National squash champion Lisa Aitken thinks Banchory Sports Village can be a hub for Scotland’s squash aces in the build-up to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Aitken, a member of Aberdeen Squash Club in the city’s Mannofield and who turned out for Grampian at junior level, landed her fourth Scottish title in 10 years at the weekend.
A seasoned Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour player, the world No 40 is aiming to represent her country and sport at Birmingham 2022.
She thinks the courts at the newly-opened sports village can help Team Scotland hone their skills for what is squash’s “pinnacle”, especially in the rarely-played doubles discipline.
Aitken said: “They’ve built the courts side by side and the wall separating them can be moved, creating a doubles court.
“In squash, doubles is only ever played once every four years at the Commonwealth Games. There’s no other tournament in the world, no league, no circuit, nothing.
“What generally happens in Commonwealth countries is six months before the Games you panic and think ‘we need to get on the doubles court’, so they’re really hard to come by.
“As a country we’re very good at doubles and have just missed a bronze medal the past four Commonwealth cycles.
“The fact Banchory now has a brand new doubles court, it gives us a facility to train on our doorstep for 2022.”
The PSA Tour has been shut down like much of the sporting world and it is unclear when the international calendar, which sees Aitken divide her time mostly between America, Asia and mainland Europe, will resume.
Closer to home, Aitken says it’s heartening to see the new courts at the partially community-funded Banchory facility, with the cash for the courts put up by Roemex owner Richard Simcox, an “advocate” for the sport who is also now Aitken’s sponsor after they met at the venue’s opening ceremony.
Aitken says the new courts buck the trend in the region which has seen clubs and participation drop in recent times.
She has watched with “sadness” as Grampian went from “by far the strongest region in Scotland” in the junior ranks to struggling to put up a team, and said: “Richard was very keen to get squash courts into the Banchory Sports Village, because the local courts had shut down.
“It was a shame, because they had a community and it was quite social.
“Two squash courts have been put in and the fact they’re part of the new facility means the Banchory teams can come back together and rejoin the leagues.
“The centre’s pretty new and they’ve already got five teams.
“It’s good for the game of squash, which had a boom in the 1970s and has tailed off ever since. Any participation increase, whether it’s new teams or kids turning up at coaching sessions, it’s a positive.
“It’s new and sparkly, so kids are able to visit with their parents, see people playing the sport, get curious about it and want to have a go themselves.”