On the Hunt

Interview with Geoff Hunt published in Squash Player (the official magazine of World Squash Federation, in Issue 4, 2009)

There was only a nominal participation by Australia in this year’s British Junior Open. Huge distances and little sponsorship meant that a solitary player from one of the most successful squash nations could make it to Sheffield.

However, the squash lovers were thrilled to see one of the greatest male players of the game. Geoff Hunt, winner of eight British Open titles (a tally second only to Jahangir Khan’s record 10) as well as the first four World Open titles, was here.

The legendary Australian was accompanying the Qatari team as their coach. The gulf nation was one of the only two teams making their maiden appearance in the most prestigious junior squash event of the world.

Still looking as trim and lean as in his playing days, the 62 year old Geoffrey Hunt, MBE talked mainly about his present assignment.

“Ever since exiting the squash circuit in early 80s, I have been mainly engaged with coaching. I served as the head squash coach at the Australian Institute of Sport from 1985-2003.”

In fact, he played a major role in help developing a new generation of Australian squash stars including illustrious names such as Martin brothers, Chris Dittmar, Rodney Eyles and David Palmer among others.

“In Qatar, I am working with ‘Aspire’ the Academy for Sports Excellence as the head squash coach. Squash is one of the core sports at this academy. I have to develop squash programme in conjunction with the squash federation. Aspire is an excellent academy and along with the sports coaching, the boys also get quality education in a full-fledged school. It is pertinent to mention that much of the syllabus is in line with the Qatar ministry of education plus they also have some sports oriented subjects.”

Hunt took over the squash programme at Aspire only one year after its start.

“I joined the academy in May 2005. Prior to that, the technical director of the Qatar Sqaush Federation (QSF), Alaaeldeen Allouba was running the programme. A few Pakistani and Egyptian coaches working with the QSF had worked with some of these boys before me. Currently, there are eight boys with me. Only one is U 19, rest are in the younger age groups.”

An achiever throughout his life, Hunt’s aims are high.

“We target medals at various levels.  Starting from the Gulf championships and going up to the Arab games and then hopefully at the Asian level. And we already have had some real success. Ahmad Al Tamimi won the U 17 title at the Gulf championships. His brother Abdullah went a step ahead, lifting the U 17 crown at the Arab championships– first ever title for a Qatari at this level. Now we aim the Asian titles.”

Does all this mean his contract is target oriented?

“Yes, in a way. I have not been given a fixed term contract. It is subject to yearly renewal.  I have already spent more than three years which indicates they are happy with my performance, and the results achieved by the lads.”

He also appears satisfied with the assistance provided by the academy.

“The academy has excellent facilities. I have a good support staff which includes physical trainers and psychologists. Last year, former world number 5, Dan Jensen of Australia joined me as the assistant coach. In addition, international exposure is essential. My boys have been participating in the various European age group competitions. QSF also invite teams from other countries and last year we had German juniors. After the BJO, we will be going to the Asian juniors.”

The hard task master is quite satisfied with his pupils’ showing at the 2009 British Junior Open.

“All the academy boys were very keen to come here. Four were selected. It was Qatar’s first ever appearance in this competition. Then the boys were somewhat out of practice as they had finished their exams only a week before. One of the boys was handicapped by a shin injury. Considering all this, I think they performed reasonably well. Three of them made into the second round and Abdullah Tamimi also won a match in the plate competition. Both the Tamimi brothers came across quality opponents.

The boys also had practice matches against players from different countries. So all in all it was a good experience for them.”

The name of Geoffrey Hunt is synonymous with success both as player and as a coach.

As a player he first broke the domination of Jonah Barrington and then held off the challenge of so many hungry and talented Pakistanis, to win a total of 12 British and World Open tiles.

Then as a coach he tutored at least half a dozen Aussies who made it into the top-ten.

In his present assignment, Hunt has already started getting commendable results.

ASPIRE stands for ‘aspiration, inspiration, excellence.’

The aspiration is there. Let us see how the maestro inspires the racket wielders of this tiny but extremely resourceful gulf nation to achieve excellence.

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