Tucked away in a little corner of Wallace Street in downtown Nanaimo is one of the best-kept fitness secrets.
And that’s much to the disappointment of members of the Nanaimo Squash Club who want to get the message out they are doing well and welcome new players.
“It seems like a lot of people don’t know we’re here,” said Omi Fontaine, club president. “We try and get the word out, but we’re hidden down here.”
Operating out of 256 Wallace St., the NSC first opened in 1981 as a private business, but changed to a members-run club in 1985.
The sport continues to grow in popularity worldwide – there’s a push to get squash into the 2020 Olympic Games – and the numbers at the Nanaimo club have remained steady over the years with between 140 members in the off-season and close to 180 in peak season.
But there’s room to grow.
“We have a steady number of squash enthusiasts in town but I believe we could support more than 200 members,” said Fontaine.
With summer coming to a close, the club is entering its busy season and is offering something for players of every age and ability.
The big news this year is the hiring of Andrew Birks, a world-ranked player from the Professional Squash Association tour, as the club’s new pro.
“We’re really excited about Andrew working here,” said Fontaine. “It’s not often you get an opportunity to get lessons from someone of that calibre.”
The club runs a series of programs for children, including a five-lesson introductory package to the sport through Nanaimo parks, recreation and culture.
The first package begins Sept. 15 and then again Nov. 3 and Jan. 12.
For those children already enjoying squash, the junior program, run by club pro Greg Vanderkoi, runs concurrently with the school year and begins Monday (Sept. 10) for children ages seven to 15 on Mondays and Fridays.
“It’s really good for a lot of the kids who don’t play team sports. They come down here and have some success at an individual sport,” said Fontaine.
Adults can take lessons as well, and an in-house league matches players with similar abilities.
“It’s a sport that can be quick to learn once you get the hand-eye co-ordination, but it takes a lifetime to master,” said Fontaine. “It’s also an incredible workout in a short time. I’ll get out on the court and run my heart out for 45 minutes.”
The club is marking World Squash Day Oct. 20 with an open house and one-day tournament, and hosts a stop on the B.C. Squash Association tour in February.
For more information, please go to www.nanaimosquashclub.com or call 250-754-3123.