We sat down with current world #4 Paul Coll to talk through what’s happening in his world over the past year. From rising through the rankings, to launching his own clothing line, switching to a new racket sponsor and more, it’s been a huge year for the All-Black superstar.
Paul Coll on: His current squash season
You’re having a storming season so far. In the past 14 months, you’ve played in three platinum event finals and reached a career high ranking of world #4. What are the main things you attribute to this success?
It’s been a really interesting year with some huge challenges. More than anything it’s been emotionally tough not being able to get back home to New Zealand. I’ve also not been able to get on court with my coach Rob Owen for the past twelve months. We’ve had to really adapt the way that we train, with lots of video calls between Rob and I, and working closely with my training partner LJ Anjema and his Squash Academy in Holland. The team around me is definitely the biggest factor in my success over the past year for sure.
You mentioned at the start of this season you were working with a new strength and conditioning coach. How has that training helped your game?
Before starting with my new coach, I was really quad dominant. I wasn’t activating the right muscles in my legs and was suffering badly because of it. I’d often cramp up during or after games and was aching pretty badly. My quads would also lock up because they were being overworked. With the training I’ve been doing, I’m lots more efficient and my body feels way better. I’m stronger and ache a lot less, which has helped my game massively.
With some brilliant performances including a huge win against Tarek Momen, but a fairly humbling final against an on form Mohamed Elshorbagy, can you talk us through your recent El Gouna tournament?
I’m actually feeling really motivated after the final against Mohamed. It’s fair to say I didn’t show up on the day and he taught me a lesson. There’s so many positives for me to take away from that tournament though, so I’m definitely not dwelling on the one result. Of course, there’s plenty of things I’ve learned from watching the final back and talking it through with my team – both mentally and tactically. Bring on the next match.
Your world tour finals draw has been released. Joel Makin, Tarek Momen and Greg Marche in your group is going to be tough. How has your preparation been for the tournament, and have you approached anything differently, given the best of 3 format?
I actually try not to take a different approach with best of three and best of five. However, I’ve been working on starting much stronger in my matches as you can’t afford to start slowly in a best of three. My training partner and I have started playing with a six point handicap, and I owe him ten Euros for every game he wins. Plenty of motivation for me to start strong!
Paul Coll on: Launching IWI Athletica
What inspired the decision to launch your new brand of clothes?
I’ve always been interested in clothes, and there’s not really a brand in squash that targets the unique requirements of the game. My business partner Aaron is an absolute guru when it comes to sports clothing materials, having worked with Lululemon, Gymshark and other huge brands. Aaron reached out to me at the Tournament of Champions in New York early last year, and the idea of starting a sports clothing line really sung out to me.
We started developing the clothing line at the worst time thanks to Covid, but it turned out to be fantastic for me. It gave me something to keep myself occupied with while the world stood on hold.
What’s been the hardest part about starting up your own sports clothing line?
We put a lot of work in just to get things off the ground, then found out how hard things were logistically when it came to testing and developing the products. Sending and receiving garments from our factory in Taiwan was a real challenge. I ended up with eight different sample shirts by the end of the process, which meant almost three months of developing and refining the fabrics. A lot of work but we’re confident it’s resulted in an awesome product.
Our next challenge was looking at how we ship the products out. Lockdown restrictions in New Zealand added another layer of complexity, but the awesome team I work with have really helped overcome some of these hurdles.
Can you talk us through some of the technology in the clothes?
I don’t want to get caught up in the technicalities – not my speciality! However, I can say we use a silver yarn in the clothes which is what I call our ‘anti-stink’ material. I have a shocking problem with my shirts because of how much I sweat on court, so having the antibacterial properties of the silver yarn means they fight odour really well.
The shirts have a really nice feel to them as well, our shirt fabric guru Aaron has done an awesome job in producing something that performs as good as it looks and feels.
How big are you hoping to go with IWI? Just squash, or expanding? Are there any plans to sponsor other players?
We’re wanting to expand for sure. We’re targeting squash to start with as it’s where my expertise and audience is. We want to go big though, targeting triathlon as well. With the brains in my team though it’s limitless, so we’re really excited to see where we can take the brand.
You can purchase clothes now from the IWI Athletica online store. There’s also an exclusive 10% discount for registering for the IWI newsletter!
Paul Coll on: Moving to Head
You recently moved over to Head, now endorsing their Speed Slimbody 120. Talk us through how you came to choosing this racket and how you’re finding using it.
I mean, I’d have chosen the it on looks alone – it’s a dream racket for me! It’s pretty fortunate that it has exactly the specs I look for in a racket. A good friend of mine Jard was instrumental in helping me choose my new racket. We decided to use Head’s Adaptive Fan Pattern in the racket, as it then played exactly how I like it. Overall I’m loving the racket, it’s given me so much control on my shots. I also love the handle on the racket, the thinner grip profile fits perfectly in my hand.
(Jard ran QSS Squash and unfortunately passed away last year. He also played a huge role in helping to set up SquashGearReviews.com – one of the nicest guys you could meet and an enormous loss for squash).
It’s no secret that players sometimes tweak their rackets to feel exactly how they’d like them. Do you make any changes to your rackets, or are they straight off-the-shelf?
I made some tweaks to my older Eye racket to make it more head-heavy, but my new racket has a fair bit more weight at the top so it’s pretty much spot on. The only real things I’ve tweaked are the stringing pattern and tension. I find the Adaptive Fan Pattern gives me the best feel from the racket. I also recently tried out a new gold colour stencil on the strings which looks super cool!
What strings, tension and pattern are you currently using?
I’m using Head’s Reflex 1.2 strings, strung in the Adaptive Fan Pattern at 11kg (24lbs).
Read our review of Paul Coll’s brand new squash racket here!
Paul Coll on: *that celebration* and the future of squash
Over the past year there’s been a rivalry growing between you and Mostafa Asal. Two incredible 3-2 matches and lots of debate after some questionable celebrations. What’s your own personal take on the events after your first match and also the excitement that now surrounds your matches?
I think Mostafa and I are always going to have a good battle. Our games compliment each other, he’s going to try fire the ball in and I’m going to try grind him down. He’s a talented player for sure, it’s always a mental battle with him as well.
The celebration…I think there’s a way to celebrate after a match. I love to celebrate as much as the next person with a good yelp. But with him throwing the shirt into the crowd before the match had been called, and doing things like celebrating while the ball’s still live, I think those things definitely riled me up a little. I hope he calms this down as he develops and matures as he’s undoubtedly a talented player. I’m looking forward to our next match – I want to beat anyone that beats me!
Are there any players you’re tipping to make a push into the higher rankings this season? Who should we look out for?
There’s a huge amount of strength-in-depth in the top rankings at the moment. You’ve got players like Fares, Abouelghar and Asal who could cause an upset in just about any match. Then there’s players like Joel Makin who’s continuing to prove himself time and time again. There’s no rest for the guys at the top!
Finally, where would you like to see yourself this time next year?
Hopefully in New Zealand! In terms of squash, I’d like to take the #2 spot – certainly won’t be easy but I’m up to the task!
A huge thank you to Paul for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to SquashGearReviews.com. If you’d like to see more content like this, please be sure to leave a comment below!
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