Taihape Squash Club won the club-of-the-year award at this year’s Squash New Zealand awards.
In rural Rangitīkei you can now find the best squash club in the country.
Taihape Squash Club was this week named the club of the year at the Squash New Zealand Awards, a big achievement said club president Daryl O’Hara.
“We’re a good hearty little country club. It’s neat to be recognised.
“We’re really grateful for Central to recognise us and Squash New Zealand to pluck us out. We want to keep rolling.”
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The club has had big growth in recent years and has seen results since it created a strategic plan in 2019.
The plan focused on culture, having a welcoming facility, providing player pathways, increasing coaching depth, improving fundraising efforts and growing the committee.
“Three years ago I took over the president’s job. We didn’t sit down and write anything, we knew it needed some guts put back into it and knew where we were lacking.
“In a lot of these clubs they tick along, they have good people running them, but they have been there for 10 years, it is just operating.
“We came up with a plan and we knew what we wanted to do.”
The club has 120 members and the business house competition has been increasingly popular, with 20 teams.
“That’s 100 people and each team had to supply a novice player and we engage with them with tips.
“Everyone joined up and they dragged their mates along.”
Lots of farmers are members and people come in for a drink and a meal. O’Hara said the club used to have a drinking culture, but now it has a family culture.
“Times change and you’ve got to change.”
Even with the Covid-19 lockdown affecting a tournament and a round of the business house competition, kitchen takings were up this year.
Club lounges have been redone, heat pumps and a sound system installed, courts refurbished and a new water-bottle-filling machine put in, with big fundraising efforts helping.
“We put our members first.”
Now they are looking at plans to expand from two courts to four and installing large bifolding doors.
If the club had four courts it could host national tournaments.
The club offers coaching, makes sure it recognises its sponsors all the time and “puts lots of little things in place that make like easier”.
After all the work the club has done, O’Hara felt vindicated after Squash New Zealand officials recently visited the clubs in the Central region.
“The CEO was speaking and the old hair on the back of the neck was standing up because we were ticking them off: we had done that, we were doing that.
“It was neat to hear from a professional point of view how they said they were going to improve Squash NZ and we had done it at club level.”
In other awards, Scotland-based Palmerston North professional Kaitlyn Watts was named the most-improved senior women’s player.