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Rebecca Macree talks squash through the 90s, deafness and her successes

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Rebecca Macree is a former professional squash player from England.

She was born hearing-impaired, but despite her disability was able to win 8 titles from 24 final appearances during a 17-year career on the WISPA tour from 1993 to 2005.

We caught up with Rebecca to hear about how she quickly became one of the most successfull hearing-impaired athletes of all time.

Rebecca Macree, Hearing-impaired squah formet athlete poses
Source: Supplied

Furqan ur Rehman: How has life been for you after Squash?

Rebecca Macree: I have 3 beautiful, gorgeous, naughty, argumentative kids (hubby had to keep reminding me where they get all that from [laughs], and 3 dogs keeping me on my toes, never a dull moment with them. I now live in Spain and life is good, the kids have tennis lessons, so hopefully, one day, they can take that up professionally.

I also have a holiday villa where Jabe, my hubby, and I run meet and greets with people, which we enjoy very much. After all the traveling in my life, Spain is the place for us as a family. After squash, I did have fun exploring the world for a couple of years till my money ran out and started coaching all over Essex which I did very well till I met my hubby lol.

You sometimes received negative headlines, due to your passion and efforts on the court. One such incident was at the Singapore Open. How do you look back at that ban?

I did get negative headlines, but I was also featured in a lot of positive headlines from my favorite reporters due to my passion, particularly where I gave 110% on the court.

And yes, I did receive a 3-month ban from Singapore and I knew the referee very well, and I did call him a tosser, because back then I didn’t really understand what tosser meant, my ex used to call me a tosser, so I honestly thought it meant silly or stupid, but did I feel bad for saying that? No, because he did make me mad with a poor bad decision on a point that I worked hard for.

How did you deal with and overcome that ban, considering your love for the court?

They did me a favor by banning me.

It turned out to be the best thing for me, because I came back stronger, tougher and worked harder to reach my highest rank 7, so I don’t regret that.

Yes, I dealt with a lot of b******, who called me names, when I couldn’t hear them. It was not very nice, but it was life as I know it, plus there are other kids and adults who have it a lot worse than me.

You entered squash pretty late, what encouraged the move towards squash?

Yes, I picked up my squash racquets at 13 because I used to play tennis, but I kept moaning and complaining about the weather being cold and windy in the UK. 

Thenm, my dad got talking to his mate regarding me and his mate invited us all to a squash club in Upminster in Essex mainly because it was indoors, I was pretty happy with that

Hearing impairments are often highlighted incorrectly by people, although this is changing, it isn’t the norm, how did you face such challenges, and how did you shrug off the negativity?

Being deaf really didn’t bother me, as I didn’t really see any difference but people misjudged me, because perhaps, they did not know how to deal with me talking loudly.

But it never bothered me or stopped me from getting on with life. Texas had the best family, friends, coaches and trainers and it was all the mattered to me.

They all kept pushing and guiding me and always wanted me to be number one in the world.

Yes, I dealt with a lot of b******, who called me names, when I couldn’t hear them. It was not very nice, but it was life as I know it, plus there are other kids and adults who have it a lot worse than me.

What about in the context of your mental health and overcoming these barriers?

I don’t really have any mental health problems, to be honest, just my ears, which don’t work, so there haven’t been any barriers to overcome, in that sense.

Were you treated differently because of your hearing impairment? If yes, how did you overcome the challenges?

Yes, I was treated differently only by some top players, as they didn’t want to get a beating by the so-called ‘disabilities girl’. Which in my eyes, was quite disrespectful as I don’t look at myself in the context of disabilities.

Are you still involved with the English Deaf Squash Association (EDSA)? 

No, I, unfortunately, am not involved with English Deaf Squash now as I moved to Spain with 3 kids but I did come and support them when they all started to do this in Bishop Stortford, my old squash club.

I was hoping there would be more players following your example, so what motivated the birth of deaf associations or do you see them as a platform to allow more players into conventional squash?

I think a lot of them know what they are capable of doing it or thinking etc but not strong enough to stand out if that makes sense as I know as a deaf player in any tough sport we had to take our hearing aids or implants off due to the sweat as that affects the batteries, so it may have something to do with it.

Are you presently involved with squash in any other shape or form?

No, I am not involved in any squash apart from my hubby, he plays Racquetball twice a week and takes my kids to tennis group lessons 3 times a week and they love it, so any form of the sport will always be in my family.

Mental health challenges athletes regularly, at any stage of their careers. What is the advice that you would give to someone in a similar situation?

I would tell them to stick their heads up and find good friends, coaches and trainers, you definitely need your family to back you.

I was lucky because my mum did travel with me half my life ( she loves it [laughs]), while my father works to pay for all-our trips and hotels and train fare (as my mum can’t drive), so my mum was my protection if that makes sense.

I am a big fan of comebacks and winning against the odds. What match do you consider to be the greatest comeback of your career, when your mind was tricking you into accepting defeat, but you turned it around?

My biggest comeback was the story regarding the Singapore ban, I think it was the break and the proper, hard training and becoming mentally stronger, as I came back tougher and beating the girls I played against.

You’ve dealt with your share of injuries throughout your career, we asked Carla Khan the same question, but how does it really feel to get injured, where it impacts your living, and do athletes always live with the fear of injuries?

With injuries, I remember taking a knock 3 times in the same place, on my right ankle.

Everyone said I have a tiny ankle [laughs], but I also had fantastic physiotherapists such as Ian Cowell and Massage therapists like John Kelly, who looked after my injuries.

This way, I was alywas able to come back and compete within 6 to 8 weeks and I was always working and doing what I was told.

I never had a fear of injuries, I just couldn’t wait to get back and play. I think a lot of players come back strong after the injuries, for some reason, but that would, of course, depend on how bad it was and where you got injured.

I also used to get terrible groin injuries, which affected my back, leg and foot for a couple of years. I was told to sit up and do pilates, that worked wonders for my back and groin and helped me lose so much weight.

A lot of people thought I was sick or throwing up because of how much weight I lost, even Carla [Khan] admitted that she would listen through the door when I would in out of concern [laughs] and then realised it was all rubbish.

England and Pakistan pioneered and backed their deaf squash associations, and paved the way for World Deaf Squash Incorporate (WSDI) and now we are seeing more and more deaf squash associations being formed. In your opinion, is the sport of today more inclusive and accepting than it was back in your days, be it for physically impaired individuals, or women?

I have no idea how squash is going at the moment, to be honest, but I do hope they are being open and understanding to any deaf player who wants to achieve and they need to play a few good years before the referee association players reporters understand and know you if that makes sense.

I had a few referees putting notes under my door to apologize for their bad decisions, that cost my game.

What is your favorite shot in squash?

Drop and Lob, I was told it was my best shot, and I used to spend hours on court with Neil Harvey when I was younger. 

Rebecca macree photo shoot in cat suit,England
Source: SquashPlayer

Who was your favorite opponent and why?

My favorite opponent was Linda [Elriani] Charman. We weren’t friends, but I always had a hard game against her for that reason.

I think it was entertaining for the crowd as well, as there would normally be some animosity between us on court lol

What are the best training regimes for squash?

I absolutely love ghosting, I felt like it was making me quicker and faster, it’s similar to playing squash but without a ball.

All I wanted to do was play squash but you can’t always play another player or rely on them, so ghosting works.

What would you say to other people who are overcoming challenging situations to pursue sports, be it squash or any other sport?

I say go for it, then keep going and don’t take any notice of negative comments. Try to stay focused and be positive!

All will work out in the end, it always does.


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Noor Shafiq assisted in the curation of this article. You can follow him here on LinkedIn.

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