The Whistler Squash Club hopes some planned drop-in sessions will boost its junior ranks.
The club began welcoming young players to give the sport a try for free on Oct. 11 and the drop-ins will run until Nov. 18 at the Meadow Park Sports Centre. In late November, regular junior programming will kick off with the hopes of kids who attended the drop-ins continuing with the sport.
Club administrator and coach Rob Eberhard said though the club has had a junior program for several years, this is the first major push to add some depth by filling out the roster.
"We're hoping to get a good core of boys and girls who are really interested in squash and want to take up the sport as an alternative to some of the other sports here in Whistler," he said. "We have a good program and we'd like to really get some kids involved.
"Last year, we bought 30 racquets for the purpose of supplying kids for all the gear that they need, along with goggles. We've got all the gear. We've got everything in place."
There will be four sessions per week. Mondays from 3:15 to 4 p.m. will be a girls-only drop-in, while Tuesdays at the same time will welcome all youths with a focus on kids aged eight to 10. Wednesday from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. will be designed for tots aged three to five, while Fridays from 3:15 to 4 p.m. will be open to all youths, although it is focused on those aged 10 to 13. There will be no drop-ins on Halloween (Oct. 31) or Remembrance Day (Nov. 11).
"We're hoping for somewhere between 10 to 15 (kids) and ideally, we'd get upwards of 20 kids at least one day a week," Eberhard said. "We already have six or seven kids confirmed... We weren't expecting to get any confirmation before it actually started, so it's good."
Eberhard said the Wednesday sessions for the youngest players in particular will be interesting as they will look to give kids a taste of the sport in the hopes that they delve more deeply as they get older.
"It's a little bit of an experiment for us. We've never run a tots program. It'll be focused on fun. We'll have balloons and big soft balls and squash racquets and table-tennis racquets," he said. "We do have another 30 racquets that are made much smaller than a normal squash racquet specifically for that group.
"It's a little less focused on squash and a little more focused on just getting the kids out doing something, getting that introduction to squash."
At the end of the season, Eberhard plans to offer the players a chance to compete against some new players from the Vancouver area with a jamboree in North Vancouver.
"It'll be more of a novice, fun tournament," he said. "It'll be a good chance for the kids to see what tournaments are like, only in a non-competitive, fun environment with a lot of prizes."
Eberhard points to his daughter, Sage, as an example of what players might become. She recently won the consolation side at a tournament in Shawnigan Lake despite being one of the youngest players on the court.
"This past tournament, she was playing 15- and 16-year-olds and she's only 11," he said. "She's already made her mark with the girls here in B.C. and nationals are being played in Vancouver this year for the juniors.
"She's going to compete against girls that are a year older than her, but I think she'll do really well even still."