Today it is our privilege to bring you an interview with former World No.2 Squash Player, Jenny Duncalf. We discuss captaining England at Squash, Jenny’s approach to training before a competition, her advice on transforming a passion into a business/career plus much more…
How did your passion for Squash begin and develop?
As a child I loved all sports, but my main sport was football. Unfortunately, aged 9 I was no longer allowed to play in my local team as I was the only girl in the team and the FA ruled that no girls were allowed to play with boys from u10 level and above. As disappointed as I was it enabled me to discover junior club at my local squash club on a Saturday morning instead of playing football matches.
I fell in love with the game instantly and couldn’t be on court or have a racket in my hand enough for many years to come! My development within the game was pretty quick and I went from junior club to the county team and national team fairly quickly as we had great opportunities and plenty of tournaments up and down the country every weekend.
What are your personal stand-out moments from your career?
I would say winning my 1st National Championships and also my first World Series title ‘The Qatar Classic’ which took me to my highest world ranking of no.2.
Captaining England and representing my country has always been my biggest honour and given me the most pleasure so to compete in 4 Commonwealth Games (3x silver medals) and to win European and World Team Championships have been major stand outs along the way.
What did a typical week of training consist of when you were preparing for a competition?
In the run up to an event I would tend to have a few tough on court sessions at the start of the week to sharpen my movement and hit the lungs pretty hard, mainly consisting of pressure feeds and ghosting. Match play would also be important, so I’d have at least two matches that week as well as technical lessons with my coach based on my upcoming opponents and themes I was going to try and employ during the competition.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to start with getting into sport and fitness?
Starting is the hardest part! It may feel scary or unattainable initially but once you take the first step you will wonder after a few days what you were worried about! The endorphins, benefits and results you gain from sport and exercise are well worth the hard work at the time. It shouldn’t be a chore though and take some time to figure out what exercise brings you joy and stick with that. For one person that could be lifting weights and seeing the results in the mirror 😉 and for another it could be doing a sliding tackle on a muddy, wet football pitch! Do what makes you happy.
Are there any people, books, or experiences that you would be willing to share with us, that have really helped shape your mentality?
As cliché as it sounds my family have shaped my mentality. I was brought up to always try my best, not to make excuses etc whilst remembering to enjoy myself. I also think my primary school Grosvenor House School in Birstwith, North Yorkshire shaped me. We were encouraged to play all sports, arts, run around outside, climb trees, jump into lakes etc as well as being pushed academically at a young age. We were rewarded for hard work and achievements and every child was incentivised and wanted to do well. I’m sure those values transferred into my adult life.
How have you continued your passion for health and fitness since retiring from squash?
Initially when I retired, I took a few months off training and fitness which was lovely. I had cake with my coffee and enjoyed all of those little pleasures that you can’t do as a professional athlete. Having been an athlete for most of my life though it wasn’t long before I wanted to get active again. I’ve started doing some classes at the gym I wouldn’t have done previously through fear of injury and also reignited my love for football and joined a local team where I train twice a week plus matches at the weekend. I’m on court most days coaching so still hitting balls and very much enjoying the less stressful post retirement lifestyle.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to take their passion and turn it into a successful business/ career?
I’m by no means an expert but I would say if you have a passion then that is a great place to start. So many people have jobs that they don’t enjoy or aren’t sure how they ended up in so if your job is your passion (like me!) then you are already in a good place. Have faith in it and hopefully your passion for what you are doing coupled with hard work and dedication will bring successful results.
Are there any specific principles that you try and live by?
Not specific ones but generally I just try my best to be kind to people and look on the bright side of life!
What are you goals and plans for the future?
I’d like to continue to be involved in squash and give back to the sport that has given me so much. I have just started working as the Performance Pathway Coach for Squash Australia which is a great chance to give back and hopefully make a difference to some aspiring youngsters. I also do private coaching and work on the professional tour as an MC and commentator.
Overall, the goal is to continue to be happy and take each day as it comes. Life is an adventure and it will take you where it takes you, enjoy the experiences!
Instagram and Twitter: @jennyduncalf