Four years ago a quartet of racket-sport fans turned up to quiet Thursday night training session at the Manchester Squash Club.
Hit by a crisis among their management, Manchester’s number one club had seen membership sink to an almost unsustainably small number.
Now it supplies four teams to the North West Counties League and almost 80 people visit to enjoy the top notch training provided by the clubs coaches as well as exposure to top squash stars which comes with training in the same venue as the national team.
The man behind the transformation was none other than Hirusha Henricus who decided to become club chairman at the age of just 17.
“The club was having a lot of trouble so I was asked to become acting chair when I was around 16 or 17. It was supposed to be temporary but no-one wanted the job so I took it on,” he said.
Hirusha, or Rosh to those who know him, started playing squash when he was eight. After moving to Manchester from Sri Lanka, he played for the City of Manchester Juniors and was studying at Loreto High School in Chorlton when he took on the difficult task of rebuilding its dwindling membership.
“If you go out into the community and ask someone if they want to play squash, 90% of them don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“I found the best way to get more people interested in playing was to go up to people in pay-as-you-play sessions. By some people bringing their friends to sessions, then their friends bringing their mates along, we’ve managed to get more people at the club.”
Now aged 21 he is a fully-fledged squash coach who combines coaching at the City of Manchester Club with teaching Lancashire County Squads, all whilst studying for a Sports Development degree at the University of Bolton.
The present club secretary Patricia High-Corner has known him since he was 14 and says he’s been vital to the club.
“He’s always there whether it’s transporting people around or making sure we’ve got all our equipment. He even makes sure that the ladies team have a meal after their matches on a Monday,” she said.
“He does a lot of work with the kids, really inspiring them and making sure they progress from the juniors to the adult squads. He’s an amazing role model for the juniors -in squash or any other sport.”
An oft-seen presence at the National Squash centre, Rosh has played a key part in their drive to get more people involved in squash, coaching at community sessions as well as helping out at major events.
Last month he helped with the UK Junior Open which was run purely with the aid of dedicated volunteers.
“We had 65 children playing in different age brackets. Some top ranked international players also came down to watch so it had a great feel,” Hirusha said.
After he completes his third year at the University of Bolton he says he wants to study a Masters and ultimately have a career in sports and sport development.
He said: “I’m interested in getting more people involved in sport. My dissertation for my degree focuses on finding out why there is a shortfall of women and children in sport and how we can engage them more, particularly given the legacy of the 2012 Games.”
Squash, controversially, was not part of the London Games and failed in its latest bid to be included in the long list of sports included at the Olympics, something Rosh admits was ‘very disappointing’.
Yet despite the set-back, he doesn’t believe in giving up.
“I’ve worked really hard and failed on loads of occasions,” he said.
“If I had any advice for young people wanting to succeed in sport or anything it’s that you just have to stick at things. Even if you fail ten times, you can succeed.”