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Squash availability for you

Published: 08 Dec 2007 - 19:48 by mike

Updated: 17 Dec 2007 - 20:05

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I'm curious about how accessible squash is (price, court access) in various parts of the world.

What do you pay for annual club membership fees and court hire fees? Can you get a court when you want it, or are they often booked up? Are you under pressure to get out as soon as your hour's up with the next party knocking on the door?

Don't forget to say where you're referring to.

In my case:

  • Regional North Queensland, Australia
  • $15 AUD /yr club membership fee (~$30 with QSquash affiliation with on-court health insurance)
  • $8 AUD court hire fees for club members, unlimited time, otherwise:
  • $5 AUD per half hour, per person for non club-members
  • Fixtures are $6 - $8.50 (depending on which day of the week)
  • 12 courts. Occupy 6 for fixures most nights, except for Thursday night uses 10-12 courts
Courts are generally available at any time, bookings not necessary. Facilities aren't luxurious (e.g no cooling), but the ceilings are very high :)
Seeing facilities like this place in montreal had me wondernig what the sport must cost in some places.
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From Viper - 17 Dec 2007 - 20:05

Great post Adz, no sugar coating there.


I believe the spike in the 80's was an aberation and to think we can get the sport back to that state is impossible, better to embrace Rays approach and try to build off the foundations we currently have, trouble is it appears the sand is running out between our feet, I know of a number of squash centers on the brink, sadly I believe their honours boards will join the many others and be looking for a new hearth...........

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From Adz - 17 Dec 2007 - 19:29

Sadly Jimbob hit the nail on the head with his scenario........



As Viper rightly said, uptake in the sport is very low (not quite dead, but close enough!). More and more people are opting for the treadmill lifestyle (get on..... become a robot.... plug in your earphones so you don't have to personalise with anyone... and the only competition is queuing for the equipment!). You can fit a lot more robots into a squash court than two competative squash players, and profit over 45 minutes can realistically be 10 times what it would be from a squash match.



With this in mind, many local councils are trying to maximise their revenues by closing down squash courts and turning them into weights rooms, spinning rooms, CV rooms etc. This makes them more profit in 1 hour of peak use than 10 hours of squash. Get 2 hours of peak use a night (17.30 - 19.30) and you've more than paid for your loss of squash courts. No wonder people are becoming apathetic towards squash facilities, and it takes someone with real passion for the sport to keep things alive - someone like Ray! Sadly people like Ray are too few and far between.



As for service...... many public clubs employ minimum-wage, spotty teenagers who couldn't care less about anything but their own sports. The apathy they have towards everything else is a disgrace, but trying to change that is a battle that NO-ONE is going to win! Since writing my first post on this thread, I have now left the local council-run courts and have opted for privately run clubs. More expensive - yes, better quality - yes, better service - yes!


I want to go somewhere that has people passionate about the sport. Somewhere that I can enjoy playing squash with people who want to play and love the sport. Somewhere that parents bring their children to learn. Somewhere that I can give back to the sport that has given me so much over the years.

I'm very proud to say that the most I've ever charged anyone for coaching is the cost of a court! They book it and I'll turn up to coach. I don't believe in charging people to learn when the sport is struggling to grow beyond minimum uptake. I only wish I could do more!



Adz 

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From Viper - 17 Dec 2007 - 15:41

We are not dissagreeing then Ray.


Take up by new players is dead as I said and established squash centers in general must not be implementing your very sensible plan as participation in the sport continues to fade.


You have been marketing your operational plan to squash centers, has the take up been good and if so are we seeing similar results that you achieved ?

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From jimbob1965 - 17 Dec 2007 - 09:27   -   Updated: 17 Dec 2007 - 09:34

Ray


That was a great, inspiring post.  Squash would be in better shape in the UK if more centres were run along the lines you describe.


I wish the leisure centre management where I play had adopted your approach and perhaps we would have saved the 2 courts we have just lost?  This all sounds perfectly sensible to me and backs up what I have been arguing with my local council about how demand could have been increased without too much effort, apart from the application of a bit of no nonsense customer service and marketing.  I will certainly show them your message, although it is a case of 'shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted' as we have lost the courts for good and any major increase in demand would mean an even greater struggle for court bookings than we are now faced with :-(


Cheers


Jimbob

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From raystrach - 17 Dec 2007 - 07:59   -   Updated: 17 Dec 2007 - 10:25

it seems viper that you have completely missed the point.

this has nothing to do with half empty or full. it has everything to do with raw numbers, number you cannot argue with, no matter which point of view you take. the story you tell completely illustrates the point. there are two aspects to this.

1. the thing is, trying to sell squash to those who have no interest in it is a waste of time. we need to start by  selling it to those who are interested.

so who is interested?

2. In the Australian context at least, we have more than enough customers for squash. the problem is those customers do not play often enough. sure, we have the tip of the icebeg that play on a regular basis, but most of them they only play once a year or so, maybe even less often.

A venue that I leased had about 80 regulars to start off with. Little did I know that it had as many as 3500 customers. I know that over an 18 month period i registered about 1600 of them (yes, about 20 a week). That is customers I had never seen before but most of which said they had played there before. Almost without exception they enjoyed their game at the time.

By serving those individuals, i was able to convince at least some of  them, one way or another that they should play more regularly. How did I provide that service?

My staff...

  • established a personal connection with each of them and continued to treat each of them on a personal basis
  • without hassling them,  let each one of them know that we were keen to see them play more often
  • provided competitions and programs that were attractive to them -  not those which were easiest for us
  • provided incentives to themt to play more often and to be more reliable
  • tried to establish an environment where people could really enjoy themselves and felt as if they belonged
  • helped those who were  not as highly motivated, to persist
  • helped them with their game so they showed improvement
  • provided them with some extra little touches like birthday gift vouchers and the odd reminder call if they started falling by the wayside
  • kept things organised and trouble free, so they all got what they really wanted - a good game and a good time.
  • always provided clean, tidy facilites, even though they were not as new and shiny as they might have been
  • kept the lines of communciation open so that they had plenty of opportunities to become a regular easily and hassle free.

By registering each one, we had a good chance to do all of the above.

As time went on, more people were convinced and they, in turn, convinced their friends and relatives to come in and play. Instead of the downward spiral you spoke of, we now had an upward spiral.

and let me let you in on a little secret - It Works!


 
I have the raw numbers to prove it. And price starts to become less relevant as well.

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From rippa rit - 15 Dec 2007 - 07:40

Here are some interesting statistics quoting more than 108,000 people play squash in Australia. At least we know they do not sit on their bums watching TV to participate and that they are actually exercising, socialising and interacting.

One day, when the Obesity Boom is over, squash will win hands down as a weight controller, and keep attracting numbers back into the sport for all the right reasons.

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From Viper - 14 Dec 2007 - 16:13   -   Updated: 14 Dec 2007 - 16:18

Everyone needs to eat , nobody needs to play squash.


Poor service is not the cause of squash completely failing to attract new people, outside the core people who already play squash, absolutely nobody has the slightest interest in the game, most new players get into squash via parents as the current parents drop out in big numbers ( which they are doing ) so too does the feed through those parents kids, ie the sport is in a tailspin.


 


I love the game I try to encourage anybody who shows any interest in the sport to play, I continually fail............


 


And before the retort that is sure to come "be a glass half full type " thems the facts as I see them, glass full or empty.


 


 

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From raystrach - 14 Dec 2007 - 09:03

I watch a program on TV last night about a restaurant. The chef was hopeless (although he thought he was pretty good - he was deleuding himself) the front of house staff were almost as bad and he was losing money hand over fist.



The restaurant "doctor" came in an told him some home truths, showed him how to really run a restaurant and cook decent food and completely changed the fortunes of the restaurant.

Heaps of people play squash, trouble is they only play once a year rather than once a week. Like the restaurant, we need to give them a reason to want to keep coming back. If they don't get "served" properly, offering decent squash food (ie programs and competitions) and offer it in the right way, they can go elsewhere and get their kicks.

Unless i am really going senile (which i do not rule out), i did not imagine,over a two period period, increasing by over 200% the regular players at my sports centre. Within 4 months of me leaving, it was back to what it was when i moved in. Let me tell you, they did not come in for my looks.

My assertions below are not speculation , I have proved it. Read this story here

Many of the "rusted on" players play whatever happens. It is true that service is not  of great importance to them (they are used to being treated like dirt!) however there are not enough of them to make things viable. we must appeal far wider than that otherwise there will be nowhere where we can play.

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From Viper - 14 Dec 2007 - 08:33   -   Updated: 17 Dec 2007 - 15:30

I dissagree, yes good service is clearly a requirement and you will loose people with bad service but I think that is incidental.


The crux of the problem is that people are just not interested in squash, like sports like badminton, table tennis, lacross etc squash is destined to remain a obscure ( and getting more so) pursuit and I don't believe anything will change that situation.

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From raystrach - 14 Dec 2007 - 07:51   -   Updated: 14 Dec 2007 - 07:52

Here's the dicotamy:

  1. Squash venues charge enough to make them profitable(so they don't close down)
  2. Participation is still affordable enough to make the sport appealing to the masses

The problem that we have here in Australia (and it seems by many comments from around the world) is that we do not get the service that makes it worthwhile to pay what will inevitably be a higher price for our sport. If we are to be provided with facilties to play squash in, they need to turn a dollar (or euro or pound etc). Even council and community run facilities want to get some form of return.

It seems we in the Squash industry have no idea of service, or very little at least. In my mind, squash is a service industry, but unfortunately there is little or no service in most cases. Those who offer real service are doing ok.

Over the period this forum has been going, there have been many who struggle to find a slot for themselves because their local squash scene is hard to break into. I am certain many readers will have been in this position themselves.

We in the industry need to coome into the 21st century and start offering real service and go out of our way to cater for the squash playing public. In my experience there are heaps of people out there who respond to real service. As soon as you stop offering it, they leave in droves.

I could go on...

I look forward to the day when items in this forum will  be about not how much it costs, but what you actually get for what you pay. I would be interested in hearing your opinion on this.

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From SamBWFC - 10 Dec 2007 - 04:45

I see David Lloyd prices are just as rip-off where you are as they are up here Adz.


I'd love to be a member at somewhere like that, but the prices are just ridiculous. David Lloyd have two teams in our league, and we played, and beat them last week (my first win at senior level, woohoo, 3-0 as well!) anyway, back onto David Lloyd, their team said the club are just interested in money and memberships and don't really care for the squash down there. Typical for a place like that!

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From Adz - 09 Dec 2007 - 22:13

There's a massive mix of different prices around where I am (South Wales, UK).


Leisure Centres: £5.90 per court (45 mins), or you can join a monthly scheme costing £28 where courts are free for the members, or £2.95 for their opponents (if the opponent isn't a member). Courts are always booked up and never looked after by the council. A lot of money for poor outcomes!


Private Clubs - One costs £150 to join and £5 per court (guests fees £10 per court - 40mins). The other costs £155 to join and £5.50 per court (guest fees £10 - 45mins). No problems booking courts except on team match nights (each club has 4 teams, so 4 nights a week has full bookings normally!


Local college facilities - Yearly membership £155 for Squash, free courts, £3 guest fee, 40mins, or £215 for same prices but full facilities access including gym, classes etc. Good quality courts, but always booked up to the hilt!


Local super club (David Lloyd, Esporta, that type of thing!) - Normally £60 per month with £20 admin fee at time of joining. Extra if you wish to play tennis. Student rates £50 per month ( £20 admin fee upon joining), but students include tennis facilities. Most classes are free, but coaching is charged for by club professionals (usually available on site). Guest fees £10. Courts are 45mins (I think!). Courts are usually easy to come by, except early evening (5-7pm) and on team nights (3 nights a week).


I opted to join the big club as it was the easiest to get to from home (only 10miles away), whilst the other private clubs ae all about 25 miles away! Plus it's lets me train at 6.30am before I go in to the office, whilst none of the others are open before 8am!


 


Cheers


 


Adz


 

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From SamBWFC - 09 Dec 2007 - 04:46

I play at my local club in Bolton. We have a 'Leisure Card', which gives us access to the courts cheaper. Now as I'm a student, it means I get the courts even cheaper :D



  • Two squash courts

  • £3.10 for 40 minutes

  • £10 to join the actual team, which includes the team kit

  • £5 per match night, which contributes to our after-match meal

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From jimbob1965 - 08 Dec 2007 - 21:34

Mike


I have already mentioned on here about the loss of courts (4 courts to 2 courts) at my local leisure centre where I play, which has badly restricted court availability.  Anyway, here are my details:



  • Staffordshire, central England

  • Local leisure centre, plublic access.  There's a £20 annual fee for 'leisure activity passport' (LAP) which gives discounted rates for most facilities, plus telephone booking in advance.

  • £5.20 court hire for 40 mins (£7.50 non-LAP holders)

Courts generally in high demand during peak times (Mon-thur 5pm - 9pm), especially since we went down to just 2 courts, so need to book well in advance (up to 7 days) for these sessions.  During peak times, there is no chance of sneaking a few minutes warm up before your session as there is no free court, plus you have to get off immediately at the end as there is someone always waiting.  Must admit, I find this frustrating as I usually play better if I have had a good hit and 'got my eye in' before the session.  Off peak is not normally a problem and you can often just walk on to a court early and play on after the 40 mins are up.


We are currently discussing how we can promote squash better with the leisure centre management in order to increase participation and protect what we have left, although, as I have said, we need to do this in a measured way as we already have capacity issues at peak times with just 2 courts.


There are no private membership clubs in my town, the nearest being 10 miles away in neighbouring towns.


Hope you find that useful.


Cheers


Jimbob

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