After 50 years coaching squash, Brampton man's England career is taking off
After 50 years of coaching the sport he loves, John Robertson is showing no signs of slowing down.
The 72-year-old from Brampton has just taken the first steps of his international career, having helped others reach the top of their game for five decades.
And his dedication to the sport, which might well land him in the Guinness World Records before long, has earned some major recognition lately.
England Squash handed John a ‘Special Recognition Award’ at the 2016/17 Polar Squash Awards.
The Polar watch he received as a gift is the kind of fancy gadget that tracks heart rate and fitness statistics.
It’s all a far cry from his beginnings in the sport in the swinging 60s.
“I was coaching swimming and my future father-in-law was coaching squash,” he explained.
“Arthur Catherine, he was a top class coach and got to number two in the world.
“He had been teaching a long time and his daughter was working in the shop selling sports equipment.
“I went there to coach and saw a game of squash and thought I quite liked the look of it, so I had a game.
“He saw coaching ability in me straight away, I picked up the game very quickly and I could help people very quickly.
“He asked me to become his assistant, so I packed in swimming and went to become his assistant at Cardiff Squash Rackets Club.”
Catherine became Robertson’s father-in-law when he married Jean, 47 years ago.
It wasn’t long before the pair and fledgling family moved up to Derbyshire.
“My son was born in Cardiff, he played for Wales last month in the over 40s and I got a bit jealous,” said John.
“I was there about five years and then coached at Muswell Hill before moving up to Chesterfield.
“I coached at Brampton Manor and I’m still here now, although it’s Princes Sports Club now.
“I’ve been here going on for 45 years.”
Despite retiring, John still coaches full-time to put something back into the sport that has given him so much pleasure for so many years.
“I’m still coaching, I coach the top group, most of the top players.
“Ashley Davies, who is 113 in the world, when he’s come from tours he comes to me. He started when he was 10 and he’s doing very well.
“I taught Danny Lee, who was world champion one year.
“His son Joe has been number 29 in the world.
“I coached Liz Irving, who was a world champion, I’ve coached a number of the top 100 in the world, I couldn’t name them all.
“There aren’t many people who have been coaching 50 years. Playing for 50 years maybe, not coaching as a full-time professional.
“They were looking in the Guinness World Records but they haven’t come up with anything yet.”
The recognition he has received for his longevity and service means a ‘heck of a lot’ to the man who calls Brampton his home.
But there is genuine pride in his voice when he talks about his family’s involvement in squash and the gratitude he feels to his ‘squash widow’ wife.
“My grandson and granddaughter are 10 and six and they both played in a Derbyshire tournament last week, they’re doing really well.
“My other grandson in Wales, I give him a lesson when I’m down there.
“Without Jean I wouldn’t have been able to carry on as long as I have, she’s helped me a lot.
“She has been a squash widow but when she was a junior she won the Surrey Championship, she was a top class player at one time.”
John, quite rightly, boasts of still being able to get around the court with speed and has no plans to quit now that he’s reached such a milestone.
In fact his international career is just taking off.
“A few weeks ago I played for England against Wales and won, which was great, I got my first cap,” he said.
“I’ve just entered the British Open in four and a half weeks time, it starts on 6th June.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve never had any injuries touch wood, people can’t believe I’m still running as quickly as I am. I train a lot on the court.
“I love the sport, I still do, can’t get enough of it.”