Date: 5 April 2022 Author: Energise Me
Julie shares how for her, Squash is about so much more than activity. Playing the sport, she has met a group of friends who are always there to support each other through the ups and downs of life.
G – Bit late notice, but just in case anyone is free and fancies it, I’ve got a tennis court booked tonight for 1 hour at 7pm.
J – I can’t run but would be happy to hit?
C – And natter? I’m in
J -Maybe we should start at 4 pm 😂
C – A pre-match natter. My perfect warm-up regime 👍
T – I have a box league game this evening so won’t make it, sorry! Would be great to play another time soon.
We are 4 women who have played squash in the same team for many years. When the pandemic hit and we couldn’t go on the squash courts, we turned to tennis, when COVID guidelines permitted.
We wanted to get out in the fresh air and play some sort of racket sport. More than that though, we wanted and needed to stay in touch, to socialise, to check in on each other, to check in on our families and generally lift spirits. I guess we are a support group. Keepers of the spirit that we have come to know and enjoy just as much as the exercise and competition over the years.
The WhattsApp message above is just one of many exchanges in our group of 4 since the pandemic hit. Messages that make you smile, often laugh and always lift the spirits. You know each other so well you can read the words and connect to the tone and meaning.
In the last 2 years the ‘natter’ has arguably been more important than the running around. Of course, the physical benefits matter, but the mental benefits have been equally if not more important. Why? One of us has been caring for elderly parents who have been shielding. Trusting that the rest of us were taking all the precautions we could to stay safe, she was happy to come out and keep playing, reassured that she was in turn keeping her parents safe.
One of us lost both parents through a long-term condition and cancer. She lives on her own. The rest of her family live in America. Pre COVID, she had a full diary of squash, pilates, walks and visits that meant she was always socialising in some way. Of course, this stopped during the pandemic and some days, she might not have spoken to anyone at all. Coming out to play tennis, and recently padel tennis too has been much needed therapy. A safe and trusted group of friends with whom you can share your worries, frustrations and sadness.
One of us has family living in Ireland and couldn’t visit for a very long time. There was some job uncertainty for a while too. We talked about it all.
And I lost my Mum to heart failure. She was 91 years old and in her words, she’d “had a good innings”. She was a pragmatic, strong Yorkshire woman. My family and I were able to care for my Mum at home to the very end. A privilege that we’re thankful for. In between the trips to Yorkshire to care for my Mum, my group of squash friends were ready with a game of tennis, a listening ear, and a bucket load of strength, encouragement and support.
When I received the WhattsApp messages and laughed it made me reflect on this group of friends who have found ways to stay connected throughout the pandemic and look out for each other. For me, whatever way you choose to be active, it’s more than the activity. It’s those connections you make, the time you spend and the friendships you value.