Next up in our series of Squash Stories, we’re looking at the Rhiwbina Flying Squirrels 320 – which we think had the oldest average age of any team playing in Wales. The Squirrels played their last home match on the 26th April this year, where the combined age of the whole team would have been 320 years – hence the team name for that one match.
Now the 23 / 24 squash league season is upon us, we caught up with the team to see what got them into playing squash, how they’ve kept at it for so long and any words of wisdom they might have for someone who’s wanting to get into playing squash, but might think it’s too much of a young persons game.
Interview conducted by Alex Jeffers with team captain Martin Vicary, fielding questions to the team.
Alex Jeffers: Hey Team, thanks for agreeing to speak with us and to be a part of our Squash Stories campaign. I guess the first thing that I’d like to know is: How long have you been playing Squash, and what got you into the game in the first place?
Flying Squirrels: First of all may I introduce the team in order of age –
Ray Proudlock aka Yale
Martin Vicary aka Dot Cotton
Kingsley Rees aka HRH
Gareth Harris aka Unc
Dave Dean – will let you tomorrow. Can’t remember. (later confirmed to be Rodney)
As you know Rhiwbina has an excellent junior section. So I thought our team should also have “youth policy” and include a player who showed potential and to be brought on. So Dave Dean is our youth policy player at a mere 57 years.
Most of us started playing in our early to mid 20’s. Back in the mid 70’s and early 80’s a lot of players moved into squash from playing / retiring from football or rugby. I personally joined CHSOB RFC in 1977 and the club had 2 squash courts….
AJ: Oh wow, so you really have been playing for some time altogether. Now, did the team end up coming together? You all played out of Rhiwbina already presumably, but did you know each other before coming together to form the team or was it more of a chance encounter at the club?
FSq: Apart from one of our players we have all been members of Rhiwbina SC for at least 20 years and playing team squash at various levels just about every season. Kings has been a member for 30 years. So we all knew each other quite well and have had the odd beer in the bar over the years. In January 2023 the F squad was a new squad of 6 and there were only 3 of us of a certain age in the squad at the start. After a month or so two “youngsters” with a combined age of 121 joined the squad giving us the 5 elder statesmen of the squad. I did some mental arithmetic and had a chat with our captain, Adam Davies, along the lines of – you know for our last home match if we put out this team …….. Adam being very supportive of the idea said brilliant let’s do it. Adam designed a Flying Squirrels 320 man of the match trophy and I had the pleasure of presenting it to Ray Proudlock.
AJ: Sounds like a great way to build up the team! Of course sharing a beer in the bar after a game is one of the great social aspects of squash – but of course squash is great because of all of the health benefits too. What would you say your favourite thing about playing squash is? Is it the keeping fit and healthy side of things, the social side of things or something completely different?
FSq: I asked the team this question. Fairly universal in their answers. Yes a combination of the health benefits and the social aspects are equally important. I personally have always enjoyed getting physically distressed!! I captained a side for a few years 15 years ago where apart from your ability to hit the ball was a factor the having a beer in the bar after the match was a very close second requirement. And of course you must have the end of season team night out ending in the proverbial curry which is partially funded by fines. And Gareth Harris as fines manager is very imaginative with reasons as to what are fines are every week.
AJ: Good to hear the whole team have a similar attitude towards the game. Do you have any words of advice / encouragement for anyone who’s thinking about playing Squash, but might be concerned they’re too old to take part?
FSq: Again the consensus of option was you are are never too old to start. Just be sensible. And if you have been playing for a few decades and have reached a certain then just don’t stop. Don’t forget the Masters European and World Individual Championships have age categories of over 80 years – men and women. They may not be the most mobile but they are still on court.
AJ: Great advice, it’s never too late to start but of course make sure you listen to what your body is telling you. And finally, what’s next for the team? I know you played your last home game earlier in the year, but is that it for the team altogether now? Then individually what do you have planned next?
FSq: Well unfortunately Ray Proudlock’s knees won’t allow him to play team squash. But he is still playing in the club’s internal leagues. However a certain Richard Manners has joined the Flying Squirrels squad and is now the 2nd oldest player after yours truly. So the plan is to have the Flying Squirrels 320 playing again end of November/ December. And who knows for 2024. Assuming the squad stays together then hopefully there will be a Flying Squirrels 325!! Will we see a Flying Squirrels 330 or even a 340. Why not. I know none of us are planning on retiring in the foreseeable future. And don’t forget every year we can add 5 onto the age count!!
AJ: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk with me, all the best for the future guys.