Exclusive: Squash star Laura Massaro on Nicol David rivalry and her new book

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Soon after retiring from a successful career in squash, Laura Massaro decided to publish a book on her experiences. She talked to GiveMeSport Women about “All In” and how she found the writing process.

All In gives a personal account of how Massaro became one of the most successful women in squash. A fruitful career spanning 20 years produced a world title in 2014, two British Open gold medals, and three silver medals at the Commonwealth Games.

The 37-year-old, based in the north of England, thought long and hard about why she was writing the book.

“The answer I kept coming back to was that I've had so many experiences and learnt so much throughout a 20-year squash playing career, that I wanted to pass some of those learnings on and a lot of the positive and negative experiences that I've had,” Massaro explained.

“The negative experiences have also, in some ways, turned out to be really positive experiences too. I guess I just wanted to pass those on, and if one young girl, or boy, can pick up the book and learn from some of those experiences and learnings that I've had, then I thought it would be worth writing.”

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Massaro is able to provide first-hand accounts of past tournaments and matches through extracts from her diary. The inclusion of such passages allows the reader to gain real insight into the mentality of an elite athlete, but Massaro revealed she also learned a lot from the process.

“We’re talking about 10 to 12 diaries, just piled up, just going through them trying to find stuff that's worthwhile for the book, because a lot of it was just boring, rambling,” she laughed.

“The stuff that I was reading was, it was just like being on a merry go round. It was the same stuff that just kept popping up. Every few months, it would be like, there was an issue there and then there was an issue there, and it was the same issue, it just kept popping up.

“But when I was in it, at the time, it felt so unique and so individual, I've never been through it before, but actually it was just like being on a merry go round.”

In all, Massaro found reminiscing gave her a new perspective on her career.

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“There were certain things that happened when I was a junior which I talked about early on in the book, how my dad was with me and some of those times were really tough, with the expectation I put on myself and the expectation I felt from my family. At the time it just felt really heavy and a lot of pressure.

When I look back on it now, and actually had a few conversations with my family and my parents about what happened, and how it was from their perspective, it almost helped me understand that a little bit more.

“Obviously as a child you remember things very differently, from what your parents are actually going through as well. So it was really interesting to sort of think of it from that side of things.”

Massaro continued: “Having won a lot within my sport and to have a career I'm really proud of, where I was fairly successful, it does make some of those harder times almost more worthwhile in a way.

“While you're going through those hard times, the toughest part about going through tough times is that you don't know if they're ever going to pass and you don't know if the tough time is ever going to be worth it. Whereas obviously when you write a book, looking back in retrospect, you know the perspective of it, you actually know it was all worthwhile.

“So that's been really interesting to go okay, that was really tough, but we all know now, looking back, that it all worked out for the best.”

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Naturally, Nicol David is mentioned regularly throughout the book. The Malaysian star, an eight-time world champion, was dominant during Massaro’s career. In fact, David often prevented her British opponent from taking the ultimate prizes.

Given this, did Massaro ever wish she played in a different era to David?

“While it was extremely hard work to deal with someone who is so dominant within your sport, and losing maybe one or two times a year, at the same time I do think that she helped push the game on,” she responded.

“And she made me push myself and push myself on so that I was trying to chase her. Who knows whether I would have won more if she hadn't been around at the same time as me, I’d like to maybe think so.

“Maybe I won what I did because I was forced to really push myself and kind of reach for someone who was just so exceptional in women's squash, so a bit of both I’d say.”

There is a notable omission among the accolades earned by Massaro during her career. Despite repeated attempts, squash has failed to earn a place on the Olympic programme thus far. Subsequently, the world’s best players have never got the chance to appear at the Games.

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Massaro conceded she was disappointed about missing out on the Olympics, but ultimately did not dwell on it often.

“I've always really taken the mindset that it's completely out of my control,” she said. ‘I'm obviously a huge sports fan and tune in and watch the Olympics non-stop when it's on, and it’s disappointing that we never got a chance to be part of that, but it's also something that's so far out of my control that it's not really worth worrying about.

“I just tried to concentrate on the events that we've got.

“I genuinely believe we deserve to be an Olympic sport. If we just carry on making our tour really strong, which it is, and having really good equality on the men's and the women's side and continue to attract sponsorship, hopefully it will come one day for the people who are coming up in the future.”

Massaro will be hoping her book is an additional inspiration to those players working their way up the ranks. All In is released today.

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