In town for the Hong Kong Squash Open, former star Liz Irving and her mobile app SquashLab are ready to reinvigorate the game
Once ranked second in the world, the Australian says her coaching app can increase participation in the city
It’s no secret squash in Hong Kong needs a shot in the arm and former world number two Liz Irving thinks she has just the thing to do it.
In town for the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open as coach of superstar Nicol David, Irving recently released her SquashLab coaching app.
The app offers personalised training for all levels of amateur and is designed to ensure that squash is accessible to all.
Hong Kong Squash has roughly 3,000 registered members, a number it says has remained stable in recent years.
They estimate over 20,000 people play squash in Hong Kong but Irving, an Australian who played many top tournaments in Hong Kong from the mid-1980s onwards, has noticed a decline.
“There used to be big numbers playing here, it has dropped but it has definite potential to be more,” the Amsterdam-based Irving said. “There are so many other sports and things for kids to do now, so it’s different.
“My beginner level one in this app is perfect for someone who has never seen a squash court.”
Irving takes players on a journey from the very basic skills through to the level of someone just under professional ability, with players able to “measure their level of improvement”.
She taps into her decades of experience, offering tutorials she hopes will draw players the world over into the game.
“Twenty million people play squash in 189 countries, I think 90 per cent of places around the world have no resources to teach it,” she said.
“I really want to get out to those people that don’t necessarily have the resources. I’ve been coaching club players for 20 years and I know they do not have a clue what they need to do to get better.
“You can have all these amazing resources, but how do they know what to look for? I can guarantee if you follow the programme you will improve.”
While the app is targeted at beginners and club players, Irving has plans to expand it to include kids and elite players.
“When we get to the elite section, it’s going to be how to develop champions and that’s when governing bodies can use it,” she said.
Squash’s struggles to crack the mainstream market have been well documented, as has the sport’s continued failure to gain entry to the Olympic Games.
“It’s ridiculous that it’s not in the Olympics, it totally ticks every box,” Irving said. “This is a sport that has been voted the number one healthiest sport in the world because there are so many levels to it.
“Squash is great for squash players, but it’s the people that don’t play squash that we need and it’s a very hard market to tap into.”