Former New Zealand champion Brian Barnett has returned to Cambridge to lead a programme fostering squash talent and promoting life skills.
Barnett, who began playing the sport in Cambridge as a 13-year-old, has coached internationally in Europe and also coached former world champion Susan Devoy.
The two-part programme he has launched includes one for primary-age and one for secondary school-aged children.
“It’s based around leadership skills, creative thinking, and health and wellbeing. So we have squash, but it’s a whole lot more for kids than just squash,” he said.
Based on the work of six Auckland professors, the pilot-tested programme will begin in the New Year with students from his old primary school, Cambridge East.
“Generally they’re learning how to use the ball and learn ball movements on the court, but then upstairs we’ve also got drumming, comic book making and dancing. So we’re doing a whole lot more than just the game, it’s life skills too. Planning, creative thinking… they learn to concentrate and express themselves.”
Barnett is also an art director and member of the Epilepsy Foundation of NZ and has written art therapy programmes for people with epilepsy, and a squash programme for youth in South Auckland.
He said it was “really nice” to be back in Cambridge working on the court with Cambridge Racquet Club’s youth members.
A trial run of the programme in Te Kauwhata saw the club’s membership numbers more than double, and he hopes to see a similar rise in interest in the sport in Cambridge.
Ultimately, he would like to see Cambridge become the centre of elite squash in New Zealand.