If there’s one thing all squash players have in common, it’s their love of playing the game against other squash players. The Squash Players app is an easy and fun way to keep a lifelong record of the outcome of your squash matches, and so much more.
Sarah Fatima speaks to the founder of the Squash Players app, Ross Gerring, whose passion for the game led him to develop the app, to make it easier for squash players of all levels to track their sport.
He discusses how he is able to add value to the lives of many squash players out there through his app!
Sarah Fatima: Tell us a little bit about yourself an Squash Players.
I’m the founder and co-owner of custom software development company, Itomic. Born and raised in the UK, I travelled the world for 4.5 years in my mid-late twenties, before settling in Australia in ‘97. Now I’m married with 4 lovely (yes, really) kids.
Squash Players is the app for… wait for it… Squash Players! At its core, it’s a logbook for recording your match results: who, when, where, and what the score was. But from this base, a multitude of value-added features and services become (and are becoming) possible: competitions, finding new friends, rankings, coaching, news, etc.
Do you believe that the Squash Players app you created is because of a gap you identified in the market? Or is there some other driving force behind its creation?
Let’s be honest - squash isn’t a high profile, big-money sport. The result is that it’s been commercially under-serviced by technology relative to, say, tennis. Many of the attempts over the years (mine included!) to provide online services to the sport of squash have been done by enthusiastic hobbyists, with little or no financial support or return.
Which isn’t sustainable in the long run. My early efforts (20+ years go!) with www.squashleagues.com tailed off as I had more kids, and our business needed me to be more commercial. (squashleagues.com is still running today)
And yet, on a global scale, we believe that there are viable opportunities to provide true value-added, high-quality online services that, ultimately, can result in a sustainable return on investment.
Honestly, we’ve not yet settled on how best to commercialise our Squash Players app. Maybe, one day, we’ll ask users to pay, say, $1/month for premium services, and/or maybe just to remove adverts. But we’re not doing any of that yet, and indeed may pursue other revenue stream opportunities.
We’re extremely fortunate in that we have our business, Itomic, backing this project with a startup mentality. We embrace the high degree of uncertainty about the future and enjoy the learning, technical and more, of the experience. This puts our company in a stronger position to offer similar services and technologies to commercial clients of ours, plus it presents us with opportunities to clone the app for other similar racket sports for a fraction of our investment in the Squash Players app to-date.
What do you enjoy the most about running a sports app?
I love squash and health and fitness in general. So anything that helps to bring more people together, and to share the experience, I’m into. I’m also excited about the myriad of directions we can go (and are going) with the app, and how user feedback is a strong influence on this.
Let’s be honest - squash isn’t a high profile, big money sport. The result is that it’s been commercially under-serviced by technology relative to, say, tennis.
How long have you been playing the sport?
I first picked up a squash racket around the age of 15. I love the speed and physicality of it! I love the fact that, unlike tennis, you can hit the ball with all the power you can muster, and yet the ball stays in the court. Fantastic stress-buster!
I never rose above the level of average, but that never mattered. Very annoyingly, my ankles and knees can no longer tolerate full-on squash, even though the mind is very willing!
I don’t mind admitting that pickleball might be a viable racket sport for my ageing body. I hope to give it a go this summer.
Squash players app is a platform for all squash enthusiasts to explore Squash courts around them. To what extent did the pandemic-imposed lock-down impact this aspect of the business?
Quick answer: not in the slightest. It certainly didn’t reduce our revenue streams, because we don’t have any (yet)!
I’m a glass half-full sort of guy. In some ways, our Squash Players app is still in the early adopter phase. It’s “good” that we’re not overloaded with requests for new features, which we might struggle to deliver on quickly enough.
You are all for promoting sports and tech, what future do you see for this area?
Firstly, I see a very bright future for tech to add value to our sporting lives in so many ways. The key phrase here is “add value”. We must try not to let it replace sport, i.e. to reduce the real human participation and socialisation that we all love about sport.
At the risk of contradicting myself, if VR (virtual reality) allows me to play a game of squash with someone on the other side of the planet, I’m good with that. I’m less good with it if it discourages me from getting on an actual squash court.
Secondly, the rapidly evolving nature of tech is that it allows us to stand on the shoulder of giants. It’s always becoming easier to achieve more impressive technical outcomes with less technical skills. Someone living in relative poverty, but with access to a half-decent computer and an Internet connection, can increasingly achieve amazing things.
Who constitutes the core team and how they function?
Our company Itomic, has about 8 team members in Australia and (give or take) 10 team members overseas. We have excellent, close, partner relationships with lower-cost offshore agencies, and it’s with one of these agencies that most of the technical development work on the Squash Players app is carried out. I’m the product owner (ideas guy) in Australia, and offshore we have a full-time mobile app developer for Squash Players, plus an as-required senior web/database programmer, and a tester.
Literally, it’s only because we have excellent relations with lower-cost experienced technical team members that we’re able to continually invest for the long-term in Squash Players. We’ve very grateful.
While squash players will always be our primary customers, naturally there’s a broader ecosystem we’re keen to build bridges with: coaches, clubs, suppliers, associations, etc.
Who are your biggest markets in terms of clients and users?
It’s exciting to see users sign up from many countries around the world, including from places that perhaps you wouldn’t normally associate with squash, such as Brunei, Colombia, Spain, China, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and Anguilla. That said, it’s probably *because* such countries are particularly underserviced in their sport, relative to the traditional powerhouse sof the UK, Australia and the USA that makes the app so appealing.
While squash players will always be our primary customers, naturally there’s a broader ecosystem we’re keen to build bridges with coaches, clubs, suppliers, associations, etc.
What do you believe the future holds for the Squash Players App?
Do you know the globally popular Strava app principally used by cyclists and runners, but now offering services for a wide range of activities? Our Squash Players app has the potential to become the Strava for squash player but is only (i.e. optimised for) for squash players.
Right now we have a head-spinning number of opportunities to invest in increasing both the breadth and depth of the app. By depth, I mean to add more and more value for the people playing squash. By breadth I mean to connect with, and adding value for, the broader ecosystem, as mentioned above.
Note that we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel here. Where other online services exist and are being done really well (e.g. sophisticated league/competition management, ranking systems, coaching, workouts, scoring, wearables, etc.) , , Then we’re looking for win-win opportunities to augment each other’s systems, playing to each other’s strengths. In simple terms, this could be just engaging in cross-promotional activities or simple consent-based data sharing.
Squash Players is the app for… wait for it… Squash Players!
Do you think your app would revive interest in Squash to a certain extent?
We don’t “need” it to, from a commercial perspective, but we certainly hope so!
We’re all addicted to our mobile devices these days. We’re bringing high-quality value-added services to squash via smartphones and tablets. If this helps people to be more engaged with squash, to more easily connect with other players, suppliers, services, etc. then we’ll be very happy.
Any additional thoughts/comments?
Great questions! Thanks so much for the opportunity to share our story.
Naturally, we encourage everyone to download and install the app, and know that your ideas and feedback will have a massive positive influence on its future direction.