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Jason Hicks on Squash > Interview with
Martin Heath
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Where
are they now: Martin Heath

 

"Where
are They Now" Series: February ’06, Martin Heath

Martin Heath climbed to world
#4, largely on his own.
photo © 2006 Debra Tessier

Other than Peter Nicol, who is the most successful Squash player
of the modern generation, Martin Heath can lay claim to being
the best player Scotland ever produced.

With
a refreshing ‘my way’ approach to his squash,
Martin may have been the last in a unique breed of squash player
particularly when compared to the modern day athletes’ coach-massage-psychologist-nutritionist
support system.

Interestingly
it was for this very reason Nicol later changed his allegiance
to England, unfortunately for Scotland they lacked the funding,
England didn’t.
To say that Martin Heath did things his way during his career
as a squash player would be an understatement. With no personal
coach to speak of (except Buddha and a degree in Sports Science
gained at Glasgow University), Heath had managed to climb to
a career high of World #4 by 1999 and spent a total of 6 years
in the top ten.

Outside
the Squash court Martin took a keen interest in literature
and has even found the time to become a trained pilot.

On the day of this interview, Heath will have reached the age
of 33 years old and, in the middle of last year, took on the
role of Director of Squash at the University of Rochester.

Jason
Hicks
: Happy Birthday, Martin.

Martin Heath an opponent
players like Nick Matthew feared to play.

photo © 2006
Debra Tessier

MH: Cheers Jason!

JH: How
have things gone since retiring from the professional circuit?

MH: Very well, thanks. Basically, I’m still
heavily involved with Squash.
Along with the Rochester University program I’m also
playing hardball doubles pretty competitively with victories
in Denver and Montreal, no less!
Another big aspect has been my involvement with junior players
both in the tournament setting and I’ve also built up a
pretty successful Squash tour program to Scotland, something
I had already established during the last 8 or 9 years.
I also occasionally help out playing for my old Bundesliga team
in Germany

 
JH: How are you adjusting to the role of coach at Rochester and how
do you see the potential for the school in Squash terms?

MH:
I’m really enjoying coaching, so it hasn’t
really been a difficult adjustment.
It’s also a challenge and hopefully I can grow the program
to its full potential. It’s a great school and certainly
merits having a seriously competitive squad.

Now coach, commentator and
hardball doubles competitor. photo © 2006 Debra Tessier

JH: For any athlete it must be a tough decision to make,
to leave the competitive stage. Did you ever consider going
into a different business altogether?

MH:
Being a professional athlete is very intense and all-consuming
and when I ended my squash career, I did think about getting
out of sport and into something else. After a lot of thought
I realized that sport has been my life and has been the
catalyst to most of my experiences thus far. 
 
JH: What would you say was your fondest memory or experience?

MH:
I just loved the occasional 6 weeks on the road where I was
traveling to great places, meeting people, hanging out with
friends, competing at the highest level in my sport, making
money and generally just having a ball.  Something good
would always come up that altered plans a bit too. It’s something that
is difficult to recreate in your life unless you are independently
wealthy and have a bunch of friends to share it with, which usually
doesn’t happen unless you are a sportsman, musician or retired.  I
was one of the lucky ones.

JH: The subject of best player has been debated heavily
of late, who was the best player you ever played?

Martin Heath had some famous
battles with Jonathon Power ,

photo © 2006
Debra Tessier

MH:
Definitely Power.  I got my butt kicked by Nicol
on occasions too, though I always felt like I had a chance if
I had a good day, which happened occasionally.  Whereas
Power knew he had the physical and psychological edge and rarely
pulled his usual histrionics against me.  He controlled
the ‘T’ better than anyone and despite his image
as a shot-maker, he had the best basic game in the business.

Having
said that, it is a testament to Nicol’s competitive strength
that he didn’t allow Power to dominate the era.

JH:
You’ve managed to carve out
an interesting niche as TV commentator. Describe how that
came about.

MH:
It happened by accident (literally!). I first started commentating
at the 2000 Super Series event and when I was injured at other
tournaments, it eventually led to being asked to do all the
serious productions and the occasional major TV network.  I’ve worked
with some very well known presenters and basically it’s just
a lot of fun which gives me a window into another world.

JH: In a broader sense, how do you think the game of
Squash can become a larger media sport and enter into the psyche
of the general public?

MH:
You can market anything to sell, though Squash hasn’t had the
finance or knowledge to properly do this.  Although,
this doesn’t guarantee sustainability as people will quickly
forget when the next thing comes along.  I think our continued
gradual growth with its growing base will eventually make
investors, promoters and media take notice.  The Squash
tour is still an undervalued commodity and when promoters and
media think they can make reasonable money from it, it will snowball.  Also,
there are quite a few people with comfortable niches in the sport
that may get swallowed if the sport grows which doesn’t motivate
them to grow it beyond their scope.

As
far as the game goes, I still think we need more crunch points. 

JH: Thanks Martin, enjoy your day and your new venture!

MH:Thank you Jason, I certainly will!

 

For
further information on the Rochester University Squash program
or Junior Squash tours to Scotland, Martin Heath can be contacted
on martinrheath@aol.com

 

 

 

Jason
Hicks is a squash professional at the University Club of Boston,
MA USA.

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