A trailblazer, sports enthusiast and someone who has a desire to see young people develop to their full potential, are among the many attributes that can describe veteran national coach Richard Walcott.
The 66-year-old celebrated 43-years as a national squash coach this past weekend.
Walcott who began his journey as a squash coach on the 28th of February, 1978 at age 21, reminisced on how it all started. He thanked local squash legend and pioneer Rudy Goodridge for introducing him to the sport and affording him the opportunity to coach.
“I always wanted to be a coach. I always found myself with younger people and I was in total control. When I was coming up, I would have been with fellas much older than me, so they influenced me and I would influence the youngsters because of my upbringing.
“My grandmother, she was a devoted Christian and I was an altar server at Christ Church Parish Church. So, that is how my life came up in that type of way and that is why up to now I still work with the young people,” Walcott told Barbados TODAY.
As someone who first started his journey in coaching at Rockley Squash Club and at a time when Barbados hardly had squash courts, Walcott said he would like squash to have a home with at least three courts.
“Just before COVID in 2019 our president in collaboration with BDFSP refurbished the squash club and we went into the schools. So, we had Harrison College, St. Michael, St. Leonard Boys, So that got us into the schools.
“We were thinking more about the primary schools but it would have been difficult. But once we get the home for squash then we could invite more of the primary schools,” he explained.
Barbados’ most decorated male squash champion Shawn Simpson said coach Walcott was one of the first coaches he came into contact with at the junior level.
“Richard and Leon Truss would have been the coaches that held up the junior program at the Barbados Squash Club when I first started playing squash in 1993,” Simpson recalled.
He further shared that Walcott was the type of coach that would encourage you to keep going if you couldn’t get the hang of it.
“It took me six to nine months before I actually started hitting the ball consistently. So, many kids are discouraged today within the first few lessons because they can’t hit the ball. But for me, I just kept going and look where I am now today.
“Richard would have been the coach when I made it in 1995 and up until I left in 2002. My game improved under his tutelage of being on the national team. His focus was always on the basics, that your game has strong support to stand on and you could only build if you have strong support,” Simpson added.
Meanwhile, one of Barbados’ outstanding female squash players Amanda Haywood said Walcott has impacted her squash life.
She said: “He has taught me many life lessons through my journey on the squash court with him. One of the models I think he has really pushed for is you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
“At every training session he pushed me to be of my best and to be the best player that I could ever be. And I feel that this translates into my personal life. Mr Walcott is really a squash coach dad who really does care about the progress of each and every one of his students.”
Walcott who has no intentions of retiring from coaching anytime soon has had the privilege of teaching the majority of Barbados’ squash players. According to the veteran, he is happy to see how the sport has evolved over the years.
“Barbados squash has evolved and it is continuing to evolve even more. There are more opportunities now. In my time and Rudy’s time, it was very difficult to make the team because it was seen as elitist. So, for us coming in we were the trailblazers and now we are all one.
“The ones now who are playing squash have a great opportunity and they have more opportunities than we had back then. It is like with everything where in my grandmother’s lifetime I would grow to do better than her. So I put it down to the price of progress,” Walcott said.
The 2001 National Sports Council coach of the year winner added: “I don’t have any regrets about squash even though I had a checkered career as a player and coach. If I had to do it again, I’ll do it and this time I would like to start at nine years.”