Meet the champ: Peter Barker

Squash ace and Brentwood School alumnus Peter Barker enjoyed a hugely successful 2014 Commonwealth Games with Team GB

He scooped bronze in the Men’s Singles finals and Silver in the Mixed Doubles.

âž¡ What are your memories of the sports coaching at Brentwood?

The sporting emphasis at Brentwood was very prominent, and I really thrived in it. I played very little squash there, in fact, as the squash coaching all took place away from the school – but team sports at Brentwood made my days there so happy and memorable.

âž¡ Which sports did you excel in back then?

I played football, athletics and cricket and, looking back, the coaching and facilities were second to none. Now I’m a father, I can only hope that my son enjoys the same opportunities that I had.

âž¡ How would you describe the sporting ethos at Brentwood? 

I think there was a strong emphasis on winning. It was a competitive atmosphere – the kind of atmosphere which, I believe, creates success. There was a kudos in playing for the top school teams, which in itself created a competitive nature.

âž¡ What did Brentwood give you, in terms of your development as an athlete?

I think the emphasis on playing a variety of team sports, not just those in which you specialised, was crucial. These days there is an emphasis on specialising in key sports from an early age – but this wasn’t expected of us at Brentwood. We were encouraged to be versatile, which has served me well in dealing with injuries and defeats.

âž¡ What are your memories of school life beyond the sports field?

Excellent. I enjoyed school immensely. I felt there was a very fair balance between education, sport and enjoyment. The teachers were great – something which, as is often the case, you can only fully appreciate with hindsight. There were some excellent teachers who really didn’t get the credit they deserved. Youth is wasted on the young.

âž¡ What has been your own sporting highlight thus far?

Achieving a World Ranking of 5, becoming World Champion with England and being able to do my hobby as a job for the past 13 years – all of these have been amazing. Individual highlights, though, would include beating the World Number 1 in Qatar and winning the deciding match in the World Team Championships against Australia.

âž¡ And what has been your greatest challenge or lowest point so far? 

Injury and mental fatigue are the toughest elements to deal with. As a sportsman, there is always enormous pressure for you to perform. In a small, tough sport like squash, if you are carrying a niggle there is no place to hide. And if you don’t play, you don’t get paid. The mental fatigue is tough: lots of travelling on your own and missing your family. Recently, I’ve taken breaks from the game when I feel I need them. Earlier on, your sheer desire to win can overcome this fatigue.

âž¡ What are your plans for the future?

I am just trying to figure that out! I’d like to stay involved with the game in some respect. Squash is a small sport, with relatively few good coaching positions in this country – but I intend to try and use the game to take a step forward in my next career. 

 

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