Former headteacher opens grammar school’s £250k squash club

Opening of the William Harding Squash Club at Aylesbury Grammar School - pictured left to right are director of sport Paul Dean, squash professional Darren Withey, former headmaster Keith Smith, current headmaster Mark Sturgeon and former AGS pupil Phil Yerby
Opening of the William Harding Squash Club at Aylesbury Grammar School - pictured left to right are director of sport Paul Dean, squash professional Darren Withey, former headmaster Keith Smith, current headmaster Mark Sturgeon and former AGS pupil Phil Yerby
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Squash courts that cost a quarter of a million pounds to refurbish and are available for public use have been opened at Aylesbury Grammar School.

Former headmaster Keith Smith OBE, who was at the helm between 1967 to 1992, snipped the ribbon at the offical opening of the £250,000 courts yesterday evening.

Back in January 2013, the school in Walton Road, Aylesbury was awarded a £101,112 grant from Sport England to refurbish the courts, but this figure needed to be match funded.

As a result, the school’s development office launched a fundraising campaign to raise the total to nearly £250,000, enabling the courts to be restored to their former glory.

A grant from the local William Harding’s charity also helped the boost the total and it was decided the new building would be christened the William Harding Squash Club in its honour.

Development director Alison Cox said: “The competition for funding was tough but it has been our intention all along to make the new facilities work for everyone from grassroots to elite level.”

Current headmaster Mark Sturgeon said: “The squash courts are a unique resource dating back to 1968.

“The old courts have been transformed into a larger resource for the school and the wider community to inspire participation in this great sport.

“The resulting building has gone far beyond the original plans and this has only been possible through the generosity and support from all the friends of AGS.

“We are sincerely grateful for the generous donations from across our community, from Sport England and the William Harding Charity which have enabled our vision to become a reality.”

Squash has been important part of the sporting scene at the school for a number of years and the first mention of the courts in Aylesburian Magazines is in the 1968 edition, where it is recorded that thanks to the efforts of the then headmaster, Keith Smith, who noted that squash courts and a rifle range had been gifted to the school.

The old courts were first used in the spring of 1969 and the school’s squash club was formed in the summer of 1972.

The season of 1972/73 saw the first school matches and participation in the National Schools Competition, an event in which much success was achieved in subsequent years.

Over the years, the school’s teams have achieved considerable success – winning seven National Schools Championships, two Bath Cups, three Northwood Cups and the Londonderry Cup for two consecutive years.

With the opening of the new courts and subsequent professional coaching, the school’s success is set to continue.

Old Aylesburian, squash player and campaign board member Phil Yerby, who was a student at the school from 1979 to 1986, said: “It’s a great facility that will inspire many people to take up squash as a sport.

“More than that, the nature of the sport helps develop a competitive spirit which will serve young people well in all walks of life.

“It is important those of us who had these facilities provided for us in our time are instrumental in ensuring they are available for the next generation.”