Always Striving To Be Better

Laura Massaro the former world No 1 squash champion has published her autobiography about what it took to become a world champion

There is a sentence in the foreword to Laura Massaro’s autobiography, written by England Netball Head Coach, Tracey Neville, that sums up just why her story is so worth the telling. It reads: “Most important of all, Laura should be a role model for young female athletes everywhere because hers is a story of resilience and of always striving to be better.”

That Massaro could arguably claim to be one of the finest athletes that the UK has produced in many decades would be enough of a recommendation to those who aspired to sporting success. And make no mistake, her chosen sport, squash, takes no prisoners in its demands on the body and mind.

Not content with winning the World Championships in 2013, and reaching two more finals, winning the British Open – the ‘Wimbledon of squash’ – twice from four finals, winning the US Open twice from three finals, picking up three Commonwealth silver medals, two World Tour Finals titles, and a World Team Championships gold, this remarkable athlete achieved the ultimate measure of any athlete’s career, becoming world No1.

What is more, hers has been a career of remarkable longevity, beginning with her part in helping to win the World Junior Team Championship as a teenager in 2001, and concluding with the Monte-Carlo Classic in 2018. She retired in 2019 with 23 titles from 43 finals, and with more than eight years ranked inside the top 10.

Yes, all that silverware and all that space in the history of women’s squash would be enough to inspire any young athlete. But it is the quality of the woman herself, the determination and the iron will in overcoming life-long self-doubt and personal insecurity that lifts Massaro to another level, and her autobiography is as good a starting place as you could find for any hopeful world champion. The title sums it up, All In.

The scale of the mountain that Massaro had to climb to reach the pinnacle of squash was writ large from the first in the shape of a woman born just three months before Massaro, Nicol David. The Malaysian would rise to dominate squash at a prodigiously young age, she was already world No1 at the age of 22, won eight World Championships, and went on to accumulate nine and a half years at the top. Perhaps not surprisingly, with a rival of this stature who happens to play in your own era Massro needed to devote a full chapter to her headed ‘Chasing Nicol’.

It would be easy to be left with the image of a woman so focused on her professional life and with such a fierce will to win that there was nothing left for an off-court Laura. But she is a woman of many parts.

There’s the intelligent one, who put her plans to take a degree in sports psychology on hold, but has drawn on and applied many branches of science and psychology throughout her career. And in her diversions into the difficulties facing women entering elite sport, her analysis is perceptive and well informed.

Indeed, how many sporting autobiographies throw in elements of Martin Heidegger and quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard to illustrate their motivation and problem-solving?

Then there’s the warm-hearted one who enjoyed the support of the women in her Lancashire league who took her under their wing as a teenager. They, and her fellow workers at the local leisure centre, supported her with their time and friendship, but also took such pride in their junior star-to-be that they organised fund-raisers to help her early career.

There’s also the political one, the woman who joined the campaign for the merger of the men’s and women’s tours in 2015, and for equal pay – and the resultant conditions for young women seeking a career in squash are all the better because of it.

Finally, there’s the frank, honest, often humorous woman who has been brave enough to open her book to chapters by those involved in her story – among them husband Danny, coaches, psychologists, and therapists – and open enough to address issues around body image, and cliques in women’s sport.

It is a fascinating read, and all the more so for shedding so much light on the struggles behind the headlines of success. And while the vehicle for this particular journey may have been squash, one is left with the impression that Massaro would have applied the same energy, passion, intellect and sheer sweat to whatever road she took in life. Even Laura herself has managed, now and then, to see the same winner in the mirror that the rest of us see.



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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