard to raise funds to assist with the trip’s costs, including selling raffle tickets and holding bake sales.
Will Roberts is one of the youngest team members, aged 12. He competes in the Under-13 division, trains hard and keeps busy as an all-round sportsman.
Roberts is passionate about sport and finished the baseball season as an All Star and was vice-captain of the victorious St. Ignatius cricket team in the U-15 High Schools Championship.
He also loves football and sailing and swims for Stingray Swim Club when time and energy permits. Having been selected for baseball, cricket and squash travel teams this summer, he has opted for squash and is extremely excited to be on the Bermuda trip to represent Cayman for the first time.
Twins, Cayman Prep students Jade and David Pitcairn, are also only 12. Their interest in squash was sparked initially by dad John’s involvement in the squash league championships, accompanying him when he played weekly games. The twins say they are excited about the competition, especially as they have never been to Bermuda before.
Jasun Sairsingh, 13, a Cayman Prep student, is in the U-15 division. He played in the 2013 CASA in Trinidad and was placed fourth.
Sairsingh is an all-round athlete who excels at football, rugby and track and field. A promising sprinter, he won the 2014 Inter-Schools and CUC Championships (U-14) in the 100m, 200m and 400m events. Sairsingh now considers himself to be a focused squash player, determined to improve on last year’s placing.
Cayman Prep student Kali McLean, 14, said, “I’m excited to represent Cayman and compete in this tournament for the first time and I’m thrilled to have been chosen. I can’t wait to see how we do as a team.”
Cayman Prep student Emma Turnbull, 14, is the 2014 and 2013 U-15 Cayman national champion, the 2013 U-13 champion and the 2011 U-11 champion.
Like the others, Turnbull has put in many hours of training at the club, as well as working on her overall fitness levels through running and swimming.
Gyles Luke, 15, a St. Ignatius School student, is an U-17 competitor and is no stranger to the CASA championship as this is his fourth time.
He said, “Last year I participated in the junior tournament for Cayman and won. I have also participated in the adults’ B division and came second.”
Luke feels the Bermuda trip will be a good experience for everyone going, especially those who have not participated in the event before.
He said, “This year I don’t think I will do great because it is my first year in this age group; however, next year, I feel it will be much more successful for the majority of the players going and I hope to do well this year and next.”
Christian Dubé, 15, attends Grace Christian Academy. He has been playing squash for years and was the Cayman Islands Junior National U-13 Champion in 2011 but this will be his first experience representing Cayman in this competition.
“During this year I have been preparing for CASA by doing weight training and cardiovascular activity along with the regular weekly squash association training program,” he said. “My passions are playing squash and guitar and I look forward to representing Cayman in Bermuda.”
Ally Artuch, 16, is a Cayman Prep student. Artuch started playing squash in earnest when she was 12 and this will be her third time in CASA.
Mischa Kluyver, 16, another Cayman Prep student, played squash at the junior county level in the UK and now she is absolutely delighted to be representing Cayman. Kluyver has been diligently training both on and off court, with trainer Stafford focusing on her racket technique and movement around the court as well as giving her a “brutal” fitness program to do at home.
Julian Jervis, who attends St. Ignatius School, competes in the junior and senior CASA Championships and the Commonwealth Games this summer. He is 16 and will be playing in the U-17 event for the junior competition. He has competed in Junior CASA for the past four years and was the U-15 CASA Junior champion two years ago. Jervis’s goal is to win the U-17 junior CASA title.
For twins Sean and Daniel Murphy, who both attend St. Ignatius School, this will be their fifth time at the these championships. They both participated in the 2010 event, held in Cayman, the 2011 tournament in Guyana, 2012 in Jamaica and 2013 in Trinidad. Daniel ranked fifth in Guyana in the U-15s and ranked fifth in Jamaica in the U-17s.
Sean ranked seventh in the U-17s in Jamaica and this year both the twins compete at U-19 level.
Besides regular squash classes, they attend a running class at Camana Bay to build fitness, as well as going to the gym.