Melina Turk is aiming to reignite the squash scene at The Court House Squash & Wellness as she aims to continue her family’s sporting legacy in the coaching ranks.
Having forged a professional career, reaching a world ranking of 88 on the PSA World Tour, the Canadian has now taken up the role as squash coach at the Victoria Street club in Hamilton, as she aims to pass on her experiences and expertise.
“The first few months have been fantastic,” said the 27-year-old, who moved to Bermuda from Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories in northern Canada. “I’ve settled in really quickly and I’m getting to grips with what the job will entail.
“I feel like I have the opportunity to start from scratch, like a clean slate and I can mould it how I want it to be.
“That’s a new position for me to be in, but I love that I’m able to do that and I’m relishing the opportunity that I have here, it’s really exciting.”
Turk’s affinity to squash and pathway into the sport was almost inevitable when you consider her family connections to the game.
As the daughter of former Canada men’s coach Gene Turk, she jokingly concedes the potential to get involved in the sport was almost always going to come to fruition, although her first tentative steps into playing came late and were not as simple as might have been expected.
“It was a real family affair for us all,” said Turk whose younger brother Connor has also just turned professional.
“My dad was a squash professional for 34 years for a club in Winnipeg, Canada, but it was an-all male club so I wasn’t actually able to play there.
“There wasn’t a lot of options in Winnipeg, so I kind of only got to play once a week on a junior programme.
“I didn’t really play a whole lot until I was about 14 when I went to squash camp in Dartmouth college. My dad was coaching there and so he took us along.
“I was the worst player in the camp because I hadn’t played a lot but then I fell in love with the sport there and decided it was my dream to play.”
From there, Turk’s passion and natural aptitude began to truly flourish as her ability came to the fore at Dartmouth College [New Hampshire] where she captained the squash team.
However, she had to deal with the pressure of being the daughter of a well-known figure in the sport.
“I never really felt a whole lot of pressure going into squash with my dad being a professional,” she added. “However, I put some on myself and then had the whole, ‘That’s Gene’s daughter, she must be good’. I was always known as Gene’s daughter.
“Squash is a really small community and he was well known from being the national coach so there was that pressure. But my goal as a junior was to play at college level, it was never to go professional.
“I achieved that goal by going to Dartmouth and I hadn’t thought much beyond that so didn’t know where to go from there. I got to a point where I was still loving the game and training hard and so by the time I got into my fourth year, I wasn’t ready to give it up, there was still more for me to give.”
After breaking into the professional ranks, taking advantage of wild-card entries in a host of tournaments in New York, Turk enjoyed a positive career, as she finally stepped out of her father’s shadow to break into the world’s top 100, before calling time on her playing career.
“Because I started late, I never felt like I lived up to expectations people had of me, especially early on, but eventually I was proud to become a professional and reach the top 100.
“I’m still playing but not competing professionally. It’s difficult to work full-time and try and continue at professional level. You have to play consistently and train thoroughly.
“I love coaching. It’s challenging and that is where my focus will be from now on.”
Her coaching career has taken her to numerous locations, from the Westchester Squash Club in New York, to the Calgary Winter Club in Alberta, Canada, then to Yellowknife, before a complete contrast to head south to settle in Bermuda in her latest role.
“Coming here as been a complete change but it has been a great move,” she added. “I heard about this opportunity and couldn’t turn it down.
“The club has been here ten years but the professional before me left in August and so the programme has suffered a bit because of that. I’m having to revamp it again and reinvent what we are doing here.
“I definitely want to create some of my club events and tournaments. I’d love to do more throughout the year.
“I also want to try and bring a professional aspect to the club, whether that’s an exhibition match or a tournament for our members to show them that level of squash.”
In becoming accustomed to the Bermudian squash scene, Turk conceded her pleasant surprise at the level of quality that she has witnessed, as she aims to build on the strong foundations, as well as eyeing links with the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association in Devonshire.
“I’ve been very impressed with the level of squash on the island,” she said. “The level is really high for a small country. I didn’t know what I was walking into when I moved here but quickly after arriving I got really excited about what I was seeing.
“I know of Nick Kyme and I’m aware of Patrick Foster, who was a former professional, at the other squash club, so it’s great to see those foundations are here already.
“It is really surprising to see such a strong foundation. I believe there is a history between the two clubs but if we can work together then it would it be great for the sport in general.
“If we can bring some tournaments between the clubs then it will really benefit the sport; it’s healthy to have numerous clubs on island.
“I’d love to bring a professional element to the club, whether that be exhibition matches or a tournament itself so the members here can see that top level of squash.
“We had a junior programme before and I’m definitely looking into growing that; it’s vital to have a focus on the youth element because they’re the ones that will keep the sport going.”
Having made a name for herself in her own right as a player, Turk is now aiming to build her own legacy in a coaching capacity, although she did concede to utilising her famous father’s expertise to help her on her way.
“I talk to my dad all the time and get advice from him,” she said. “He was actually over a couple of weeks ago and I showed him around. I’m constantly learning from him because he’s just so natural at coaching.
“I think he’s proud of me coaching. He was such a high-level coach but stayed in Winnipeg because of his family despite the opportunities to go and travel. He’s happy that I’m taking those opportunities that he couldn’t and carrying on those family traditions.
“He is a brilliant connection for me to have and when I began my journey he was an amazing person to help with contacts. I’m making my own way now but he was definitely a massive help to me.”