We caught up with the top squash player, Sarah-Jane Perry ahead of the European Team Championships in Brum and found someone committed to putting in serious hard yards to reach her goals
Sarah-Jane Perry is ranked number six in the world. She’s won numerous Tour titles – too many to mention here – is a former British national champion, rocked the triumphant England team that won the European Team Championships in 2017, took a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and is on the charge for more wins this month at the ETCs held on home turf at Edgbaston Priory Club.
Throwing down between 10 and 13 training sessions per week, Sarah-Jane’s daily schedule sounds gruelling, incorporating morning sessions on court with her coach or a training group followed by a bike session, circuits or weights plus a match, followed by pilates or yoga in the evening. Meticulous about taking good care of her body, Sarah-Jane packs in plenty of physio, too.
She explains: “It’s vital for me to fit in recovery work such as massage, physio and chiropractic treatment as well. I use the English Institute of Sport hub at Alexander Stadium in Perry Bar for physio at least once a week.” Surgery on a serious elbow injury in December has been one of Sarah-Jane’s biggest career challenges to date and not one she’d like to repeat.
Sarah-Jane started playing the game at the tender age of five at Four Oaks Squash Club and began competing in local tournaments aged 11, turning professional in her third year at university in 2011 beating Tania Bailey in the final of the Manor Open to take her first Tour title. A further three titles in the following 12 months took her into the world’s top 30 where she’s performed at the highest level consistently making quarter finals, semis and ultimately winning titles.
The sport bug took hold pretty early on in life and as a child, Sarah-Jane would take part in any activity, but it was squash that really got her going. She says: “I love the diversity of squash. Every player has their own strengths and style which makes for some titanic battles both physically and tactically.”
Sarah’s had to deal with the mindset – other people’s not her own – that she didn’t fit the typical squash mould at a statuesque six foot. “When I was younger my main challenge was overcoming other people’s prejudices of what a player should be and look like, which was almost the opposite of who I am,” she said. Sarah-Jane’s performances have done the talking, not least beating one of her heroes Nicol David in the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open in San Francisco.
Of her fellow competitor, Sarah-Jane is full of praise: “Nicol David is a true hero. Not only has she won eight world titles but has been an inspirational role model throughout her career. Like me, she’s passionate about empowering women through sport and is using her platform to continue this past her retirement.” Nicol David is due to retire this month.
Sarah-Jane’s goals are single-minded: “Short term it’s to move up the rankings but ultimately I dream of becoming number one and winning the world championships. Winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 is also a huge aspiration of mine.” The prospect of competing at home in Birmingham is very exciting.
Sarah-Jane says: “We don’t have many major events in the UK so we really look forward to them when they do happen. It will be amazing to have so many familiar faces in the crowd and some noisy home supporters! Birmingham has so much to offer visitors and is also the hub of squash in the UK.”