This week we are excited to introduce you to Nathan Lake, Nathan is a professional squash player representing England on the PSA World Tour.
He started playing squash at the tender age of 9 at his local club, stumbling upon the game at his Dad’s rugby club, hitting around on the court as a way to pass the time while his Dad was out on the pitch.
Through his teens he moved club to East Glos in Cheltenham, training with the England Junior National Coach and worked incredibly hard to becoming the King of Europe, winning the European Junior Championships when he was 18.
He joined the PSA World Tour in 2010 and is now ranked #46 in the World. Once sport resumes he will no doubt be aiming to move further up the ranks, traveling around the world, playing the game he loves.
Check out our EXCLUSIVE interview with Nathan below:
Hey Nathan, it’s amazing to have you on board with us here at Sportside, how are you?!
Thank you, I’m excited to be partnering with Sportside.
I’m well, I’ve just gained access to a squash court again after a long time off due to the Corona virus and courts being closed which has lifted my spirits.
That’s great to hear. Now some of our readers might not be completely familiar with you, so could you tell us a little bit more about your background and what inspired you to pick up a squash racket?
I’m from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire and I started playing squash at the age of 9. My primary school happened to be opposite a renowned private school with 4 squash courts. They kindly allowed my school use of the courts a few times a week, a few friends already played and persuaded me to come along and that’s how I first found squash. From there I have been fortunate to come across so fantastic coaches and squash environments and I went on to play and captain England numerous times as a junior and become European Junior Champion at the age of 18.
Excellent, it’s great to see that you knew what you wanted and went after it! Squash is a sport that has always intrigued us at Sportside due to its intensity. It’s not the most accessible sport though, do you think that’s something it needs to work on?
Definitely, squash is a great sport and I’ve always believed if more people had access to the game and were able to try it at a young age, then participation numbers would improve dramatically. My hope is that Sportside can help remove the barriers to participation, resulting in more people being able to try the game and see how great a sport it is!
Yes, it’s inevitable that because of the need for a court, it won’t be as easily accessible as sports that can played anywhere. How do you think squash can overcome that challenge and really become one of the worlds emerging sports?
Traditionally squash clubs in the UK are member’s clubs often offering a range of sports like tennis, hockey rugby or large gym chains like David Lloyd or Virgin Active. This can often be intimidating for people that are new to the game and looking to just try it, they don’t want to pay a large amount upfront and commit to a year’s membership. With that in mind I think having a mix of these clubs and other facilities that offer easy one-off access to the sport are vital for squash to grow as a sport. Something that attracted me to Sportside is that they may be able to link up with all types of facilities and offer people one off access at the click of a button.
From enjoying squash and looking at the world rankings, it’s clear that Egypt hold a bit of a monopoly on the top rankings at the moment with the top four players being Egyptian and five Egyptian players making the top 10. What do you think they have done right, and what can British squash associations learn from that?
Yes, Egypt dominate the sport at the moment from a junior level right up through to the senior game. I think there are many reasons that they are leading the way at the moment. One, the country is aware that they dominate the World of squash and therefore it is a popular sport meaning more children are encouraged to play and the talent pool is bigger than other countries. In the UK, squash is competing with football, rugby, tennis, cricket etc etc, in Egypt, squash is higher in the pecking order. Secondly, squash in Egypt is largely concentrated in Alexandria and Cairo, this means that junior players get to witness the World’s best players training and playing against one another on an almost daily basis. That gives them the belief that they can go on and achieve success in squash.
According to the Professional Squash Association, you are currently ranked number 46 in the world, that must be a huge achievement for you?
Yes, it’s my career high to date. Before the Pro Squash Tour was paused because of Corona, I’d had my best season to date, winning three events since September in Houston, Philadelphia and Winnipeg. As much as possible I’ve found it more import to focus on working on my game and fitness and if I do that, the ranking will take care of itself.
Your career to date has taken you all over the world from Pittsburgh to Armenia to Kolkata. Is it possible for you to pinpoint a favourite event or a favourite city that you have visited on your travels?
It’s so difficult to choose one, but if I had to it would be Cape Town, South Africa. It’s was where I won my first event as a professional and I love almost everything about the place: the people, the food, the beaches, the landscape, their love of rugby, biltong and I could go on and on.
You’ve also been involved in some very competitive games – your match against Ashley Davies to win the Jersey Squash Classic immediately springs to mind. Are you able to really enjoy those matches or is that something you are only able to do afterwards?
Generally, you’re so engrossed in the performance and making sure you focus all your attention on executing the game plan that it’s not until after that you can relax and appreciate it. Even then quite often I am off to another event the next week so you can’t enjoy it for too long.
Great, and after months of lockdown it seems as though a degree of normality has returned. However, many of our readers have been asking how professionals kept fit and active during lockdown – can you share your secrets?
I was extremely fortunate that the two gyms I am a member of in Cheltenham: Simply Gym Cheltenham and Cheltenham CrossFit, lent me some equipment to train with. My trainer wrote me a program for me to get on with and I did some online classes ran by my CrossFit gym. In general, felt it was about doing what you could and not getting too stressed. Being a racket player, I desperately missed hitting a ball, so I started to take up tennis which I enjoyed a lot.
Nathan, we’re thrilled to have you onboard and can’t wait to see what the future holds! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.