Women’s squash in Pakistan gets a much-needed boost


A workshop for girls was organised in Peshawar by Noorena Shams.

In recent times, squash has experienced a decline in prominence within the public sphere of sports discussion in Pakistan. Despite this, conversations often reference a lengthy roster of legendary players when the topic arises. However, notably absent from these discussions are women players, who are rarely mentioned. While some may recall names like Carla Khan and Maria Toor, who made their mark on the international stage in the past, the recognition stops there for most.

Indeed, their observations are accurate, as Pakistan trails behind other nations in providing women with an environment conducive to excelling at the highest levels of squash. Additionally, social and cultural barriers have further hindered women seeking to establish themselves in the sport.

Concerningly, Pakistan’s top-ranked women’s squash player, Noor-ul-Huda, currently occupies the 199th position on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) rankings.

However, there is a glimmer of hope as Pakistan squash standout Noorena Shams recently initiated a positive step forward with her workshop for girls in Peshawar. This endeavor signifies that there is potential for progress despite the challenges faced in the sport.

Supported by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Squash Association and equipped with proficient coaches, Noorena and her team dedicated efforts towards enhancing players’ self-assurance, honing fundamental skills, fostering character development, and prioritizing their mental and physical well-being.

During the three-day workshop, 30 girls from Peshawar, ranging in age from 5 to 20, who are actively engaged in professional squash, gathered to participate.

“I’ve consistently aimed to amplify the presence and support for athletes. While my previous efforts were primarily within administrative capacities, the recent downturn in sporting activities has been disheartening. When presented with the opportunity to make a tangible difference, I seized it eagerly by organizing a workshop, particularly focusing on squash players, especially girls,” Noorena, originally from Lower Dir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, shared in an exclusive interview .

“As a fellow athlete, I recognize the invaluable contribution a skilled coach can make to our training regimen, and I observed a noticeable disparity between the girls and the coaching personnel available to us,” remarked Noorena, reflecting on her own experiences.

Noorena also shed light on what she wanted to achieve through this workshop.

“In our community, events like these are somewhat uncommon. Beyond the educational aspect of this gathering, our objectives included normalizing the recognition of girls in sports, validating their passion, and using media platforms to remind the community of their right to participate in sports. Additionally, we aimed to hold authorities accountable for the absence of such vital activities. These sessions play a crucial role in promoting diversity and fostering a sense of inclusivity,” she elaborated.

“In a nation where acceptance of women in sports remains a challenge, witnessing senior players, coaches, media personnel, parents, authorities, and teammates come together to celebrate each other and provide support instills confidence in athletes to persevere and persist rather than giving up,” she noted.

Noorena reported that the pioneering initiative, tailored specifically for girls involved in squash in Pakistan, garnered positive reception from parents, coaches, and even the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Furthermore, coaches have expressed interest in implementing a comparable program for boys as well.

Former Pakistan player Awais Khan and Adil Atlas Khan, a World Squash Federation Level 2 coach, participated in the workshop as coaches, contributing their expertise to the event.

Adil remarked, “The workshop proved to be exceptional, offering an enjoyable and enriching experience for the participants as they gained valuable insights through this endeavor.”

“We incorporated some enjoyable activities, but our primary emphasis was on enhancing their fundamental skills like grip, swing, mental well-being, and body balance, all of which are crucial for young players,” they explained.

The Chief Guest, Qamar Zaman, who is a former British Open winner and currently serves as the chairman of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Squash Association, praised the initiative as well.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Squash Association has been prioritizing the development of girls’ squash. When Noorena, who is deeply committed to such endeavors, approached me about this initiative, I wholeheartedly endorsed it. Alongside coaches Adil and Awais, they imparted valuable insights to the young participants, which undoubtedly will have a positive impact on their future,” stated Qamar.

“I think such events should happen regularly since it encourages the young players.

“Peshawar has consistently been at the forefront of promoting squash for girls. I commend the Pakistan Air Force for their efforts in constructing a dedicated sports complex for girls here in Peshawar, providing them with the opportunity to train and enhance their skills,” remarked the speaker.

Among the attendees of the workshop was Mewhish Ali, who holds the senior number 1 position in Pakistan and has clinched the Scottish Junior Gold medal.

“It was a refreshing and valuable experience to participate in this workshop and interact with both junior and senior players. Occasionally, you can learn a great deal from junior players. The coaches also provided guidance on our technique, which proved immensely beneficial for me,” expressed Mehwish.

Kulsoom Abdullah, the Quaid Trophy University champion, shared her thoughts, stating, “The workshop provided enjoyable activities, and I particularly gained insights into teamwork and leadership skills. Holding matches in each category proved highly beneficial for beginners, helping them to navigate the pressure of competitive play. I extend my gratitude to Noorena for organizing this event specifically for women.”

Amir Atlas Khan, the former world number 12 and Asian champion, who graced the occasion as one of the guests, hailed the initiative as a “remarkable chance for learning, development, and elevating participants’ enthusiasm for sports to greater heights.”

“The sports workshop proved to be an energizing and motivating endeavor. The coaches’ passion and proficiency were evident in every session, rendering it a highly immersive and empowering encounter,” remarked Amir.

“The workshop didn’t just refine players’ technical skills; it also cultivated a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie among all attendees. The organized drills and individualized feedback offered a distinct roadmap for progress, leaving everyone inspired and keen to further develop their talents,” summarized the experience.

The entity behind the sports workshop merits commendation for their outstanding planning and flawless execution. Their meticulous attention to detail shone through every facet of the event, from the top-notch facilities to the experienced and encouraging coaching team. A seamless registration process, timely communication, and meticulously crafted schedule all contributed to a seamless and gratifying experience for all involved.

Following the fruitful culmination of the workshop in Peshawar, Noorena intends to broaden this initiative to additional regions across Pakistan.

“My vision has garnered complete backing from the KP Squash Association and the regional squash community. While I aspire to expand it not only within KP but throughout Pakistan, I recognize the need for support to achieve this goal. As the saying goes, ‘where there is a will, there is a way,’ I am confident that with favorable circumstances, we can rekindle Pakistan’s passion for squash once more. It’s imperative for the media to amplify our message, facilitating the growth of our community,” she concluded.

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