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Talking Doubles Squash with the Tippetts! (Mind-reading, sister competition, and sharing whites)

April 29, 2010 – 12:38 PM

The Tippett Sisters: Narelle and Natarsha

By Sarah Odell

This weekend, the Under 25 Doubles Championship takes place in Greenwich, Connecticut. Just yesterday I learned that there may not be enough women to make a draw. I have seen first hand the trend that US Squash is worried about: the rapid rate at which we are losing female players.

This week, I connected with two terrific women who happen to be amazing squash players. Former WISPA (Women’s International Squash Association) players turned teaching pros and turned moms. And yes, girls, they still play squash. Take note. Be inspired. Narelle Tippett Krizek and Natarsha Tippett McElhinny are here to prod you to pick up the sport they love.

FGN: You both are amazing squash players. How did you get started?

Narelle Tippett Krizek: Mum and Dad ran a squash club and we were little rats, hanging on the courts whenever possible.  Due to us being 16 months apart we were perfect play mates and always had someone to hit with.  We also played field hockey together on junior teams and representative teams.  Tarsh was a forward and I was her center half.

Natarsha Tippett McElhinny: First I have to say that when we played field hockey, Narelle used to pass me the ball, because she was my center half. I would then score. Now when we play doubles, it’s the other way around! Our dad was our first coach. He got us started and then we went off to the Australian Institute of Sports, and were working with the best professional coaches in the world.

FGN: You both were on the WISPA tour. How long did you play on the tour? Why did you retire?

NTK: I was on the tour as soon as I graduated high school.  I was on it for 5 years, reaching my highest ranking of 23 in the world.  I knew that it was a stretch to achieve top 3 and wanted to make some money so I wasn’t needing my dad’s support for my whole life.  So I took Tarsh’s teaching position in Philadelphia at Merion Cricket Club.  Playing on the tour was such a fantastic experience though, traveling around the world with my sister and friends, meeting so many different people from different countries.  It opened my eyes to a whole different way of life from Australia.

NTM:I played on the tour for three or four years, reaching my highest ranking of nineteen. That’s right, I was higher than Narelle! I’ve never lost to her and I never will. I’m never playing her again. I decided to make the move to the states when I was talking with another Australian guy when I was playing in tournament in Greenwich. I found out there was a lot more money in coaching in America, and I got the coaching job at Merion. When I left Merion to get married, I told them I had someone to fill my position who looked like me and sounded like me. Narelle took my car, my apartment and all of my white outfits!

FGN: Narelle, what was your goal with starting the WDSA (the professional Women’s Doubles Squash Association)?

NTK: I knew there was a need for women to be recognized in doubles.  We had sanctioned tournaments but not for prize money.  After seeing the ISDA men come to our clubs, I knew there was a way for the women to be recognized as well. There is also a lack of collegiate girls continuing to play squash after they graduate college.  I thought by growing the women’s doubles game this would help encourage them to play the sport as they would be social with their friends but keep them competing in a game they had once loved.

FGN: Tarsh, you’ve played doubles with your sister as your partner. What is that like? Does somebody have to keep the peace?

NTM: No, (laughs), nobody has to keep the peace. I don’t know if it’s because we’re so close in age, but we pretty much know what the other one is thinking. We know how to get the other one fired up; Narelle can give me a game plan, and I can kick her butt. I love playing with my sister because she’s so dang good.

FGN: US Squash is having a lot of trouble retaining female players after they graduate from college. What would you say to girls graduating this year to encourage them to keep playing?

NTK: Doubles is a fun way to stay fit and stay in a sport where it’s competitive but you are not stuck out there on your own chasing a little black ball around.  It is a totally new experience from anything you have been through as a junior or collegiate squash player.  Doubles will allow you to play squash for the rest of your life.  By supporting the women’s tour you are also helping to encourage young girls to play as juniors and be involved in a sport that we have all gotten so much out of.

FGN: Does the WDSA have any plans for events to encourage young women to pick up doubles?

NTK: The WDSA is working with US Squash to encourage young college players to play in the U25 doubles nationals. The WDSA is also working with a sponsor to host a doubles clinic in Sept/October in Greenwich where they get to play doubles, watch the WDSA play an exhibition followed by a manicure/pedicure afternoon.  It needs to be a fun, non-intimidating event to get them hooked.  Once we get them there, we can encourage them to play in the qualification of the pro events.

Narelle was the head squash professional at the Field Club of Greenwich, but has just relocated to Baltimore, Maryland with her husband Rob and their sons William and Blake. Natarsha lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she is the head squash professional at the Sports Club Las Vegas. She lives there with her husband Jim and her boys Nicholas, Luke and Jake.

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