Already two months on the job, former Mexican assistant national squash coach Gabriel Martinez likes what he’s seeing from Cayman’s junior and senior national team.
“They are really good at doubles, but at this point we need more match practice,” Martinez told Cayman 27. “We have already been working on calibration of drop shots, precision, hitting the ball harder, moving easier, but now we need to put it into practice in matches.”
The Morelia native is the latest head coach at the Cayman Islands National Squash Association (CINSA), bringing with him a strong resume. Martinez says he turned to coaching at the age of 28 and has since spent two years with the Mexican national programme while previously holding a seven-month role as the Michoacán state coach.
“I’ve had 25 of my students become Mexican national champions, ” said Martinez. “Mexico has been Pan American champions for many years.”
As the 44-year-old prepares both CINSA’s juniors and seniors for the Caribbean Amateur Squash Championships, he says a back to basics approach has already raised the team’s skill level.
“I’ve been working on technique, and I think all of the players have improved,” said Martinez. “Working on technique will help you do the things you weren’t able to do.”
Overall, Cayman’s juniors have outperformed the seniors at the regional championships. Since 1981, CINSA has won 28 junior Caribbean squash age-division titles, while at the senior level Cayman has just three championships – all won by John Macrury – in 1987, 1989 and 1997.
One player eager for a fresh voice is four-time national champion Cameron Stafford. The 27-year-old will look to win his first regional title this summer after losing in the Caribbean finals to arch-rival Chris Binnie of Jamaica four times in the last six years. Stafford told Cayman 27 Martinez has already made a positive impact on his game.
“I think it was a good change for everyone and I think he’s doing a good job,” said Stafford. “He’s tweaked my forehand, and I’ve seen it change dramatically over the past two months. Now, I’m playing for solidly on the forehand than I have in previous years. I hope that CINSA can keep them on for many years to come. I’m really enjoying him, and I’m looking for two more times ahead with him.”
When it comes to squash, the Cayman Islands is not Mexico. However, Martinez says he’s excited about the programme’s potential.
“This country is ten times smaller than the city I used to live in. One city in Mexico,” said Martinez. “I think all of the players have improved. Some of them little, some more, and some of them have made huge improvements.”
CINSA’s juniors will head to the Caribbean Amateur Squash Association (CASA) Championships in Trinidad & Tobago 13-21 July, while senior players will compete in Guyana for the CASA Senior Championships in August.