I'm a Master Pro Stringer!
On 2nd July, after stringing for a few years, I finally had the opportunity to formalise my experience by sitting practical and written exams with the aim of becoming an ERSA Master Professional Stringer.
Following a number of conversations, meetings at tournaments and a course with my stringing mentor, Nick Down, universally accepted as THE man for stringing squash rackets, I am happy to say that I passed - apparently, I’m the first person in the world to have gained the new ERSA Master Pro qualification, which is pretty cool!
The practical test included stringing rackets (including irregular patterns), removal and replacement of full grommet/bumper sets and building up racket handles with heat wraps and a heat gun (very exciting and worrying given my track record in DIY last weekend). All of the exercises were timed, so it was important to keep up a good pace as well as ensuring accuracy. The written exam consisted of a lot of questions, which were very tricky. There is a lot more to stringing rackets than just threading string and pulling it tight!
After getting back home at 11pm, I spent 10 minutes relaxing before putting on the TV, wheeling my stringing machine out and stringing a multi fan patterned Head Radical racketball racket with a TF 305 and TF DNAMX hybrid mix. Strike whilst the iron’s hot (I need to do the ironing later… so, a timely reminder).
Aside from spending a lot of the day stringing, I really enjoyed chatting to Nick about his life as a Pro Tour Stringer. Probably the best fact about Nick is that he’s strung for 18 world No1’s (squash), including: Jahangir Khan, Ramy Ashour, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Nicol David, James Willstrop etc. What was really good to hear was that these players regularly come to chat to Nick at tournaments. There are some highly amusing anecdotes, but I’ll leave Nick to talk you about these if you meet him. Nick had some very cool memorabilia in his stringing cave. For stringers, walking into Nick’s Stringing hideout is a little like a formula one fanatic being invited to spend the day in the Ferrari garage at the Monaco GP.
Stringing that racket at home last night gave me time to reflect on the day. I’ve been very lucky to have played squash at a fairly high level (and tennis in my earlier years) and to qualify as a coach and now as a stringer. Whilst stringing may not/won’t make me a millionaire, there’s something very satisfying about helping somebody to hit a better ball!