I have recently started to get my old groove back from almost 20 years ago. Yes, you read that right, I took about 20 years break from the sport!
SquashAddict: Congrats for getting second at the Infinity Club League edition #32 on Thursday Darren! You are always there, people enjoy playing with you, and now you’ve got your first final on a Thursday.
Darren: Haha thanks Mihail. Ever grateful to you for founding the Infinity Club League. I was pretty thrilled to beat Nicoleta and Sorin, I feel a little cheeky because I arguably stole the wins from Mihai and Nicoleta.
And thank you for the feedback that people enjoy playing with me. I think it’s really important to play in a fair and friendly manner, and to praise great shots and rallies when they are deserved.
SA: Tell us a few words about you and squash:
1. When did you discover squash for the first time and where? Tell us a few words about that experience.
D: I discovered squash through my Dad. We lived in Papua New Guinea and one of the only things to do there was play squash. Dad used to organise competitions and all the foreigners used to participate. I remember being so impressed at the fat old guys beating fit young ones. Squash is so unique in that it is very inclusive at amateur level.
SA: 2. What made you keep loving this sport even after all these years?
D: I think it was simply because it was the only sport I felt comfortable with. It just came naturally to me. When we came back to Australia I joined a juniors club and was one of best there, and I even won a state championship. I also used to put a lot of pressure on myself as a kid; I think winning at squash helped me feel better.
SA: 3. How do you find playing in Romania and at these Leagues?
D: As a foreigner and a non-Romanian speaker, integration was not easy. But I was fortunate enough to find a community of friendly, warm and welcoming players. The people is what I enjoy the most about playing in Romania. But I have recently started to get my old groove back from almost 20 years ago. Yes, you read that right, I took about 20 years break from the sport! So it is also really exciting to recapture the touch I used to have, and it’s exhilarating to see new abilities emerge.
SA: Now, let’s look at this final:
1. What learnings are you taking out of this loss?
D: I did not think much about this, I was too tired and honestly happy enough to finish second. But if I was to take any learning from the match, maybe it could be to stay focused and play safer.
SA: 2. Lately, you started to win against players that previously won against you. What did you change in order to do this?
D: Firstly, I made a commitment to myself this year that I would play every week. Previously, I was only playing every two weeks at tournaments.
Secondly, I am eating enough before games and refuelling between matches. Since the game is played at a high intensity, you simply need to be diligent about replenishing carbs.
Thirdly, I am sprint training. I am doing this for more reasons than just squash, but the benefits to my game have been quite noticeable. Now, you can dominate the T against me, and hit shots all over the court. But if they are not super tight, I am getting them back.
SA: Before closing:
1. Which is the biggest challenge as a player that you faced in the past 12 months while taking part at tournaments?
D: The biggest challenge is my attitude to players that just kill shots and that’s it. If I hit a loose shot then fair enough, it deserved to be killed! But if you want to play like that all the time and try to kill every ball you get, I am happier losing to you. I prefer to play quality matches in good spirits, than just win.
SA: 2. What do you think that squash needs in order to attract more players to practice it?
D: More social style events. At my club, once a week the squash nights ended with the club ordering pizza for everyone and opening a case of beer. Another night was hosted by a coach who would run games, drills, and exercises. The coach would mix it up every week and adapt to however many players showed up on the night. There were also team leagues! Building team spirit in an individual sport was awesome.
SA: 3. Any final thought for the squash players out there?
D: Enter FRS tournaments. Support the Federation. It will help grow the sport.
SA: Thank you Darren for this interview. It has been a pleasure to hear your story. We are grateful here at Infinity to have you part of our little community of squash players. Wish you many more lovely matches here and at the FRS tournaments!