Hollie Naughton on Squash: From England to Canada

Hollie Naughton is a Canadian Squash player. She has been playing on the PSA World Tour for 7 years and reached a career-high of 26 in the World Rankings.

We sat down with her to talk about the sport, her career and life during lockdown.

Hollie Naughton Squash-player,sitting on the floor,Canada
Hollie Naughton, squash player from Canada

Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a little bit about your life, growing up.

Hollie Naughton: I was born in England and come from a squash family, but have been in Canada since I was 10.

I grew up around squash courts in Barnsley until we moved to Canada, which is where I fell in love with the sport.

I’ve always played for Canada internationally as part of the Junior National Team and on the Senior Team at Worlds and the Pan American Games.

How are you keeping yourself busy amid the lockdown?

I am feeling busier than I was before the lockdown right now. I’m not quite sure how that works.

I’m still training full-time but no travel or tournaments to prepare for, has given me the opportunity to take on new challenges. I have signed up for online courses and I am really enjoying it.

This is something that I normally wouldn’t have time for and I think this time is perfect for developing new skills.

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Any tips or advice for other squash fans during these times?

It’s a great time to work on your physicality and weaknesses. Even though we are away from a court there is so much to do that will help prepare you when squash returns.

Basic strength work to be more balanced and faster on the ball, working on flexibility to get rid of any niggling injuries you may have had, watching squash videos on Squash TV or YouTube to pick up tips from the top players, and the big one that tends to get overlooked, working on the mental side.

We can still be involved in squash without being on the court and keep it fun and interesting.

The PSA has been doing a great job with all of the challenges from pros, give them a go!

Hollie Naughton hold the squash racket,in a match, Canada
Holle Naughton on the court

Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of Squash? What are your hobbies and what do you get up to?

Squash has definitely taken over my life but I do love to try and disconnect as much as I can.

I love being able to see friends whether that’s a night in/out or on a holiday and I have been very lucky for the last few years that I have managed to get away after the season has finished.

I love being outside biking or walking especially in nice weather and exploring new places.

Spending time with my family is very important to me since I travel so much during the season, and split my season between Canada and the UK to train.

What has been the highlight of your squash career?

I don’t know if I’ve had a moment yet where I would say, “that’s my highlight.” I have a few moments that are very special: winning my first international event at the Pan American Junior Championships and first PSA title at the club where I grew up playing, the ORC Open.

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I hope once the tour starts again I will have my one career-defining highlight that stands out.

Tell us a little bit about your training  & nutrition regime?

Training right now is a little different from what I normally would be doing and don’t have a private court, but I still have similar routines.

I am training 2-3 times a day: every day has a cardio session, with a combination of strength, bodyweight circuit, core, yoga, or bands session.

My coach David Palmer and fitness coach Jennifer Kennedy have helped put together a plan for my off-season training.

We’re trying to keep a routine that strengthens my weaknesses and keeps my body ready for squash when it resumes.

I have really been enjoying spending more time on fitness and feel quite strong.

The food and nutrition side is always important for fueling the body to perform.

I would say that I am still focussing on having a balanced diet, but I think in this time of uncertainty you have to enjoy a little too.

Everything in proportion is how I like to think of it.

Player hits the squash ball ,in a match,infront of audience
Hollie Naughton playing squash at a PSA tournament

Who are some of your all-time favourite squash players?  Why?

I would have to say Ramy Ashour, Amr Shabana and Nicol David.

I remember going to watch the Pace Classic in Toronto when I was young and watching Ramy and Amr.

Ramy was very young and just starting his career, even then you could tell he would achieve great things! His game was so unique and I thought, I want to be so young and do so well.

Amr is a leftie like me so he was always someone that I watched and tried to learn how he makes it look so EASY! Last but not least Nicol, I mean I think that doesn’t need too much explaining.

She is the legend of the game, everything that she has achieved is first off amazing, but what I admire most is her humility.

To be that kind of champion is one I aspire to be!

How is squash as a sport in Canada? Is the sport growing there?

Squash in Canada isn’t massive. The squash community is one that is very close-knit which I think is like that in most places, but I would love to see it grow. We currently have a few stand out juniors that are quite young and are showing very promising futures if they choose to continue.

I think the unfortunate part about Canada is that it is quite large and spread out which doesn’t make it easy to grow the sport as a whole.

There are pockets that are definitely growing but we need to work on growing it as a whole.

What was it like winning the silver and bronze, at the Pan American Games, 2015 and 2019, respectively? 

Participating and winning medals at the Pan American Games will always be very special memories and ones I hope to keep building on.

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The 2015 games will always be an amazing memory because it was my first time at the Games, and it doesn’t get much better than playing at home in Toronto.

Walking away with a Silver medal definitely made me hungry for the next one.

Heading into the Peru 2019 Pan Am Games I felt more prepared and had my eyes on a few more medals.

It was a very special moment being the first Canadian medalists, though I was disappointed to lose in the individual semi-finals, I was really proud to be the first medalist.

In 2019 I played doubles too and that was a big highlight for me.

Doubles is such an exciting game and the team aspect makes it interesting.

I wish we could have picked up a higher medal, but I was happy to share the moment with Andrew Schnell and in my first doubles event!

What are your thoughts on squash not becoming an Olympic sport?

Olympics…… Something all squash players talk about.

It’s obviously something that I have dreamt about and I would love to compete in but I don’t see it happening in my career, unfortunately.

I don’t know what else they want us to do but hopefully, the IOC can see what an amazing and complete sport it is someday!

In other sports, there is a lot of discussion around women’s pay, and parity with the men’s part of the game, is this the same with squash?

I think squash is one of the few sports that has been a leader on this topic.

All of our platinum events have been equal prize money for the past couple of years now.

The PSA has worked very hard to grow the sport at all levels for both men and women and to secure equal prize money too.

Hollie stands firmly, while holding racket
Hollie Naughton, pro-squash player from Canada

What would you say to young aspiring women who want to enter the squash courts and become pros?

Squash has given so much to me, for any young girls thinking of getting involved I would highly recommend it.

Squash is a great way to meet friends, travel the world and stay active.

Whether they want to play recreationally, play at school, or professionally, this is a great sport to be involved in.

Have fun and give it you’re all!

What are you working towards in the future?

I have goals for the short and long term that my team and I are working towards.

One is breaking into the top 20 of the PSA rankings within the year.

You can follow Hollie Naughton on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.
For more on Squash, visit Sportageous.
Noor Shafiq assisted in the curation of this article. You can follow him here on LinkedIn.

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