Bill Carne popped over to The Meads Leisure Centre in Milford Haven this week to talk to Jason Davies, who is not only a very useful squash player in his own right but is doing a cracking job of coaching the young players coming off the conveyor belt of talent established by Peter Crook . . .

Jason Davies is living proof of the fact that someone can be relatively inactive, sporting-wise, catch a sporting bug almost by accident and then not only play well himself but put a lot back into the game by coaching young players.

Up until he was almost 30, Jason had only played a little rugby in a Milford Central School team coached by Steve Holmes, and played the odd game of badminton, usually on holiday, but then joined his brother-in-law in a game of squash.

“I was a complete novice,” admitted Jason, “but I really enjoyed it and so I persevered, grew in confidence and tried hard to improve my basic skills, without ever knowing what I really needed to do.

“I knew a few lads like Dave Banner, Martin Jones and his sons at Neyland Squash Club and so I joined them on practice nights and they gave me tips which were a great help, like the correct position to take on the court’s T-junction, using good footwork and thinking about the tactical aspects of the game.”

It certainly worked because before he knew it Jason was drafted into the Neyland ‘B’ team which played in the second division alongside his uncle, Paul Davies, Martin Jones and Gareth Williams, and as they gained in experience so the team began to hold their own.

But then came a new challenge because several first team players moved out of the area and it was decided they would merge both teams and continue playing as the first team in the top echelon.

“To be honest we weren’t really up to playing at that level,” Jason told us, “but were too strong when we played in the second division so we yo-yoed for a while between the sections.

“But things gradually settled and now we are a steady mid-table side in the first division, with Steve Kenyon, Mike Carew, Dave Banner, Ian Armstrong and others. We used to play up to 11 points over the best of five sets but now play up to 15 points per set which means greater concentration and fitness – but we are a bit of a social side and if we focussed a little more we might win a few more games but perhaps not enjoy it quite so much!”

When the courts in Neyland closed, Jason and Co moved to the Meads Leisure Centre in Milford Haven but retained their name and have been boosted by the arrival of Martin Rudd and Nick Mathias as they take on strong teams like The Meads, Haverfordwest, Narberth, Cardigan, Pembroke and the Teifi Valley (Newcastle Emlyn).

“The standard is very high as we sometimes take on the calibre of players like Welsh internationals James Walters (Meads) and Nick Dyer (Haverfordwest), both of whom compete in Swansea at a higher level again.”

Up until this season Jason had enjoyed a steady improvement and was happy to take part but this season has seen him win his first individual silverware at the Pembrokeshire Open tournament organised at The Meads by Peter and Alaina Crook, the most influential pair in Pembrokeshire Squash.

“I went along to take part in the under 50s class but originally they placed me in the under 40s section because they didn’t realise I was 43,” said Jason with a chuckle, “but when they put it right I played well.

“I had been in the under 50s the previous year and didn’t do very well but I played well when I started out this year and won my first three matches to reach the semi-final, which I was really pleased to win as well.

“It meant I took on Dai Warby (Meads) in the final and it went all the way after I led twice but Dai fought back each time – but I edged through by 15-11 in the final set.

“Peter Crook presented the trophies, which were organised by Elaina, and it was nice that there were good crowds watching us play.”

It was fitting reward for hard work in twice-weekly practice session but ask Jason about the area of his sport that he now enjoys the most and he might say that it was his role in helping Peter Crook coach the junior section every Sunday from 12-4pm.

Such is the enthusiasm shown by the talented young players that five of them, all under 16, play for The Meads ‘C’ team in the senior league, including Jason’s older son Joseph (15), whilst George (10) is also a very good player already and ranked in the top ten in Wales for his age group.

“I started out in coaching after my boys started out and Peter (Crook) asked me if I would be interested in doing some junior coaching. I am very lucky to have total support from my wife Fiona, who I hope will take up the game too, so I attended the level one course with Nick Dyer, organised by Squash Wales over two days at The Meads.

“They emphasised the need to have fun as a component of the training sessions and we work on core skills like the service and return, holding the T-position on court, forehand and backhand shots, plus gripping the racquet correctly, which I hadn’t realised was so important.

“There is no doubt that my attending the course helped my own play seeing the kids develop is fantastic. We have about 20 under 11s and the older ones are currently third in division two, which shows the giant strides they have made.”

When we asked Peter Crook about Jason’s involvement he told us,

“Jason has been a great help since he qualified and if it wasn’t for him I don’t think we could run the junior section.

“He is naturally good with the young players, who look up to him, and has the ability to improve their techniques – we are really lucky to have got him involved.”

High praise indeed from the Pembrokeshire doyen of squash and we can only add that having known Jason Davies for a long time we can add that he is a modest and unassuming man who is a credit to his family and his sport!