Juniors

Juniors are the lifeblood of any club, and we have been nurturing their talent for many years. This page will provide details of various activities, from the explosion of quality players in the late 1970’s, through the extensive club competitions since then, Coaching offerings, Easter and Summer camps, to the 50:50 Junior tournament and the ESC Foundation which gives preparatory state schools the opportunity to take part in our sports.

ESC Junior squash in the 1960’s to 1980’s

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Juniors may have thought that they were not being properly represented in Annual Reports; it wasn’t a case of them being ‘seen and not heard’, indeed on some occasions even the winners of the Men’s and Ladies’ championships did not rate a mention. It was to be much later, even beyond the publication of the 50th handbook in 1986 that Juniors came to be recognised; the 1986 handbook permitted them a paltry 141 words, curious considering how important the rise of juniors such as Tom Smith, Ray Stevenson and John McGhee who between them dominated the Men’s championship in the 1980’s, and accumulated around 50 Scottish international caps while still in their early 20’s.   One thinks they were only included because of their success, and the fact that they had only just graduated to Student membership allowed them to be regarded as Seniors! Current members who were juniors in that era remember the general feeling of disdain emanating from older members when they deigned to occupy squash courts during the little-used weekend sessions.

The 1990’s saw a change in direction, with a cohort led by the Board and the Manager, creating an organised environment for Junior squash at the Club. Jeremy Snowden explains what took place…

ESC Junior squash in the 1990’s (by Jeremy Snowden, April 2021)

During this period, Junior squash flourished both at ESC and in the Lothian region (later to be renamed East of Scotland). Large numbers participated in the sport, with an increasing number of young juniors.

At the start of the decade, the then manager at the Club, Derek Dolphin, set up a Junior Committee comprising Tom Cain (Club Coach), and enthusiastic parents – John Ross, Jeremy Snowden, Jane Arnold, Irene Cowper & Jocelyn Ness. One of the first decisions was to arrange matches for U10s against local clubs including Colinton Castle & Tyne. In fact, a report of the first match, against Colinton Castle, appeared in the local evening paper. Other semi competitive tournaments took place at the Club, especially handicap events directly after coaching on a Sunday afternoon. Junior squash throughout the 90s continued to thrive, and numbers at times topped 150 members. Throughout this period, several 20-30 a-side matches were arranged. One in particular was when the Club hosted a match against a touring team from Aberdeen.

Jeremy Snowden (author of this article) proudly displaying a prize he has just won in around 2005

At this time, ESC had a number of elite players, especially the boys. ESC won all the Scottish Quaichs (U14,U16 & U19) during the decade. Boys from Daniel Stewart’s Melville College (all members of ESC) reached the semi-finals in the British Schools tournament on two occasions in the late 90s. Players included Graham Lind, Michael Hoppe, Richard Snowden, Duncan Ross, Paul Angus & Stephen Gaffney. It should be borne in mind that English schoolboys attend school for one year longer than those in Scotland, so one wonders how well they would have performed if they had been matched at the same age.

On a few occasions, Club Nights were arranged, where the juniors had time on court with elite players, including Ray Stevenson, Tom Smith & Alison Bowie, all previous or present Scottish Internationals.

In December 1996, Tom Cain, the Club coach, tragically died, and soon after that, Chris Wilson was appointed to this position. During the 90s, the Junior Parent Committee continued, chaired by Jeremy Snowden; members included Chris Wilson, Les Pratt, Sandra Kempston, Jane Herd, Irene Cowper & Andrew Gaffney. Towards the end of the decade, Sandra Kempston took over from Jeremy as the Club Junior Convener.

Club juniors also enjoyed a number of social events, in particular the annual Xmas party, when Derek Dolphin was attired in a Santa Claus costume!!.   In addition, annual trips to Perth Leisure Pool & 10 pin bowling in Edinburgh were enjoyed by all.

Lothian Juniors also thrived in the 1990s. Main tournaments included Lothian Junior Closed and Open, the latter being the most popular of all Scottish junior events. On more than one occasion, numbers in the latter were so large in the U14 & U16 age groups, that it was necessary to hold a main & B events. In the early part of the decade, these events were organised by Jock Smith, Manager at Colinton Castle, but later taken over by Jeremy Snowden as Lothian Junior Convener. Other events to be organised were the Scottish Inter-Regionals.

Due to the busy schedule of players, Lothian Leagues also took place. These were run only on two Sundays towards the end of the season, and were ‘leagues’ in name only. In the mid-1990s it was mooted by Don Wilkie, Lothian Development Officer, and following a meeting with Jeremy Snowden, Junior Convener, that the format be changed to allow each participating club team to play all the other teams twice throughout the season (home & away). In addition, it was proposed that members of the National Squads be excluded, so that many youngsters would not feel intimidated by having to compete against the elite players. The other main feature of the makeup of the teams was that girls were to be allowed to play in one age group down from what their age indicated. These plans were agreed in principle by participating clubs, and were introduced for the start of the 1996/97 playing season.

ESC Junior squash in the 2000’s and 2010’s

It is intended to publish articles about the two recent decades here in due course. Watch this space!

A tabular record of Junior squash trophy winners from 1981 to the present day can be seen here.

The following slide show exhibits a selection of Junior squash images from our archives. Click on any of the images to start a full screen slideshow.