Sideline Sid had a busy time last week, after putting his hand up to volunteer at the World Junior Squash championships being held in Tauranga until July 29.

The biggest and most prestigious international sporting event to be hosted in the Western Bay of Plenty, has attracted the best Under 19 squash players from 28 countries throughout the globe.  

While this grey haired sports nut has had little to do with the game of squash, the opportunity to be involved in a world championship event was too hard to resist. 

Sid turned to Mr Google to learn about the history of the game.

The game was originally called squash rackets in a reference to the "squashable" soft ball used in the game.

Squash, which was invented at Harrow School, was derived from the older game of rackets around 1830. 

The squash rackets have changed in a similar way to tennis, changing from a smaller racket of laminated timber to today's bigger graphite racket.

The World Squash Federation tells us that there are 20 million players worldwide - while a long way from the 265 million that play football (soccer) - the squash numbers are streets ahead of rugby that says they have some six million players in all forms of the game worldwide. 

One of my mates commented that squash is a game for playing rather than watching.

However, the glass court installed in the QE Youth Centre for the championships, turns the game into a spectator sport. 

A three month wait for the final engineers signoff and five days of installation, saw the spectacular glass court with viewing for over one thousand spectators, ready to welcome the young players from around the world into action. 

The Western Bay of Plenty squash community have rallied together to bring the prestigious World Juniors to the other side of the world.

In typical New Zealand fashion, more than 200 mostly local volunteers have put their hand up to ensure that our international visitors have a genuine kiwi experience while they are with us in the Western Bay. 

Many of the "crew" team members aren't from a squash background, but just want to be part of assisting to stage a world class event in Tauranga.

The volunteers can be found doing many diverse duties from driving the daily transport to assisting at the venues with a wide variety of tasks.  

The front desk personnel at the QEYC and the Dame Susan Devoy Squash Centre, have set the tone for Western Bay of Plenty friendliness. 

Greeting the players, officials and spectators or answering the many information requests, will leave an indelible memory on our overseas guests. 

For the record, Monday's nights individual finals were both taken out by the Egyptian team.

The boys' title decider resulted in the Egyptian number two beating a French player, with the girls' final an all Egyptian affair. 

While the individual titles are the pinnacle of the championship, the action will continue until next Saturday night.

The girl’s team championship will be fought out at the QEYC and the Devoy Squash Centre, with Malaysia. South Africa, Australia, India and New Zealand boys teams contesting a test series at the Mount Maunganui and Te Puke Squash clubs.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian