PONTEFRACT Squash Club has produced two of the 17 men’s world number ones that have existed.
They are Lee Beachill (pictured left) and James Willstrop (pictured right), the current number one, who are both home grown.
For the past four years Pontefract have also had former world number one women’s player Vanessa Atkinson, originally from Newcastle, based at the club. Atkinson lived in Holland and represented that country.
The current crop of Pontefract juniors are well up to previous standards.
Nine-year-old Sam Todd is showing enough promise to suggest he will become a serious player at world levels.
Pontefract’s Katie Smith (under 19 girls), Tamindar Gata-Aura (under 17 boys) and Jack Cooper (under 15 boys) have already represented England.
Cooper also won the British Under 15 championship and Todd reached the final of the recent England Under 11 championships.
Eliot Ridge has made considerable improvement and now has a national ranking of six at under 13 level. With more to come from him, it is by no means impossible that he can challenge for an England place at junior level in the future.
Ellen Cooper, sister of Jack, and seven-year-old girls Layla Johnson and Millie O’Toole are all showing promise of a high order.
Ben Sockett performed very well at the English under 11 championships to finish fifth, having just failed to reach the semi final in a 50 strong field. He lost his quarterfinal narrowly in the fifth.
Other Pontefract players from 17 years old and younger have all represented Yorkshire, won open tournaments and played senior squash at Yorkshire League and Leeds Metro level.
They include Tom Bamford, Dominic Pegg, Brad Gallivan, Hannah Shipley, Megan Kaye, Jessica Beachill, Jed Nowell, George Pugh, Emma Campion and Lewis Southward.
Pontefract’s contribution to Yorkshire and England squash remains as strong as ever and with over 100 children coached on a regular basis from the age of five, the future is assured.
One of the strengths of the coaching structure at the club is that there are always qualified coaches being produced.
Although Kirsty McPhee, an elite coach for England squash, who now works for Leeds Met, is less available than she used to be, there are plenty of others to provide a strong team.
They include ladies club captain Jayne Robinson, Sam Wileman, who is available again after a coaching stint in America and the Hodgett brothers Alex and Ben, who have recently passed their level two course, run by England Squash.
Pontefract’s reputation for producing high class players from their junior systems is not an accident. It is the product of quality coaching and children who develop an ethic based on enjoyment and consistent hard work.