Interview with Tomasz Banasiak and Wojtek Nowisz
The European Squash Team Championships will be held In May in Poland. Over 30 national teams will take part. We are talking about preparations and the position of Polish squash with Tomasz Banasiak, the President of Polish Squash Federation and Wojtek Nowisz, the multiple Polish Champion in squash and the owner of one of the most buoyant squash clubs in Poland – Kahuna, which will be the host to The Championships.
Let’s start with a question, which obviously comes to my mind. Where did you take an idea to organize this event in Poland from? Is it a sign that we are becoming dominant in this form of sport?
Tomasz Banasiak: For sure squash in Poland is expanding very fast. Have a look at the number of tournaments, players, and a recreational aspect of this sport. There are over 11.000 registered male and 2.100 female players. There are over 3.000 men and over 500 women in the rank. Just to compare, in 2006 there were only 130 of them, and in 2010 – 770. This shows the dynamics of changes. Currently, every year there are around 600 tournaments, and in 2009 and 2010 there were only 120 of them. In November last year we had a record result – during only one week over 1000 players took part in tournaments organized by the PFS. It was a phenomenon not only in this sport but generally in Poland. None of other sports can get such a result, of course excluding running events.
Only a couple of years ago there was an opinion that squash is only for businessmen, the elite, inaccessible. Today it is totally different, there are more and more squash clubs emerging in our country.
Wojtek Nowisz: It’s true… Compared to 2009 we have four times more clubs. Within 10 years there are ten times more. There are more and more events, practically every weekend there are tournaments in different categories. Basically, the issue of organizing the Championships came straight from The European Squash Federation. Before, there had been unofficial talks, but is widely noticed in the world that squash has good prospects here in Poland. We were granted the privilege to organize this event and it turned out that Kahuna meets all the world requirements.
TB: It proves our Polish maturity in the field of squash. After a few years of slow expansion, within the last five years this sport has soared. Research points out that currently there are 250.000 active players which means an increase by 100.000 only in the last two years. In England, which is a leading country as for the number of players, the increase at the same time was 10 times lower. You need to take it into consideration that the organization of The Championships results from the strategy taken by the PFS in 2012. Year after year we have had three major events: in 2015 there was the European Club Championships in Cracow. This year – the European Team Championships in Warsaw, and next year we will experience squash on a top world level during The World Games 2017 in Wrocław. It proves best that squash is expanding fast.
Why is it Kahuna that is the host to The Championships? Is it a matter of the facility or maybe who the owner is that mattered?
WN (laughing): The fact that I am an active player must have influenced the decision. First of all, I have seen many times how such events were organized somewhere else and what the facilities were like. I thought that our club is no worse than other best clubs, we have successes but at the same time squash is gaining massive popularity. These factors made it possible for Poland to deserve to organize such an event. European Squash Federation representatives came to visit us and check the whole infrastructure, the courts and Warsaw logistic possibilities which is essential in this case. Formally, our courts meet world norms, and besides 8 basic squash courts there will be a glass court along with the stands. It is Kahuna where the Polish National Team trains regularly. We meet all requirements. The visit was successful and this way The Championships will be held in Poland.
Is it known who is coming to Poland in May?
WN: We can say it now that we are just about to experience a great sports event, because the best European players are coming. Among them you will be able to admire Greg Gaultier, Nick Matthew, Simon Rosner and Mathieu Castagnet. It is the top of the world rank as well as in the case of women. There will be Laura Massaro, Camille Serme, Alison Waters. You will have an opportunity to see the Polish players live. You won’t be disappointed by the level of the event. During four days you will be able to see over 30 teams, 200 players, and around 300 games. It is an opportunity to see the best players as well as less experienced ones, who often start their adventure on this level.
You have mentioned that there are more and more people playing squash. An interest in this sport has been on increase. Thus, can we say that we are becoming a power in squash and our players are becoming more and more successful?
WN: We are gradually building our position. Currently both men and women play in the second division. We also have other players. The team appoints 6 players in a tournament, but when it comes to regular training sessions there are 20 players more. We have a wide choice. What satisfies us is the fact that junior players push themselves forward. There are a few promising names.
TB: The sky is the limit for our young players. Right now juniors are able to beat older players in Poland. They also win tournaments in Europe in different age groups. Currently in Polish tournaments there are over 1000 junior players in five different age groups, separately boys and girls. The lowest group is U-11. Polish National Teams have been competing in Europe since 2003 and have won gold and silver medals of European Championships. It is a long way ahead of us to reach the top players and getting to the podium in the Division 2 in Warsaw will be hard. We are still looking forward to juniors and seniors’ successes and it will be an effect of the growing importance of Polish Squash in the world. What I mean is not only the level of our players but coaches or umpires as well who take part in the most important championships tournaments and the engagement of Polish representatives in the authorities of the European Squash Federation (ed. Tomasz Banasiak was a Board member of ESF). All these things comprise the current situation of squash. Thanks to passion and hard work of the squash environment we have optimistic prospects for the future…