As the squash season concludes, James Biggin, 40, MD of Steel City Marketing and his team are celebrating coming third in the Sheffield and District League Division 1 and league cup runners-up in the Peter Kramer Cup A Draw.
At the start of the season they were being talked about as relegation fodder.
James, whose father founded the leading promotional gifts company 35 years ago, remembers his father teaching him squash at Abbeydale Sports Club from the age of eight.
His love of the sport led him to be coached and now as he celebrates his 40th birthday, James is also celebrating being part of the Yorkshire league teams where the First Team cemented their place in the Premier Division and the Second Team won their Division by 90 points.
“I have been a life-long squash fan, I think the gladiatorial one-on-one style and competitiveness are hard to beat” smiles James, who plays in both the Sheffield & District 1st team and the Yorkshire second team. His company sponsors kit for the teams in both leagues.
“I took a break in 2010 to train for the London marathon and was gutted to miss break my personal target of sub-3 hours by just one minute. In 2011, I was a late entrant replacing a friend. With only one long run in the bag prior to the event I completed it in 3:12, but enjoyed it much more.”
It was getting to know Nick Matthew, squash’s current world number 3 who James calls “a great guy – passionate about getting more exposure for squash” and coach Neil Guirey, who got James back into the sport and now his own children, daughter Rosie and son Archie, are continuing the family tradition through the coaching at Abbeydale.
“During my time out of the sport, I can honestly say I have become a happier and better player”, said James.
“The break has restored my competitive edge and despite an injury last year, I am proud to be first team stand in captain, coming third in the league after Doncaster and Fulwood, who are exceptionally strong teams. Personally, I‘m trying to get more exposure for a fantastic sport.
“People just don’t seem to be aware that on Wednesday nights, the Yorkshire League teams play at Abbeydale. Completely free, families can come and watch top ranked players like Chris Simpson, the world number 23.
“I had the privilege to play Sarah Kippax, the world number 22 when I got promoted to first team – what I can only describe as a fantastic but brutal experience. Needless to say, I didn’t win!”
As a man whose passion for sport and an active lifestyle is shared by his whole family, James added: “For me, it’s about kids coming down to sports clubs like Abbeydale, Hallamshire or Fulwood and getting fit while having fun.
“Squash is a 365-day a year sport not affected by the weather! A recent Forbes report named squash ‘the healthiest sport in the world’ out of ten top sports: it’s a phenomenal cardio-vascular workout for adults and great for motor skills and hand-eye coordination for children.
“At Abbeydale, kids get a free first session, parents can play with their children and it’s a free spectator sport. And on the social side, there’s a bar, you can bring drinks through and the teams would love to have 20-30 people watching hugely competitive, ‘gladiator-style’ Yorkshire League games.
“Sky do feature some games, but there’s nothing better than watching four or five outstanding live top quality amateur matches on a Wednesday night (with a pint of beer) for free.”
And James’s message to Sheffield’s businesses community? “You could easily see squash as your new corporate hospitality: chilli & chips, a few pints, a fantastic night. Sponsor a match or a team and bring family, staff and clients along.”