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> … Not in my League …


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Rushing
around Europe …

April
17 , 2003 by Joe and Dan Kneipp

One of the most
common questions I get at tournaments is "Why are you
based in Amsterdam?"

I’m not sure
if this question arises because there is no obvious connection between
Aussie and Dutch culture, or whether it has more to do with the stereotyped
image of Amsterdam and the obvious conflict between a professional athlete
routinely drug tested based in a city renowned for its routine drug taking.

If you look
at the PSA’s new wizz-bang website a few clicks will show which tournaments
I have played over the past twelve months. Most of the top 20 players
have played around ten tournaments. There’s plenty of sports like tennis,
golf and formula one racing where the participants can make a living only
playing an event every five or six weeks. Squash is also one of these
sports if you’re ranked one or two in the world.

If that’s not
already bad enough it gets worse. The next major tournament is the PSA
Masters in the Persian Gulf in a month. It was supposed to be in a week,
but got postponed due to the war. If this tournament had been cancelled
instead of postponed it would have meant a six month gap between Super
Series tournaments – The Tournament of Champions at the end of February
through to the Hong Kong Open at the end of August. So obviously players
need to rely on another source of income.

Last year a
player ranked in the 20s worked out that on average throughout the year
the cost of his flights and travel expenses to PSA tournaments was very
similar to his prize money. He broke even with PSA. But the world ranking
this got him determined his value for league matches and exhibition tournaments
and this was what paid the bills and put food on the table. English league,
Dutch league and German league are the three major leagues that many of
the players rely on.

You can’t make
a successful living out of squash without playing these leagues, which
for an Australian means either living in Europe or using it as a second
home.

Most non Europeans
in the top 20 (Ong Beng Hee, Anthony Ricketts, Stewart Boswell and John
"G’day mate I’m a bloody Scotsman I tell ya crikey struth"
White) are based in the UK, because of the language.

So why Amsterdam
and not London? When I first started on the tour and was playing in South
America I quickly became good friends with Lucas Buit – the top Dutch
player then – who invited me to stay with him in Holland if I needed a
base in Europe. I took him up on this offer and quickly learned that virtually
every Dutch person speaks great English, it’s perfectly central to all
of the leagues and it provided a contrasting culture to Australia which
was a good experience. Holland has been a hotbed of squash
action and strength on and off over the past few years. John White, Graham
Ryding, Olli Tuominen, Amr Shabana, Anthony Hill and Billy Haddrell have
all lived in Holland at one stage. Former world #2 Liz Irving coaches
in Amsterdam ensuring there’s always a stream of the top women pros. David
Palmer lives only a couple of hours away in Antwerp. So being central
to all of the leagues and having high quality players to train with are
very important.

Things can get
a little crazy and hectic with the leagues though. A couple of weeks ago
I took a Friday morning train to Koblenz in Germany (4 hours away) and
played a home match for my Bundesliga team. Our team of four travelled
on the Saturday to our opponents club (2 hours), then Sunday afternoon
I played a dead rubber – we were already in the playoffs.

I rushed back
from Germany (5 hours), got home to Amsterdam at 9:30pm, packed again
and left home at 9 the next morning for a flight to England for a superleague
match. This included a five hour train ride once I got off the plane in
England. I got back from England on the Tuesday and flew to Estonia on
Friday afternoon. I played the tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

This was a non-PSA
event which was how they were able to have more than one
match per day. I played two guys on Saturday including Shahier Razik.
Then
Sunday morning I played Mark Chaloner followed by the final against Renan
Lavigne
in the afternoon which I won. I spent the Monday sight seeing around Tallin,
and returned to Amsterdam on Tuesday.

Despite the
drought of large PSA events, things don’t get any less hectic.

On Saturday
we have the Dutch League Semi Finals (Palmer, Kneipp, Golan,
Buit versus White, Boswell, Gaultier and Berden). Then on Monday we fly
to
New York to participate in the Kellner Cup Hardball Doubles tournament.
It’s
my first hardball tournament and my partner will be Brett Martin! Once
we return May’s schedule includes an invitational tournament in Luxembourg
that I won last year, a clash of events between Slovakian League, the
PSA Masters in Qatar and a social tournament in Dubai. The German League
playoffs are at the end of May.

So attempting
this league and tournament calendar without being based somewhere in Europe
is unthinkable.

Team Kneipp
will be based at Dartmouth College for July. Joe will be the resident
pro during the Power Squash Academy.

Kneipp’s
SquashTalk Forum

Feedback:
if you would like to discuss our columns or introduce questions
or comments, please email us at dan@teamkneipp.com.
We will post the good comments and question here on our SquashTalk
column together with our responses. We hope to get a good dialogue
started!

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