How 'Tournament Tuesday' has revived squash community in Vienna

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How 'Tournament Tuesday' has revived squash community in Vienna

Jonathan Gallacher has used his own unique concept called Tournament Tuesday to rebuild the squash community at Padeldome Club in Vienna following the ravages of Covid-19.

Level 4 coach Gallacher had worked extensively in the UK, Barbados, Australia and New Zealand before getting the job in Vienna just as the pandemic struck. Through the devastating lockdowns, when all squash play was prohibited, he came up with an idea to reignite participation at the 15-court club.

Every Tuesday night without fail, Tournament Tuesday begins at 6pm. Players book online and Jonathan organises them into graded groups of eight (e.g. Group A, B and C) by using their ratings on the popular online ranking system Squash Levels

Playing best-of-five matches, each group of eight plays to a finish in a MONRAD format, so every player gets a guaranteed three matches and a final position. If there is an odd number of players, Gallacher might form a group of five and make matches best of three.

Squash courts at The Padeldome in Vienna

Each group has two courts, so there are roughly six matches per court during the evening. Completing each group's matches takes up to two and a half hours. As four players are usually waiting for their turn to play (and having a much-needed rest!) social interaction happens naturally. Gallacher made a conscious decision for players to referee their matches themselves to keep the fun, friendly vibe.

It's no exaggeration to say that Tournament Tuesdays have been vital in rekindling squash at Padeldome. The format gives players a richer experience than a normal 'club night' and takes the place of a weekly inter-club match (Austria's national Bundesliga and regionalised Landesliga league fixtures are roughly once a month).

"I knew that events helped build up a community within the club as they are a good way to meet people," reveals Gallacher. "Members and non-members know that Tournament Tuesday is on every week and although it has a tournament structure, it's very friendly. 

Jonathan Gallacher (right) pictured with British coach Hadrian Stiff

"It's been the basis for re-building everything in the club since the pandemic. Players can meet each other, find out who's their standard, arrange training and matches together. It makes the club busier and more vibrant. It's worked well and I would encourage people to try this format."

The statistics are revealing:

  • - There have been 135 Tournament Tuesdays since the pandemic
  • - 262 different players ranging in Squash Levels from 15000 to 43 have taken part
  • - Usually 24 players or more each week (record for one night is 44)
  • - Standard has increased during the last three years with many players more than doubling their Squash Levels score
  • - Group A is typically now players over 2000 points; Group B 1000-2000; Group C 1000 and below 

Gallacher has the luxury of 15 courts (making Padeldome the biggest squash facility in Austria). That means even on Tournament Tuesday nights, there are seven courts left for general play.

With players cautious about returning to the court immediately post-lockdown, the idea wasn't an instant hit. Gallacher reveals: "The first week back after Covid, we had three players. It would have been easy to think, 'This isn't working,' but I think you need a certain level of perseverance and self-belief if you think you have a good structure.

The scoreboard at a Tournament Tuesday night at the Padeldome 

"If you're keen and motivated I think people recognise that and want to be part of that environment. It can build quite quickly. Within two or three months it was getting to 16 players and now we are packed every week.

"Some coaches in the past have been guilty of waiting for people to come through the doors and just giving individual lessons. Building a community is the key - make people feel welcome and remove barriers so they can come in and play without membership. 

"I'm definitely a fan of building the base of the pyramid at grassroots level. Every club has the capability to do that. If everyone does that it can lead to greater success for the game as a whole."

Jonathan Gallacher is a speaker at the ESF’s new ‘Coach as Manager’ workshop in association with the Squash Facilities Network at the Padeldome, Vienna, on 25-26 May. Click here for more details

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