(Charlottetown, PEI) When squash was first introduced at the Canada Games in Charlottetown in 1991 the man coaching Alberta’s promising young squash players was a genial expatriate Englishman named Arthur Hough.
Thirty-two years later Hough is back in Charlottetown coaching yet another team of aspiring young squash players for Alberta including Ella Watson who’s father Eric Watson, played for Arthur’s team back in 1991.
The passage of time has done nothing to dampen either his enthusiasm for the sport or his passion for helping the next generation of young players achieve the potential he sees in them when they are on the court.
While thirty-plus years may seem like a long time to serve as a coach Hough’s career as coach actually goes back a good deal longer than that.
“I actually started to coach 48 years ago in the U.K., before I came here,” Hough said Monday during a break in the play. “And I played in the U.K. for 10 years before I started to coach.”
Hough, who grew up in the Somerset area of England’s West Country, was a top player but an injury prompted him to make the move to coaching.
“I was badly injured but I still loved the game. I played in the World Open in 1979 and then I came to Calgary to see what the coaching situation was like and somebody offered me a job so I got landed immigrant status and came back.” Hough said after all these years he still enjoys his role as coach as much as he ever did.
“It’s never changed. I still enjoy watching the game, and the excitement and trying to help people out of situations. And it’s not just here, I’ve coached from three to four-year-olds right up to national champions. That’s the exciting part, just seeing them grow.” Hough said the game has changed dramatically over time.
“The game has changed a lot. When we played it was a softer ball and a smaller racket, the game wasn’t as fast. Then graphite rackets came into play, then they changed the scoring and then glass courts came in and then full glass court and the games got much faster because of the equipment. Some of these guys can hit the ball 100 miles an hour.’’
Hough said the skill level of the players in the game hasn’t changed, the best players back then would still be among the best players now, it’s just a different game.
“Our game back then…you could only score a point when you served so it went on for much longer. A long game here is 80-90 minutes. Back then a world record was four-and-a-half hours. Now there are way more shots played, the tin is lower at the professional level so it’s much more exciting to watch.”
The level of interest in squash in Canada dropped during the pandemic because people couldn’t play. “A lot of the clubs were forced to close down.” He said interest in the sport has begun to grow again now that the pandemic is past.
“We’ve had more members join again over the last six months.” He said interest in the game would take an even bigger jump up if squash became an Olympic sport but efforts to have squash included thus far have not succeeded.
Squash is in the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games and there is a world squash championship. The sport is played in more than 75 countries but for now, it’s not in the Olympics. Hough hopes one day it will be.
But for now he’s happy to continue to coach and bring new players into the game in Alberta and help train new coaches as well.