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Squash New Zealand chief executive officer Martin Dowson catches up with Vicki Rae (Squash Midlands), Kirsty Clay (Celtic) and Phil Pavletich (Ashburton) at Ashburton Squash Club this week. Photo Toni Williams

Squash New Zealand boss Martin Dowson had a whirlwind visit to Ashburton this week meeting hierarchy from the district’s squash clubs and seeking feedback from grassroots level.

Mr Dowson took over his Zealand chief executive officer role just three weeks ago. He was previously involved with High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Squash New Zealand has 18,000 squash players nationwide under its umbrella and he is keen for feedback on the sport from the regions.

Joined by Squash Midlands district president Vicki Rae, Mr Dowson met with Ashburton Squash Club president Phil Pavletich and Celtic Squash Club president Kirsty Clay at Ashburton Squash Club before a visit to Collegiate Squash Club and then lunch with others from Methven Squash Club, Rakaia Squash Club, Hinds Squash Club as well as Sport Canterbury.

Mid Canterbury squash clubs come under the Midlands district, which runs from Rakaia to Oamaru and has 16 affiliated clubs; seven are in Mid Canterbury.

Among the talks was discussion on district numbers, club facilities, the value of national affiliation fees, interclub competitions, grading systems, social media platforms and updating the national iSquash system.

There were plans in the district for a multi-media campaign early next year, Ms Rae said.

“We want to remind people that squash is here,” she said, although Squash Midlands had seen a surge in players, boasting 1000 throughout the district.

As part of his information gathering he was asking club members what was working well for them, what challenges they faced and asking them what advice they wanted to pass to him to guide him in his role.

Mr Dowson has played squash since studying at Otago University and is a member of Browns Bay, in Auckland. He has continued to play interclub for 30 years and describes himself as an average B grader.

“I understand the challenges that many clubs face financially and how to grow or simply maintain memberships. I also am aware of how much a squash club can be part of the local community, it is a game that so simply connects all types of New Zealanders socially together that can lead to so much health and happiness.”

The information gathered so far had created a lot of discussion but there were still districts to visit, he said.