When I left Spain I was 28 years of age and I was convinced that I was my saying goodbye to my sporting aspirations. But when in Australia, 7 years later, after overcoming the language barrier and settling into a comfortable professional position in Townsville, I was able to practice sports regularly but a it was a new sport, squash.
When I arrived in Australia, Olympic handball game wasn’t known. While in Saragossa I was a coach, and I thought I could introduce it. But the language barrier, and the pressure to find a suitable job, have to move around and attending part time the University to do a Science course, made it difficult for me to teach anything regularly.
Squash. Seven years later, after I settled down in Townsville to a posy position, and I was more relaxed, our family doctor, Joe Leong, decided that if I were a Basque I should be able to play squash and invited me to join his friends in their regular weekend squash practice session. When I played it, it reminded me of my beloved “pelota vasca” (Basque handball) They have in common that you hit the ball against the wall but there were significant differences. To start with, the court remains you to a match box, for its size when comparing with our generous --space ways-- fronton. And the squash court has 4 walls like our "trinkete". and you play with a very light ball and racquet.
Elite Category. Squash and pelota (Basque
handball) are similar in that you hit the ball against a wall and you have
to be fit; but there ends the similarity. In pelota you hit the ball with the extended arm
rotating around the shoulder to heat a heavier ball. In squash, you start
the action with the arm bent and extend it before heating the ball like in
a pelota volley (overhead volley). And being the racquet and ball so light you can use the wrist
to advantage. However, I adapted readily to it. And in five years I
was a top regional competitor and surprisingly, at “Open” level. I played
my best squash at open level between 40 and 45. I was winning the Open and
Master titles at the same Tournaments.
"Jai-Alai Squash Club" (see link). I soon noticed that parents played the game while their sons and daughters, were watching. I thought I could reverse that and to do it I founded, with a group of enthusiastic parents, the “Jai Alai” Squash Club, (which I translated as “Happy Fiesta with Squash”) It soon made a big difference to the game standard. In a few years Jai Alai teams, made up of junior and parents, were dominating the local fixtures and brought down the “Townsville Open Title” age by some 10 years. Some juniors won scholarships to the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) and won State and National Australian titles. Some made Squash their carrier. My own son Austin,become a renowned international player.
Apart from sporting achievements, the club administration had thanks to my number two player, John Gurnett, a very sound financial backing. With a team of volunteers he selected, he organized money raising functions, the most important being "chook raffles" in the pubs. It allowed the club to subsidized trips to the main Queensland and Australian championships for our top juniors.
"North Queensland Junior Elite Squash Academy". Later, with the assistance of John Arcidiacono in the Cairns and Kay Barclay in the Mackay regions, I extended my administrative and coaching activities to the whole of North Queensland. The Academy team was backed by a very experienced, efficient and generous couple, the Waterhouse. Heather, a school teacher, was the secretary and Robbin, a private pathologist, the treasurer. They generously made available to us, their excellent private squash court, with facilities to run squash clinics of up to 50 players.
I was invited to open numerous squash courts in the region but I must say that the "inauguration squash festival" to open the "Waterhouses Court" is the one I cherish most. Thankyou Heather, thankyou Robbin!
One thing we realized
and appreciated quite early, is, as in the Jai-Alai Club, the enormous
contribution that the parents do, supporting and financing their kids'
activities. In the Jai-Alai Club, the parents, organized by my squash team
No 2 player, John Gurnett, raised the funds by the famous "chook raffles".
For the Academy expenses the finance came from raffles and from parents
"State Junior Coach"(1996). (see news) When the position for State Junior coach was advertised Australia wide, I applied for it and won . Now my responsibility as a coach and administrator extends to the whole state. I was among other thing, responsible to coach and manage the age teams for the Australian titles. As I said before we had the best U17 team in Australia and our state was second to the strong --and rich-- NSW team.
Adarraga-Almirall of Squash
Rosemary played the elite league in Townsville but she had a problem. I watched her to throw a match. I said you were winning easily, why did you throw it? "Dad I could not beat that girl. She is my friend"! Well, we pay for fun. Don't we? It is Ok Rosemary. I respect your feelings.
She and her friend Tanya Graham helped me tremendously with the programs, drawings and maps for the many clinics and "Grand Finales". They designed the drawing for my paper, "The Ladder and The Springboard to Excellence" published in the "Australian Squash Coach" magazine (Volume 3, No.2. Autumn 1996)
Maria Cristina found squash too fast and too "sweaty". She preferred playing tennis out in the open. But she was not in a rush to compete!
Ignatius, the youngest, was the fastest of all the brothers in the court. He enjoyed joining us to play fixtures, and represented North Queensland Junior squash. He is a qualified Level I squash coach. He assisted me with my clinics and "Grand Finales". He has to his credit a Townsville Close Championship,at the age of 17 years. Congratulations!
Xavier, the eldest of the boys, was always in a rush to finish the match. He would go for winner shots even if he did not prepare them. He represented North Queensland Junior squash. He is a qualified Level I squash coach.
He played for Spain, with his brother Austin, in an international match in Monaco. Congratulations.
Austin was the player with more talent. He had lots of patience to learn. While his mates, in the squad, would go thruall the shots, in half an hour, you would see him trying to perfect, say a corner shot-drop, all that time. He also had an intuitive sense of rhythm. He could time himself to reach any ball. When he joined the professional ranks he was considered one the best ball retrievers in the world.
And what about mother? I took her and a few beginner friends for a bit of practice. I was admired being them play. They played the game with only one rule. Whoever was closer to the ball would hit it. No need to alternate. After the first session I offered to teach her a few shots. On no! She answered. I'll first learn with another coach and then you can coach me. Yes darling, as you wish!!!
Maria Rosa has a record of squash. One day, she says to me. Come and see my record. She took me to the Laundry room and showed me a "mountain" of squash shirts. Go and count how many shirts I have wash for all of you. I started counting and when I got to 60, I said, you are right. Yes, I agree. You have broken the previous record. Congratulations!
Left From: Christopher (grandson) Ignatius, Austin
Ramon, Xavier Jose, Maria