The inter-county championship is a highlight of the junior squash season, giving young players a taste of competitive action against some of the country's best young players, and each of the Avon age-group teams was raring to go.
This season we entered three boys teams into the ICC championships, the first round of which took place on the weekend of 9-10 November at several different venues across Surrey.
The first round was divided into southern and northern divisions, with all the southern division ties taking place in Surrey. Hundreds of the best juniors in the south of the country battled it out to make it into the national finals, with only the top two sides in each group making it through to the finals, which this season will be played in Nottingham.
Our under 11 team travelled with their parents to Wimbledon Rackets Club and put on a fantastic show. The highlight of the day came as they pushed Hampshire - one of the top sides in the event - all the way, showing great ability, application and spirit.
A hugely exciting group of players is developing within our U11 age groups in both boys and girls. Unfortunately the boys came third in their group, so narrowly missed out on the finals weekend, but their performance certainly bodes well for the future, and I am hugely excited about their potential.
A lot of the boys have another year in the age group, and with many other players nipping at their heels, they know they need to keep working hard to keep their place in the team, so we are looking forward to another great performance at next year's event.
Many congratulations to the players selected – Sam Browning, Theo Lamey, Emmanuel Cox, Oliver Duffet
Our under-15s meanwhile travelled to Ashtead, while our under 17s made their way to Dorking tennis and squash club, ready to take on teams from some of the biggest counties in England. Our teams were pitted against some of the real big hitters, yet the coaches (myself and local professional player Theis Houlberg) were hugely impressed with all of the players' attitude and performance throughout the weekend.
The players learned a huge amount, not just in terms of squash, but also the importance of team spirit, goal setting and dealing with the pressure and stress of competition. Up against bigger counties, the Avon teams acquitted themselves very well, both coming out with a victory.
Unfortunately, both our under-15s and under-17s again finished in third position. However, both teams managed to leave with a victory, which is very creditable for a county of our size and resources, so I'm very proud of the teams and pleased with their performance. There's certainly a lot of potential in Avon's Junior teams, and we're all going to work hard to turn it into success.
Congratulations to the following players for their selection –
Boys U15 – Oscar Lambert, Isaac Hall, Joshua Bailey, Thomas Williams, Ernie Clarke
Boys U17 – Pau Jimenez, Marcus Wales, Mckenzie Dutton, Tejas Ramanan, Joshua Watt
With each of our age-group teams playing at different venues it was a logistically challenging weekend, so many thanks are due to all the parents, grandparents and friends who helped out in ferrying everybody around and making sure our teams got to the right place at the right time. It couldn't have happened without you.
Finally, I will be looking to arrange some ‘friendly’ county fixtures for our teams to give everyone a bit more competitive experience, while we also have plans for a fixture for our county girls. Sadly, we were just short of being able to field a girls team, but we have some exciting talent and we will ensure they get to represent Avon this season to help build for next.
John Welton – Junior county coach