A squash-playing city businessman is making a racket about his favourite sport.
In a bid to raise the profile of the game he loves, he’s serving up a celebrity squash exhibition later this month. Visitors will get to see Sheffield squash legend, three times World Champion Nick Matthew, in action on the court, meet him in person and pick up some tips.
Top British female player Laura Massaro, the former World Open champ currently ranked world No 2 and the US Open title-holder, will also be starring at the event, being staged at Abbeydale Sports Club on November 24 in aid of Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital Charity.
Event organiser James Biggin has played the game since childhood and believes it’s one of the best sports around for people running their own firms.
“I’m passionate about squash and want to do my bit to raise its profile, particularly with busy professionals. A game takes just 40 minutes, which means it’s really easy to work round a work schedule,” says James, 41, MD of long-established branded merchandise company Steel City Marketing, which is based in the Cathedral Quarter.
“I can play before work or on the way home to my family. The shortness of the game means it doesn’t impact on work time or family time, but it’s a high-impact, fast sport which keeps your fitness levels high. “Forbes have named it the healthiest sport to play and can burn off up to 1000 calories an hour – way higher than most other sports.”
James has striven to organise the Steel City Squash Exhibition for the last three years. He was determined to get Nick, the squash world’s answer to Andy Murray, on board but the champ’s competition schedule is always tricky given how many competitions around the world he takes part in.
“Fortunately I know Nick and was able to keep trying for a diary date; I first recall him starting out playing the game when we were both juniors. I was 15 and at Abbeydale, he was 8 and at Hallamshire and the buzz at the club was this young kid had great potential talent. Squash remained my hobby and Nick’s life and I have always followed his fortunes.”
The men met again in 2010 when they ended up as neighbours in Totley – and recognised each other from squash club. Said James: “When we were kids squash was a thriving junior sport. Popularity dropped off in the 2000s but it is gaining momentum again with children and I am keen to encourage that trend too.
“There are several clubs in Sheffield all with a junior programme. It’s a great game for children to get involved in. It builds stamina, fitness and competitive drive. And it is played in a warm, dry and light environment.”
The Steel City Cup will feature three exhibition games, challenge competitions and maybe a few surprises. A £250 lesson with the champ is up for grabs in the night’s raffle.
A couple of hot prospects from Nick’s Academy, based at Hallamshire, are also playing on the night. Charlotte Jagger (17) and Nick Wall Jnr (16) have both just competed in the British Junior Championships.
There’s no need to don your squash kit for another opportunity to take on the local legend, though…Guests can take a Dunlop-sponsored speed challenge to see if they can beat Nick or Laura’s hardest shot of the night. (The World Record hardest shot is 176mph shot, achieved in 2014 by Cameron Pilley). It will be recorded by a speed gun similar to the ones used by traffic cops will be recording shots on the night (sponsored by Dunlop).