Butch Gifford was awarded Life Membership of Oceania Squash Federation last weekend for his immense contribution to the sport at the continental level.
Murray Day, also a life member of Oceania Squash Federation, presented Butch the award at the Squash NZ Awards last week in Auckland. Butch also received the Squash NZ Personality of the Year Awards which recognised his long contribution to squash in the continent.
AHISTORY: BUTCH GIFFORD
Butch Gifford’s first involvement in squash was to help get the Morrinsville Squash Club built. Since that time, there is probably no area of squash in New Zealand that Butch hasn’t been a part of – from selecting and managing national teams, coaching, refereeing, working for Squash NZ (paid and unpaid) and designing and building the first KiwiSquash courts. But all that (and more!) were simply not enough for Butch… his coaching input has extended beyond New Zealand onto the world stage and particularly, with the Oceania Squash Federation (OSF).
A brief, unabridged timeline of Butch Gifford’s involvement in Squash, from the man himself…
HIGHLIGHTS FROM OCEANIA EVENTS
The one highlight that stands out for me was when both Australia and New Zealand sent a large number of Juniors to New Caledonia mainly just for experience but to win their age groups if possible. Over 30 juniors went and the Management team consisted of three guys, Mark Devoy, Rob Crothall and I, as well as one female, Marj Crome. We did have fabulous accommodation in an apartment block with from memory 3 bedrooms and plenty of space for all the “stuff” managers and coaches end up needing to “look” after!. Marj Crome had one bedroom, Rob Crothall took one for himself and Mark Devoy and I shared one. This leads to another story which we won’t go into but did keep all of us in good humour for the time we were there.
To manage the group it was decided to split the “team” into age groups with Rob taking the Under 17’s /19’s, Mark the Under 15’s of which there were many and myself left with the Under 13’s, also a lot but easier to look after. Marj was “mother” and looked after any of the team needing some hugs!!. The allocation of responsibility worked really well. Well until my U/13’s heard of some topless sunbathers the U/15’s had seen on their trip to the courts one morning. My team approached me to see if they could take a walk “downtown” ?? A wee bit of a surprise as most of the time they would be asking for a lift to get downtown or anywhere, so I gave them a big lecture on not going past the street downtown where the police had a road block set up (due to some political unrest with the indigenous population) and they promised me they would not test the police out. I was not worried at all about the police as I was sure the “walk” was to the “Bay of Citrons” where the local females sunbathed as reported to my team from Marks lot. I watched from a good distance as the group of U/13 lads made their plans as to how or rather when we can double back to get to the Bay!! A great idea from one of them was to take a side street down towards the harbour then cut back away from the downtown area to the Bay. The problem started at that point as the road they chose to walk down led the into the French Naval base which to any who have visited Noumea will know there are some serious guns and armoury there. The lads who could not find the road which they had decided would take them back to the Bay because it did not exist and so the smart lad who had the brilliant plan told the “others” if we go right down to the water’s edge we can skip around the fence on the boulders. Good idea except the whole perimeter is under video surveillance. So after the lads had decided they had no show of getting round the fence a quick recce of the situation was to head back and go past the squash club. But no such luck there. The Navy police force arrived in very big vehicles and lots of men and guns - - the lads did not put up any type of resistance and climbed into the huge troop carriers to be taken to the base for interrogation!! By this time the lads had got themselves into a fair sweat and whatever was asked got a 100% honest answer. So back to the Squash club and I can assure you the “lads” would have done anything at all to get away from the police guys. The police Captain told me he had just scarred shit out of them and that he and all the others police had a good laugh that our Kiwi lads were on the prowl to see some of the local talent half naked!!
LOWLIGHT FROM OCEANIA
The lowest point was in The Cook Islands when the Fiji manager protested the eligibility of one of the Papua New Guinea players. There was a system in place to deal with such complaints which I followed and eventually told the Fiji manager his complaint was not upheld. He said very little at that stage, but I had a feeling he may well be back with a counter complaint which was close to what actually happened. He went away and I believe had some of his secret supply of pills as when he came back later that night he was totally out of control. He wanted to beat me to within an inch of my life cos I was a white colonial pig!! After trying to reason with the guy – his own team members also tried to pacify him to no avail) I banned him from the tournament which really sent him into a fit! Fortunately, for me the Samoan team had arrived at the courts for a practice and saw what was happening and not really liking the Fiji team much at all – and the manager even less – they came up alongside me and one of them asked if I needed a hand to get this guy out of the building. At that stage the Fijian Manager realised he had no show against the Samoans so walked out cursing and telling me he would somehow get me!! I then went to the main organisers and laid a complaint against him and was very pleased not to see him again in the Cooks!! He was sent home but not really in disgrace as he was the then Prime Ministers son!! I have been back to Fiji since that episode without any repercussions so all’s good in the Islands!!