Xmas Stringing with Saint Nicholas!
Ok, so I wasn't really stringing with Santa this weekend, I was stringing with Nick Down, the world's most qualified Squash Stringer and stringer to 18 World No 1 squash players - including Ramy, Jahangir Khan , Nicol David, James Willstrop and Mohamed El Shorbagy. Getting to string with the worlds best this weekend was very much like getting an early Christmas present!
Nick and I were stringing at the Sumner Malik charity event in Birmingham, with some of the top Pros in the world giving their time to train and hit with players from around the country who were willing to donate money to charity, in celebration of Sumner's life and love for squash - a hugely worthwhile cause!
As a Master Pro stringer, I'd like to think I know a little bit about stringing, however spending time with Nick is always an education. Nick is a perfectionist, an innovator, but best of all a great conversationalist, with so many interesting stories about Pros, both past and present. If you're looking for a positive, feelgood story, Nick's your man. You won't hear Nick speaking badly of the pros he strings for though. He's very respectful and as an ex player of note himself, has immense respect for all who play. Nearly all the pros in squash are top class people too, which helps.
One thing that Nick and I definitely have in common is that we both love stringing and it's always good to receive positive feedback regarding our stringing from people who've maybe not had the greatest work done on their rackets before. As I always say, 'the strings in your racket can be just as important as the racket you play with'! For any aspiring stringers out there who want a few pointers as to what to concentrate on when stringing, the below should help (though it would also be well worth some formal training through the ERSA:
Study the racket - repair/replace grommets, look at the pattern before restringing
Choose the right string/tension for the racket you're stringing, consult customer!
Focus - keep your eyes on the job at hand to avoid missed loops etc
Clamps - check pressure of clamps on strings (not too tight to crush or too loose to slip)
Top to Bottom - Where possible, always string crosses from top to bottom
Weaving - Don't burn the strings! 'wiggle'/move the string as you pull it through after weaving
Avoid crossed strings - make sure the strings on the outside of the frame don't cross
Tie off - Pull tension on the tie off to maintain tension on the final cross/main strings
String spacing - use a setting off awl to space the strings asap before they 'bed-in' out of place
Lastly. a big thank you to Karakal, Dunlop, Ashaway, Mantis and Wilson for donating reels of string, machines and grips to the charity event. Thanks also to my fine sponsors, Eye Rackets, for donating a load of kit for the prize draw. Your support is appreciated greatly.
So, as the year draws to a close, I've completed a few goals, made some new friends and learnt a lot. Always keep learning!