Junior squash seeing good numbers again

“Back at it again for another year.”
These words were spoken by Bob Tkachuk as he watched the two squash courts at the Memorial Sports Centre alive with activity by youngsters.
Junior squash is back for its seventh year of operation under the tutelage of Fort Frances’ royal squash couple in Tkachuk and his wife, Mary-Beth, who have been indirectly involved in teaching their favourite sport to anyone interested for the past 20 years.
“We’re giving something back,” said Tkachuk.
And, once again, the kids are taking.
A full slate of youngsters will be filling up the courts a couple of times a week for the next few months. And though they could easily get more, they aren’t able to because two courts can only hold so many,
But that isn’t the problem, said Tkachuk.
“It’s nice we have those numbers and it’s about all we can handle, to tell you the truth,” said Tkachuk, who has around 30 kids getting instruction spread out three times a week.
Though they are essentially full, Tkachuk said they could still take on a few more kids—and have rackets and protective eyewear available for those who don’t have.
They practice every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday from 5:50-6:30 p.m.
Coaching is the key, said Tkachuk. Squash—like most sports—requires one-on-one instruction and two coaches can only do so much with so many kids with so little time.
“There’s only so much time we can spend with them individually,” the 51-year-old added.
Just how passionate is Tkachuk about squash? Well, his personalized licence plate is one example, but the other can be seen on his forearm.
“They’ve been kind of asking about it, but I’ll let them figure it out,” said Tkachuk, showing his recently-applied tattoo that has a firefighter’s emblem (Tkachuk is a firefighter in town) with the Squash Canada symbol drawn in it.
“It took me 51 years to get it,” he laughed.
But why squash? And why is it so popular here in town?
“I think it’s an alternative [for those] who maybe aren’t involved in the mainstream sports or are maybe a little smaller, and squash suits them. And it’s competitive and they get a good sweat, and it’s fun for them,” Tkachuk responded.
Squash used to be called “squash racket,” as a reference to the squashable soft ball used in the game, and is recorded to have originated in the 19th century at the famous Harrow School, which is located outside of London.
The first recorded construction of a purpose-built squash court was there, too.
The game generally remained played at schools and universities until the early part of the 20th century, but then it started becoming wildly popular in the London private clubs and was used as a fitness tool by the British armed services.
And it’s a sport the Tkachuks are more than happy to pass on. “And hopefully, it will last as a life sport for them,” he remarked.