Squash pro returning home with his family

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Interantional squash pro Daniel Sharplin and his wife Caroline and children Millie and Jacob are looking forward to spending summer in New Zealand.

Covid-19 has forced international squash pro Daniel Sharplin to rethink his short-term options.

The former Hinds lad is returning to New Zealand from the United States, along with his British wife, Caroline, and children Jacob, 15 and Millie, 13, to take time out over summer away from the global pandemic.

They arrive in New Zealand on November 12 and will quarantine until November 26.

The family will be based in Christchurch and have already lined up activities of interest for the teens in the city.

“The kids have not been at their school since March (currently 100 per cent online), and the school courts I work out of are still closed as well.”

The children were on the computer each day from 7.30am to 2.15pm, he said.

“We were in lockdown from March-July, so I was unable to work, at all, over that period. Although we are only 40 minutes north of Boston, the rules vary from state-to-state and the covid rates in New Hampshire are nowhere near as bad as they are in Massachusetts (Boston).

“Our social activities have definitely declined and with many businesses closed, or working at a reduced capacity, it is all very sad and depressing,” Daniel said.

“I am fortunate to be working out of three local clubs right now, but it is definitely challenging. We have brutally cold and snowy winters here. Flu season is coming and covid numbers are rising steadily each week, with an expected second surge approaching,” he said.

Daniel, a former New Zealand Commonwealth Games representative, has been living in the states for the past 19 years. The family now live in Atkinson, New Hampshire, population 7000.

He opened the Squashfit Academy in 2016, coaching junior players from beginner through to some of the elite players in the country but also coaches the Boys Varsity Team at Nobel and Greenough School.

In recent years he has been contracted by the US Squash to be head coach of the New England junior squad, made up of the best junior players in the five states – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“The main focus of the academy is to help serious players get recruited to play college squash on teams at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton,” he said.

“I am proud to say we have helped many, many players realise their dream of playing college squash.”

Daniel has spent more time lately coaching squash up to 30 hours a week rather than playing; his last competitive tournament was the World Masters Champs in 2018.

“I made it to the last 16, but then pinged my gracilis muscle in my leg and my tournament was over,” he said.

But he does like to test himself in match play against his two best players around twice a week.

“I am managing to hold them off, but it is definitely getting harder,” he said.

It will be his children’s first time to New Zealand.

“They are now at an age where they are very interested and excited so we are really looking forward to it. We feel like it will be a great life experience for us all to enjoy as a family,” he said.

“Millie is a national-level artistic swimmer who was asked to trial for the US National U15 team. We have already found a competitive programme in Christchurch for her and she is very much looking forward to competing in the NZ Nationals in mid-December in Hamilton.”

“Jacob made the New Hampshire State U15 soccer team this year, but basketball is his number one passion. “He plays in year round AAU Leagues and was recently invited to attend a college showcase event that was live streamed to respective college coaches around the country. He is also a die-hard Boston Celtics fan and we normally go to quite a few games, which is so much fun!

“Taking in all of these factors and having not had a New Zealand summer since 1990, we thought it was a great opportunity for us to expose the kids to different training philosophies and competition, meet new and old friends, and basically just enjoy the New Zealand way of life for a while.”

The Sharplins plan to be back in New Zealand over summer and will reassess early next year.

“I will be running some summer camps and trying to get out to some clubs in a coaching role for Midlands Squash while I am home. We will be keeping an eye on what is happening back in the US and will reassess things in February,” he said.

They have chosen to base themselves in Christchurch, as a chance to have a “totally different lifestyle for a while” but are already planning regular trips to visit grandparents Dawn and Neil in Ashburton.

“We live in the woods in New Hampshire so Caroline thought it would be fun to live in the city and have a totally different lifestyle for a while.”

Daniel and Caroline met in Luxembourg in 1997 when he was the national coach of Luxembourg.

They got married in the city in December 2000 and a year later moved to New York before Daniel took a job in Boston. Jacob and Millie were born in the United States.

By Toni Williams