Sport Wales

Arch Way To The Future . . . Archie Turnbull Wants To Be Welsh Squash’s Next Joel Makin

By Harry Corish

Joel Makin has underlined his status as Britain’s No.1 male squash player – and world No.9 – with a stunning win over world No.3 Mohamed Elshorbagy to win the Manchester Open title. But who’s following behind him? It could be 14-year-old Archie Turnbull, who has revealed Makin is his role model, as he tells Harry Corish

Archie Turnbull has squash pedigree running through his veins, but it’s the prospect of making his own mark in the sport which really gets his heart pumping.

After tasting victory at the recent British Junior Under 15 Nationals, the 14-year-old is hungry for more and is pouring his incredible work ethic and focus into his future development.

Archie picked up a racket at an early age, when his father, James, started taking him down to play at their local squash club when Archie was five.

He felt right at home on court – perhaps no coincidence since the Turnbull family have a decorated past in the sport, with Archie’s great-great uncle, Maurice Turnbull, winning the first Wales Open title in 1938.

Maurice and his brother went on to set up the Cardiff Squash and Rackets Club, something Archie and the Turnbull family are very proud of. Keeping the tradition alive, the club is now Archie’s main base for training.

Maurice Turnbull was an exceptional sportsman, not only achieving in his squash career, but also playing rugby and hockey for Wales, as well as becoming Glamorgan cricket’s first Test player for England.

Some historians have even called him Wales’ greatest all-round sports star.

But while some sporting talent might be passed down through the genes, most of it comes from hard work and dedication.

“I usually play six times a week,” says Archie.

“My favourite aspect is probably the athletic side because I like training quite a lot. The running and the body weight exercises, I enjoy a lot.”

The willingness to train means the Cardiff youngster is happy to be ranked highly for tournaments.

“Whenever I get the number one seed, then I always want to try and achieve that goal. I have been in that position a few different times.

“Because it was in the British Nationals it changes things, because there’s a bit more pressure added. But I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming.”

Archie won the tournament in impressive fashion, beating Oliver Gribble, Indie Flint and Diego Pita comfortably, before defeating Dylan Roberts in the final showdown.

“I was very happy and it gave me a boost to play squash even more. So, after that, I structured my training plan to be a lot more thorough and I added diet into the equation as well, because before that I didn’t really focus on diet.

“But when I was away at Birmingham (at the British Nationals) lots of different pros set up their camps out there.

“I got to see how structured their training camps were, like Joel Makin, for example, who’s a big inspiration to me. I just saw how he trained.”

Archie cites Welsh world top 10 performer Makin as one of his biggest role models, and credits his support and influence as having had a significant effect on his professional attitude and preparation.

“My coach at the moment is Joel’s coach (Nic Birt) and Joel actually used to train at my club. So, when I speak to people and hear about the stuff he did, it does remind me of myself.

“I take notes off him for fitness and injury prevention quite a lot.”

Archie is dedicated to his craft and gets excited by developing new skills. For him, practice and improvement is fun.

“Normally during the week I try and play different styles of people, so that when I’m away at tournaments, then I’m used to playing left-handed, right-handed opponents, people that run a lot, or people that just try and play shots.

“If I develop that game awareness from playing with lots of different people, then I’ll probably be able to cope with it a bit better when I’m at the tournament.”

Archie’s mother, Judith Turnbull, says Archie enjoys the challenge that new players, who are often older, can provide.

“He likes to be put in difficult situations, so that he can work out ways to win,” she says.

“He has recently been called up to the U19s Welsh squad. He is also representing the five nations with the under 15s and representing Wales for the under 19s.”

Not many teenagers get to represent their country in sport and Archie admits: “Yeah, I’m very proud.

“I set that as a target last year and I marked it down as something I wanted to achieve. Now that I have achieved that, I need to add another target, of course. But I have achieved that one and I can have a little rest break and just take it in.”

His parents have strived to keep Archie as grounded as they possibly can and are realistic about managing his expectations and providing him with a challenge.

“One of the things James has done with Archie is that we’ve always played him up an age grade. So, there’s a lot of tournaments he won’t win, but it’s giving him the practice,” says Judith.

“It’s always aiming higher. So, he’s playing people better than he is and that’s something he’s done, and he’s accepted that he wants to do.

“Playing his own age group like he did in the British and winning it is amazing, but a lot of the time, the tournament he goes and plays in next week is for 17-year-olds.

“His ranking in higher age groups in the UK is quite good as well. It’s not about winning all the time, it’s about building experiences and knowledge of different situations. That’s really how it works for him.”

Archie is marching up the age grades following impressive performances throughout the season.

The youngster is looking to the top and is expecting a tough challenge as he moves through the ranks, but is excited about the future that lies ahead.

“Well, I can definitely stay physically with it, but it is just a matter of putting in enough hours behind the scenes. As well as staying fit, you have to be able to compete in the technical side of it as well.

“That’s where my coaching and my coach Nic definitely comes in to help, because he gets my quality to stay high all the way during the match.”

So, what’s next on the Archie ambition list?

“I have a couple. The first one is to become the under 17 British Champion at 15, and then I also want to win the British Open which would equivalently make me world number one.

“I think they are definitely achievable. It will be hard work, too, but I do like a challenge.”

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