Browse All Categories
Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on June 13, 2024

From Plight to Progress: Actionable Solutions for Squash Pros

It's pretty common knowledge that professional squash players make nowhere near as much as professional athletes in other, more mainstream sports.

The plight of the squash professional isn't lost on the majority of the sport's fans.

Unless you're a top 10 standard player, it's genuinely pretty difficult to make a good living. Not naming any names, but I know a player who was in the top 20 last season, and he told me that he only just broke even for the full year.

After travel, hotels, tournament entry, coaching, and other expenses, he ended his season with nothing, which is pretty shocking.

That's nothing for savings, holidays, retirement, or anything else in the future.

Of course, this isn't good, but, the financial situation for squash pros has definitely improved over the years and is still improving now with tournament prize pots growing and more and more investment coming in too.

Now, this is something I've wanted to write about for quite a long time, however, I've shied away from it because I was worried it would be too negative.

However, in this article, I'm going to have a crack at covering it because I've come up with a bunch of somewhat cost-effective solutions that could make the lives of squash professionals easier and better, and, that could reduce the large cost burden of being a professional athlete.

So, by focusing this piece on constructive ideas and solutions, I think it should remain pretty positive.

First off, before I dive into my ideas, I want to stress that I'm by no means an expert on this subject.

I'm aware that everything I say here is much easier said than done so I don't want anybody to think that I'm just complaining and saying the PSA aren't doing enough, because I know for a fact they're constantly working on improving things for the players.

Also, I don't know a heck of a lot about what goes on behind the scenes already for the professionals.

Depending on their country, their local squash governing body, their sponsor, and other external factors, many players do have access to funds, reimbursements, coaching, nutrition, physio, mental health aid, and more.

However, I know for a fact that this isn't the case for all players.

So, when I refer to a solution that some players already have access to, I'm implying that this is an area that need to improve for professionals (rather than suggesting that it's something completely new).

Before I dive in, I want to quickly mention the incident that finally pushed me over the line to write this article.

Some of you may have already seen the clip of Andrew Douglas breaking the strings on all three of his racquets and having to buy a racquet from the Dunlop stand in the middle of his British Open match because he didn't have any more spares.

You can check it out by clicking here if you haven't seen it already (just make sure to head back to this article after).

Now, this might seem as though he was ill-prepared for his match, however, his victory speech speaks volumes about the struggle of pros who are a little further down the rankings.

Douglas says he got into the tournament late and the flight was expensive. So high in fact that he was considering not coming, which is crazy given that the British Open is one of the biggest tournaments on the PSA World Tour.

Then, he mentions why he only brought three racquets. The reason? He didn't want to pay for a checked bag and could only fit the three racquets in his carry-on luggage.

This saved him £30 (or about $52 CAD).

Douglas is currently World No.52.

This is not a situation that any full-time squash professional should ever have to find themselves in, and this is what inspired me to finally write this blog post with some of my suggestions and ideas that could hopefully provide some help!

So, here we go...

Tournament Travel Assistance

Now I want to start with one of the biggest areas in which things can be improved...

And that's travel.

Especially for players lower down the rankings, travel expenses can be a significant financial burden. Many of them need to travel frequently for tournaments, often across different countries and continents.

In theory, tournament travel assistance of some form could be somewhat cost-effective as I'm aware that it is possible to strike up corporate deals with travel companies and airlines to make things cheaper and more accessible for employees (or in this case athletes).

By creating partnerships with airlines and travel companies, professional squash associations could secure discounted rates or even sponsored travel for athletes.

These partnerships could offer benefits such as reduced fares, free baggage allowances, and priority boarding, which would alleviate some of the financial stress and logistical challenges players face and allow them to look after their bodies in transit.

Another approach could be taken directly within the PSA to establish travel funds or reimbursement programs to help cover travel expenses including, transportation, luggage, and accommodation costs.

Establishing a dedicated travel fund could provide direct financial assistance to players who need it most. This fund could be supported by donations from sponsors, fans, and other stakeholders in the squash community.

Players could apply for travel grants or reimbursements, ensuring that those with the greatest financial need receive the support necessary to compete at their best.

By reducing travel costs, players can focus more on their training and performance rather than worrying about how to afford their next trip.

 Implementing some form of travel assistance program would require collaboration between squash governing bodies, airlines, travel companies, and sponsors, which is not an easy task.

However, if it can become more of a focus, it could lighten the load of one of the biggest burdens and hurdles that professional squash players face.

This would minimize the risk of having more situations like the one faced by Andrew Douglas at the British Open.

By working together to create a more supportive environment for players it can help them reach their full potential without the added financial constraints and stress.

Social Media Training

Now, I'm not sure if you'll all agree with me on this one, however, a lot can be said for utilizing social media to build your career, develop your own brand, and, most importantly, attract and negotiate new sponsorship deals.

Even to more skeptical people, surely it's clear that in this day and age, social media training has the potential to be a great cost-effective way to enhance players' visibility and marketability, which can lead to more money if done right.

I've noticed that more and more professional squash players, especially younger players, have started posting coaching, lifestyle, nutritional, and fitness content to Instagram, YouTube, X, and Facebook.

Players such as Jasmine Hutton and Emyr Evans regularly post helpful content that allows their fans and followers to learn and progress their own squash and fitness.

Even a bunch of well-established players such as Paul Coll and Joel Makin post their workouts and training, and, they're starting to amass a pretty good following by doing so!

The best part of this option is that it's pretty much free!

Of course, it takes time and patience to create, film, and edit content, however, this is a skill set that is worth learning.

This is why I think some kind of social media training for the players is a great idea.

Squash associations and brands can partner with social media experts to offer workshops or online courses that teach players how to create engaging content, grow their follower base, and interact with their audience.

These training sessions could cover a range of topics, including content creation, analytics, and effective communication strategies.

By equipping players with these skills, they can better showcase their personalities, knowledge, and achievements, making them more attractive to both sponsors and fans.

This increased visibility can lead to more endorsement deals, which can significantly alleviate financial pressures.

A strong social media presence can help professional players build a loyal fanbase too.

Engaging with fans regularly can lead to increased support, whether through crowd-funding initiatives, merchandise sales, or ticket purchases to exhibition matches or events that the player is attending.

Players who can effectively connect with their audience are more likely to receive financial and emotional support from their followers.

Implementing a social media training program would require collaboration between squash governing bodies and social media professionals.

Sponsorship from tech companies or social media platforms could also be explored to fund these initiatives, however, even something as simple as getting marketing professionals who work at the PSA World Tour to step in and provide some kind of workshop could be even more cost-effective.

By investing in players' social media skills, the squash community can create a more supportive environment for its athletes and allow them to create other streams of income that they can rely on even after their professional careers ends.

This initiative is up there with my favourite ideas, because, not only does it benefit the players, but also the sport as a whole.

As players become more adept at using social media, they can help raise the profile of squash, attract new fans and sponsors to the sport, and, help the sport evolve and become more intertwined with the technological state of the modern day (that's a bit of a mouthful, sorry)!

I really do think that this increased exposure could lead to greater opportunities for all players, helping to grow the sport and support its athletes at every level.

Financial Education and Management

Perhaps this isn't something that we would notice as fans of the sport as it wouldn't change a lot on the PSA World Tour, however, the purpose of this article is to help the pros earn more and have a better quality of life for full-time athletes.

This extends to after they have retired from the sport.

So, even though this one isn't as exciting as my other ideas, I still think it's one of the most important!

Many professional athletes face financial challenges both during and after their careers. Without proper financial education and management, they may struggle with budgeting, saving, and investing their earnings wisely.

It's not like they're on a regular salary that they can use to plan ahead and save.

Instead, most pros rely on random injections of cash from tournament results and winnings. I can only imagine how tough it is to save and plan with that style of income.

I know that many players do get regular stipends from their sponsors or country's governing bodies, however, it's rarely a significant amount of money, so, it's difficult to plan your financial future based on this income too.

Things such as purchasing a house and getting a mortgage can be extremely hard for professional squash players as many of them are classed as 'self-employed' (or at least that's the case in England), and, they have no way of proving to the government that they can afford a regular mortgage since their income is so inconsistent.

This must be a challenge for professional and aspiring professional athletes in many sports, not just squash, so I can only assume that there are financial experts who specialize in this area and can be of help.

Offering financial education workshops or one-on-one sessions with financial advisors could provide players with the tools they need to manage their money effectively.

These sessions could cover essential topics such as budgeting, tax planning, investment strategies, and retirement planning.

By learning how to handle their finances, players can be more confident in ensuring that they have a stable financial future, even after their playing days are over.

Financial education can also help players make informed decisions about their careers.

Understanding the financial implications of sponsorship deals, prize money, and other income sources can enable them to negotiate better contracts and maximize their earning potential.

Additionally, knowledge about investment opportunities can help them grow their wealth and secure their future.

To implement this initiative, professional squash associations could partner with financial institutions or independent financial advisors.

Sponsorship from banks or financial services companies could also be sought to fund these educational programs. In fact, I know for a fact that a number of major banks do already invest in squash, so, this could potentially be introduced as part of their deal with the PSA.

However, again, this is definitely one of those things that is easier said than done!

But, by providing financial education, the squash community can help players achieve long-term financial stability and peace of mind.

Plus, proper financial management can give players room to focus more on their training and performance, since they have the peace of mind that their financial matters are in order.

This can lead to better on-court results and overall career success.

On top of this, there are a number of players who have (or will be planning to have) children, so, being in a good financial position becomes even more important if this is the case.

I would say that this is a hugely important area where the PSA could be of help to players.


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Community Engagement Opportunities

Creating opportunities for players to engage with their local communities through coaching clinics, school visits, and outreach programs, fostering connections and support networks.

This one is great for the sport, and, can go hand in hand with the growth of the pros social media presence (as it's a great way for them to gain fans and amass a larger following).

I know for a fact that, after players like Daryl Selby and Mazen Hesham played some local exhibitions in my county, I began supporting them and watching them every time they played.

Community engagement not only helps to grow the fan base but also provides players with a platform to give back to the sport that has given them so much.

By connecting with local communities, players can inspire the next generation of athletes and build strong, loyal followings (which of course relates back to that social media perspective I mentioned earlier).

Coaching clinics, school visits, and outreach programs are just a few ideas of cost-effective ways to achieve this.

Coaching clinics allow players to share their expertise and passion for the game with aspiring young athletes too.

These sessions could be organised in partnership with local squash clubs, schools, or community centers.

Players can offer tips, demonstrate techniques, and even play friendly exhibition matches with participants. This not only helps to improve the skills of young players but also creates memorable experiences that can inspire lifelong fans.

Outreach programs can also extend beyond just squash.

Players can get involved in broader community initiatives, such as charity events, health and wellness campaigns, or educational programs.

This involvement showcases the players as well-rounded people who care about their communities. It also provides players with opportunities to build their personal brand and develop valuable skills in public speaking, event organisation, and community relations.

One option for actually facilitating these community engagement opportunities would be for professional squash associations to openly collaborate with local organisations, schools, and clubs.

They can also provide resources and support to players to help them organise and promote these events.

By fostering strong connections between players and their communities, they can create a more engaged and supportive fan base.

This not only benefits the players but also contributes to the overall growth and popularity of squash as a sport.

Community engagement helps build a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, which is something that squash really needs!

For the players, these connections can translate into increased visibility, fan support, and potential financial opportunities through sponsorships and collaborations.

Mentorship Programs

Now, by mentorship programs, I'm referring to pairing professional squash players up with experienced ex-professionals and mentors who have already been through their career and can provide guidance, advice, and support careers based on their own experience.

This could be another really cost-effective way to support career growth and personal development for current and up-and-coming pros.

Mentorship programs offer younger players the opportunity to learn from those who have navigated the same challenges and hurdles they are currently facing.

Experienced mentors could even share their insights on training techniques, match strategies, tournament preparation, and recovery. They can also provide valuable advice on managing the pressures of professional sports, from handling media interactions to balancing personal and professional lives.

Beyond the technical and tactical aspects of the game, mentors can offer emotional and psychological support.

Having a mentor who understands the highs and lows of a professional squash career can really do a great job of helping current players build resilience and confidence. This support network can be crucial during tough times, such as injuries, slumps in performance, or the stress of travel and competition.

Ex-professionals who have transitioned into new careers can also provide guidance on life after squash, helping current players plan for their future.

This forward-thinking approach could potentially ease the anxiety about retirement and ensure that players are well-prepared for the next phase of their lives (which often comes quite fast)!

With many squash players retiring in their mid to late 30s, they're arguably still very young and have a long life ahead of them after their professional squash career (I hope that doesn't sound too morbid).

So, the future is a very important thing for pros to think about!

Organising regular meet-ups, training camps, and online sessions can facilitate these mentor-mentee relationships. Plus, creating a structured framework for the program, including setting goals and tracking progress, can ensure its effectiveness.

Advocacy and Representation

Now, this is an area I will admit that I don't know much about.

It could get slightly political, however, I would imagine that there should already be some people in place who advocate on the players' behalf to the major governing organisations.

It's vital to ensure that the pro's voices are heard and their needs are addressed within the sport, however, it's rarely as straightforward as them just doing it personally.

Advocacy is a skillset that not everyone possesses, so, more often than not, someone who is experienced in this area is the best option for helping to clearly and concisely express the needs and thoughts of professional squash players.

These advocates can act as intermediaries between players and governing bodies, ensuring that players' perspectives are considered in decision-making processes, something that is crucial in discussions about tournament scheduling, rankings, prize money distribution, and other aspects that directly impact players' careers.

Advocates can also work to help secure better contracts and sponsorship deals for players, helping them to achieve financial stability and recognition.

By negotiating on behalf of the players, they can ensure fair treatment and equitable opportunities for all athletes, regardless of their ranking.

Additionally, advocacy efforts can extend to improving the overall conditions and standards within the sport.

This includes lobbying for better facilities, enhanced safety measures, and more comprehensive support systems for players. Advocates can also push for transparency and accountability within governing bodies, ensuring that decisions are made in the best interest of the players and the sport as a whole

Not that I believe for one moment that governing bodies are lacking in this area, however, I think it's very very important for all voices to be heard and all concerns to be noted!

To implement effective advocacy and representation, professional squash associations could establish committees or hire dedicated advocates with experience in sports management and player representation.

Now this one could perhaps be a little more expensive, however, these advocates would be able to regularly consult with players to understand their needs and concerns, and then communicate these to the relevant authorities.

By ensuring that players have a strong voice in the governance of their sport, we can create a more supportive and fair environment for all professional squash players. This will not only help address their immediate needs but also contribute to the long-term sustainability and growth of squash as a professional sport.

Final Thoughts...

These initiatives can help support squash pros by providing valuable resources and opportunities to enhance their careers both on and off the court.

By addressing key areas such as travel assistance, financial education, community engagement, mentorship, and advocacy, we can help alleviate some of the challenges faced by professional players, especially those lower down the rankings.

These changes should hopefully not require massive financial investments but rather strategic partnerships, community involvement, and a commitment from the governing bodies to prioritise the well-being of their athletes.

Also, by focusing on building a more supportive environment, we can also contribute to the overall growth and popularity of our favourite sport.

Engaged and well-supported players are better ambassadors for the sport, inspiring the next generation and drawing in fans from all over the world.

Again, I just want to finish by reiterating that these are just ideas picked from my brain!

I imagine that governing bodies, sponsors, and squash brands have their own thoughts and plan in place to help this area of the sport, I just think it's a good thing to think about!

Also, if you have any ideas to add to this, please feel free to get in touch and let me know.

This article will go on our blog, and, I could add your ideas to it when I come to posting it there!

Anyway, thanks for reading!

This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Alex Robertson June 13, 2024
Alex Robertson