Jason Hicks on Squash > Scott Denne: Cleveland
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Denne – Total Enthusiasm in Cleveland

Scott Denne

Cleveland based Australian
Squash Pro Scott Denne is known as one of the larger than life
characters on the US squash scene. After moving to the USA almost
8 years ago, following a playing career as a touring pro in Europe,
Scott has brought his infectious enthusiasm to the game along
with a sharp wit and a brash, direct approach.

I recently got
a chance to chat with Scott and managed to trace his career, from
his Squash roots starting out as young boy in his home state of Tasmania,
through to the present day.  After
helping establish further growth of the game in Ohio directing
several big PSA events during his time as Head Pro at the Cleveland
Raquet Club, Scott has now turned his attention to new personal
Squash projects.

JH: Hi Scott, thanks for agreeing to chat
with Squashtalk.

SD: No problem mate!

JH: Let’s go back to the early days,
what got you started playing Squash?

SD: I started playing squash at age 9 because I was always
hanging around the courts, as my mother was running the
local squash center called Squashway in Sandy Bay, Tasmania.
She encouraged me to play and before long I had played in my
first U13 tournament called the ‘Cheezels’ regionals,
I got killed by number 1 Tasmanian junior Dean Mason!!! He later
went on to become a top 35 player in on the P.S.A. list.
My mother was the number 1 woman player in the state. My mother
definitely had a big influence on my squash in the early days.

JH: Describe what made you decide
to make a career out of Squash, and how it became possible.

… on court.

SD: I was 16 and had just made the state junior
team in boy’s
u/17 and I made the Men’s u/19 team as well. After the Junior
nationals in 1986 I decided to leave Tasmania to seek better competition.

I decided to move to Adelaide, South Australia
where they had the South Australian Sports Institute with Len Atkins
who was Chris Dittmar’s coach, overseeing a government funded squash program.
Len encouraged me to come over and try to make the squad. It was
tough and I lived with another player on the squad, John Goodchild
and that was an experience. I improved a lot and got some good
results and made the squad and got a scholarship. Other top players
included Danny Jensen, Damien and Jason Mudge and Joe Kniepp.

was a great experience and on my first overseas trip I learnt how
to survive as well as how tough the squash is. It is hard being
from Australia as we have to come halfway around the world to play
as a pro, as we don’t have a big enough circuit back home.

I learnt
so much, saw the legendary Jansher Khan play for the first time
against one of my mates, trying to qualify and make a buck. It
was tough but I wouldn’t trade it.

JH: Now your playing days are over,
tell me more about your coaching career in the US.

SD: Well, currently I am running my own private coaching consultancy
company called High Performance Squash. I began teaching out of
a local Cleveland private high school as I left my position as
Squash Director at The Cleveland Racquet Club in November 2005
after almost 7 years. It grew tiresome and I had built up a very
large program from zero all on my own without any assistant pro.
I decided to move on and start up projects on my own to keep motivated.

Coaching the University School

I have created a high school team at University
School which competed in the National High School Team Championships
for the first time ever and recently staged an exhibition match
between top Aussie pros David Palmer and John White as well as
a junior tournament with 65 kids.

The school now is looking at making
Squash a varsity sport so I hope to be appointed the University
School Varsity Squash Coach.

Outside of the school I coach many
adults and kids and in particular, Amy Smedira who reached 3rd
place in the u/13 girls division in the US Nationals.

JH: In what way does the squash scene in the United States
differ from your experiences back home and in Europe?

SD: The Squash scene is very different here compared to Europe
and Australia.
Legends of the game have won local tournaments at my old home club
in Adelaide like Geoff Hunt and Chris Dittmar and your name is
up there with them so there is a bit of a honor to be there with
them. Also the whole social thing is different. Playing squash
there, league is huge, no matter whether your a D player or a pro,
everyone plays league once a week and then the teams all sit down
afterwards and have supper and a few beers. At all the levels there
are characters and it’s great they come together. Even the top
players like Dittmar and the likes of  Dan Jensen all went
through the league system.  It really meant something to win
a league title. It’s the same in Europe.

Here it is a lot
more difficult due to the size of the country to organize this
so that’s one obstacle, but also Squash
in the US is all geared towards kids getting into good colleges
and not so much on the social side. Still, this year’s nationals
was the best one they have done!! Saturday night there was a hall
of fame ceremony with John Nimick inducted which was great and
then a few beers and off to a local nightclub and when I got there
, there was about 40 pro’s all having a beer and a good time! It
was awesome. Good job Dave Talbott and team!

JH: You are affectionately nicknamed "The Larrikin" and
even Harrow has named a racket after you. How did You get the name?
SD: Well a ‘Larrikin’ is generally a
person who is always enjoying themselves and a bit of a wild
and unruly person. Fellow Aussie Pro Mick Robberds came up
with it and kind of describes me and it seems to have stuck.
The racquet came about as I have been using Harrow racquets
for about 5 years now and they do make custom stuff for schools.
I talked to them about doing my own racquet as a marketing
tool when I left my club and went out on my own. I thought
the Larrikin was the obvious name. Apparently Harrow checked
to make sure ‘a Larrikin’ wasn’t a really bad slogan
or swear word!

It was a bit of a laugh at first but I have actually
sold a lot of them and Harrow is going to put it permanently in
their line. Maybe it’s the Australian colors? Anyway, they
did a great job with it!!

JH: It’s clear that you approach life with a great sense
of humor. What is the funniest experience you have had during your
time as a Squash Pro?
SD: Geez, too many to name! As far as teaching goes,
I remember giving a lesson each week to a guy named Sandor
who was a Hungarian mobster (no really!), during my time in
Budapest. Although he loved the game, he used to get so mad
when we played and would swear like crazy.

Anyway, one day
I was in the locker room and he was getting changed for his
lesson. He opened up his bag to reveal a huge handgun in a
holster and said, in an eastern European accent, "If you
win today Scotty, this is for you later". I laughed but
wasn’t quite sure if he was joking or was serious. Anyway I
let him win that day!!

Another was when I was traveling with John
Goodchild. We had a 5 hour wait for a ferry in Denmark as we were
heading to the Finnish Open. He was bored and got out his racquet
and a ball and started hitting against this big glass wall at the
station square. I decided to join in, and before you know it,
a crowd of people had gathered.  Our
other mate put out a cap and people started putting money in. We
looked at each other and laughed and kept playing against this
wall in front of this crowd of Danish people. When we counted the
money we made about $125.00!!! We certainly had a good meal that

One last story was when I got a free apartment
in Budapest for playing for a league team.

I went in and it was
a small room, little stove, sink and table, chair, that’s
it. I though it was a great deal until I asked where the toilet
was. The man pointed at the sink!! I won’t
go into any more details, just leave the rest to your imagination……..!!!

JH: Great stories and great talking to you. I’m sure you’ve
more to tell but we are out of time!
SD: No worries mate, I must
admit I have been known to go on a bit…..

For information about High Performance Squash go

Hicks is a squash professional at the University Club of Boston,
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