Squash the Stigma: “Squash gave me the confidence to secure promotion at work”

Moving to a new town or city can be daunting, with lost social connections, changes to routine and nerves about starting afresh. 

The impact of lockdowns and isolation during the Covid pandemic only added to that uncertainty, when Billy McLafferty decided to make the move from Perth to Glasgow. 

Embracing a fresh start, the 26-year-old decided to try a new hobby, heading along to Newlands Lawn Tennis and Squash Club to try squash for the first time. 

Billy reflects: “I moved away from Glasgow when I left school, so when I moved back I realised that I didn’t know anyone. 

“I wanted to find something to do where I could get to know people, so I joined the squash club and it turned out to be the best thing that I ever did. 

“It was hard starting fresh again when I moved, but I’ve made so many friends at the club.” 

Before picking up a racket, the new squash player described his mental health as “rocky”, having experienced loneliness and isolation when moving. 

Billy has ADHD, and he finds that squash is a great way to burn off some energy and relieve some stress. 

The confidence that Billy has gained from playing squash has also played an important role in his day-to-day life. 

He recently started a new job as a Programme Development Officer at Movement Park, a Glasgow based charity providing urban sports opportunities. 

Billy said: “Squash has given me so much more confidence to just go for things. 

“I started a new job, and after a month, a promotion opportunity came up and I decided just to go for it and put my name forward for it – and I got it. 

“I would never have had the confidence to do that before I started playing squash.” 

Having arrived at Newlands not knowing any new players, Billy has appreciated how open everyone is to talking openly, including about mental health. 

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) advise that talking is one of the first steps that a person can take to improve their mental health, and Billy has seen evidence of this at Newlands. 

He said: “We don’t go straight on the court when we arrive at the club. 

“We’ll sit for ten, twenty or sometimes thirty minutes having a conversation without realising how much time has passed. 

“We feel able to discuss things about our life, how we’re feeling, and share our experiences and advice with each other.” 

With his passion for the sport, and the sport’s community, Billy now gives his time as a Scottish Squash Young Ambassador, a volunteer at Scottish Squash events and with Scottish Student Sport where he runs the squash student media accounts. 

And he would urge anyone thinking about trying the sport to pick up their racket and give it a go. 

Billy added: “If you can find a club where everyone – no matter how good they are – is willing to put in the time to play you and get to know you, then there is nothing better. 

“You don’t need to be good to start, you just need to go along and try it, and you might fall in love with it!” 

As part of our Squash the Stigma campaign, we are encouraging members of Scotland’s squash community to anonymously share their own squash related mental health stories. We will share some of these on social media as part of the campaign. If you would like to share yours, click here.