Getting set to squash the competition

Kendyl Smith was virtually born with a squash racquet in her hand.

The 13-year-old from Halfmoon Bay remembers going to tournaments when she was young. In fact, according to her father Murray, he took Kendyl to tournaments when she was still a baby.

“She went to her first tournament when she was three weeks old. I still remember passing Kendyl over to someone else to hold and take care of when I had to play,” said Murray. “She was always at tournaments growing up. I guess the game grew on her.”

Kendyl picked up the game seriously four years ago in Prince George where Murray worked with the conservation office.

When Murray was transferred to the Coast a few years ago, he was shocked to find no squash facilities here.

Through mutual friends and contacts, he was able to secure a private court nestled in Roberts Creek where the two practise at least three times a week.

“We’ve really been fortunate to have this court space. Without it, it would have meant travelling a lot more to the Lower Mainland,” said Murray.

There is still lots of travel time though, as Kendyl is away many weekends competing in tournaments throughout the province.

Two weekends ago she was in Nanaimo for an open adult tournament where she won the women’s D event. More than 100 participants took part, and Kendyl was first in a draw with eight adult women.

This weekend, Kendyl will be a part of the zone five team (Vancouver-Squamish) at the B.C. Winter Games in Cranbrook.

Then she is off to the B.C. provincial closed championships next week at the Arbutus Club in Vancouver, followed by the B.C. provincial closed junior championships later in March at the Hollyburn Golf and Country Club in North Vancouver.

“I’m looking forward to this weekend — I’ve never been to the winter games before,” said Kendyl. “I love playing. I hope to do well. I’d really like a medal.”

Kendyl plans to play in nine tournaments this year — all off-Coast.

But the off-Coast travelling will cut down a bit later in March with the opening of the new community centre in Gibsons that will feature two courts — one for straight squash and one that can be converted to either squash or racquetball.

“During our time here, we’ve really got involved in the community, and the Sunshine Coast Indoor Racquet Association was established,” said Murray. “We have 60 enthusiastic members, but right now only 10 are playing. We’ve waited so long and gone through a lot of highs and lows during the process to get these new courts. Everyone can’t wait until the new community centre opens up and people can start enjoying all the facilities.”

Murray said he’s hoping that with these new courts, more people will get involved in the sport.

“Kendyl is the only junior playing on the Coast. I’d like to see that change,” Murray said. “Once we get things going, we’d like to get men’s and women’s drop-in sessions, set up a squash league, hold referee and coaching clinics and build a fraternity around the sport. There is a lot of interest and we now have the facilities to really make a push to grow the sport and get more people playing.”

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