It was Michael Khan's first visit to India and hence to Chennai. The WSF Level 3 coach and tutor had an assignment in hand, to conduct a Level 2 coaching course but he had decided he should also take a feel of Chennai back home as memories. First thing he loved in the city was the food, proudly pointing to his belly and gushing “I simply loved the food here and nothing has happened to my stomach.” The Marina beach was the next place he went to and of course the long sea-line and the waves were something that had a lasting impression on him. “It was beautiful experience to have been there,” he said as he concluded he will have only good memories of this third country he had visited in Asia.
A globe trotting official with vast experience, 54-year old Khan, a London-born Austrian, had been to Hong Kong and Malaysia, thanks to his squash coaching/ tutoring background and what impressed him about the participants in Chennai was “their receptiveness and the respect they give to teaching. To me this is a feature of people in Asia,” he generalised and this was as a quality that made his job even more interesting. The 17 participants who were in attendance for his week-long efforts, supported by Mr Cyrus Poncha, the current SRFI Secretary General who is also a WSF Level 3 coach and Level 2 Tutor, had only one word to say how they felt at the end of it all: “enriching”.
For someone who gave up his playing career early because learning the art of play and rules fascinated him more. His playing career was nothing particularly eventful but where he wished to make a mark was in getting Coaches ready with the latest in the sport. He said standardising the coaching methods is one drive of the WSF to ensure all round growth in standards of play of the players and hence the sport. Today the sport is more about the collection of players from various countries in the top echelon. That makes a difference. The rise of Diego Elias from Peru for instance makes an impact in Latin American squash. The squash in that region also get noticed because Elias moves around the globe as a professional.
Khan believes players in general have improved as compared to a decade or two ago. And what is also interesting, he said was the interest active players take to coaching. In Chennai itself there were atleast four active players in the midst. Harinder Pal Sandhu admits since he had taken to squash, he thought he might as well strengthen his involvement. Even if becoming a coach was not his immediate intent, it helped to be prepared for the future, he said while Aparajitha Balamurukan, who only recently made a come-back to active life after studies had taken her away, said “learning the rules and the various nuances in the play had always interested her. Besides I am convinced the Course helped me in correcting and improving the way I play.”
Having visited several countries in his official capacity, Khan is clear that each country had its own way of developing the sport. But he was amazed at the way Hong Kong was going about right from grassroots level and forming of different regions in the country to make coaching easier. Hong Kong is the leading force in Asia now. He was impressed with the rise of Indian squash and the Academy in Chennai and looked forward to even better times for squash in India. SRFI too is not leaving any stone unturned in its efforts to keep the sport rising. As Poncha was to state, soonafter the conduct of the Chennai course, “with the need to increase the number of Level 2 coaches in India, SRFI decided to conduct this clinic in March and also plans to host another one at the end of the year. I would like to thank the ministry of youth affairs and sports and HCL for their contributions to host this course. “