The inclusion of emerging talent Emily Flett in Squash New Zealand's development squad caps off a successful year for Squash Southland.
Ranked seventh nationally in the under-17 division, Flett dominated the Highlanders Series run between Otago and Southland this season and was a member of the James Hargest College team that won the Southland Secondary Schools title in September.
Flett and Ben Smail reigned supreme in their respective open grade divisions of both the ILT Southland Junior Open and the Otago Junior Open. The pair were also selected to compete at the New Zealand Junior Championships in the Southland/Otago composite team.
"It was a huge achievement by two very talented young players," Squash Southland administrator Marj Baker said. "We have had a very successful year with the results speaking for themselves."
Just two years ago Squash Southland had no under-11 or under-13 teams competing at the South Island age-group teams tournament.
"Thanks to the success of our development plan, this year we were represented by teams in all age groups from under 11 through to under 17," Baker said.
"Southland bought home four gold medals, two silver and one bronze medal from the eight medals available and won the overall tournament title."
The organisation was reaping the benefits of a development plan implemented last year where the focus was on not only identifying talented players, but juniors ready to commit to the sport.
Nominated by their respective clubs, 43 junior players were placed into squads - three based in Invercargill and one in Gore.
Coaches involved were selected from Squash Southland's Coach Force programme, which is run by Squash New Zealand qualified coach Mike Allred.
"Mike is here to ‘coach the coaches'," Baker said.
"He is employed by Squash Southland to visit the province on a monthly basis and deliver modules to new and existing coaches. We want to invest in our own coaches and volunteers to ensure our future and we're taking a long term approach in developing our own.
"The end result is that we end up with coaches in clubs all teaching the correct techniques to all players and we can already see that having an impact."
The success continued in the individual ranks at the South Island Age Group tournament in Timaru, with Anna O'Connor winning the under-11 girls' title and Caleb Madden and Rebecca Fairweather second in their respective under-13 and under-19 divisions.
This year, Southland also took top honours at the South Island Quadrangular team event with a team comprising six senior, six junior and four master players.
"Squash in Southland has experienced another year of growth and this is a reflection of all the hard work being done at all levels by dedicated people involved with our clubs," Baker said.
- The Southland Times