Birmingham shoppers treated to free squash and racketball sessions as part of Big Hit tour

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July 13 - England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and other local professionals are offering shoppers in Birmingham free squash and racketball coaching sessions as part of England Squash and Racketball’s Big Hit campaign today.

By Gary Anderson, republished from Inside The Games.

The Big Hit campaign aims to increase the profile and exposure of squash and racketball in England by setting up “pop-up” courts in empty retail spaces in shopping centres across the country, giving the public the opportunity to try out the sports and increase participation.

The latest “pop-up” court is situated in the Square Shopping Centre in Birmingham city centre, and passersby have the opportunity to take part in games and coaching sessions in the company of world number 18 and 2009 European junior champion, Perry.

“That was great fun,” said Neil Walker, who took part.

“I was shopping with my partner and we saw the crowd gathered around the window.

“When I saw it was sport I just had to have a go.

“I think the council should make more shops available to sports to do this, it makes sport interesting and accessible to people and it’s not like there aren’t enough empty shops these days.”

Shoppers grabbed a racket and took part in the racket sports exhibition in Birmingham

Sixteen year-old Nikita Pitt said: “I don’t play much sport but when you see how fit and toned the players are, it makes you think about playing a bit more.”

The Big Hit campaign was launched in January of this year and has already visited shopping centres in Manchester, Sheffield and London.

It aims to visit ten cities across England by the end of 2013.

“We want customers to walk out of a clothing store and straight into a ‘squash shop’ for a quick taster session – and to learn the fun and health benefits that you can have with a squash racket and a ball,” said Steve Amos, head of development at England Squash and Racketball.

Sarah-Jane Perry (second left) was on hand to demonstrate her squash playing skills

There are more than 2,000 clubs with squash courts in England and almost half a million people play squash every month, and England Squash and Racketball hopes the initiative will spark greater interest in the sport ahead of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision whether to include squash in the 2020 Games programme, which will be made at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in September.

Squash is vying with baseball-softball and wrestling for Olympic inclusion in 2020.

The Big Hit campaign runs in Birmingham today, and free vouchers are available at clubs and leisure centres around the city.