What do we count as the biggest sporting day in Australia? Is it the AFL grand final? Maybe the NRL grand final? What about Melbourne Cup?
Despite playing a variety of sports growing up, Tamika Saxby almost had no choice but to play squash.
Saxby’s father was a squash coach and by the time Saxby was seven years old her parents bought a squash court and moved the family to Coffs Harbour.
“I was kind of locked in then, once my parents bought the squash centre that was it,” said Saxby.
“I was fortunate enough that I was talented too, so it kind of worked.
“Since a young age, I’ve just kept playing and the sport has taken me to some incredible places.”
While Saxby loved squash, she also played other sports growing up and participated in cross country and swimming. The challenge was that as Saxby continued to excel in these other sports, it would begin to clash with squash.
“I was put in a position where I had to pick and choose what I wanted to do,” said Saxby
“In the end I always ended up picking squash because I loved it more.”
For Saxby, squash certainly means family, but what she loves about the sport is how much it demands from an athlete not just physically, but mentally too.
“You have to be fit and you have to be strong, but there are also so many tactics that you need to use and it’s a sport that encourages smart and strategic play,” said Saxby.
“I love that everyone can approach the game so differently and still get an outcome and be successful.
“There is no perfect formula to be good at squash, you learn over time how to become a successful squash player.”
Saxby is someone who has achieved plenty of success in her chosen sports.
Before she was 19 years old, she had already won six years’ of National Titles.
Saxby also spent time overseas playing in Asia and the United Kingdom, with moderate success. She credits her time overseas to reinforcing to her just how competitive the sport is at an international level.
“Going overseas was a good reality check for me,” said Saxby.
“It showed me that I still had room for improvement and that just because I was good in Australia, it didn’t automatically translate into international success.
“That experience drove me to continue further into seniors and find out just where I could get to.”
As a senior player, Saxby moved to Brisbane and spent time at the Australian Institute of Sport. After spending some more time overseas in Scotland came the 2018 Commonwealth Games where Saxby was selected to represent Australia.
Given squash is not currently an Olympic sport, the Commonwealth Games are the pinnacle of the sport.
“It was my dream to be part of a Commonwealth Games and I did it in 2018,” said Saxby.
“Because it was a home Commonwealth Games, all my family and friends were there and it was such an incredible experience to share that with them.
“I had so much pride in representing my country, we were all there to compete and be supportive of our fellow athletes.”
After the Commonwealth Games there were some big changes for Saxby.
Leading into the Commonwealth Games she sustained an injury and after the Commonwealth Games she just couldn’t get it right.
At that point Saxby was a newlywed and she and her husband decided it might be time to start a family. Shortly after, baby Lorelai arrived.
Saxby always had the intention of returning to squash after giving birth but she was unsure what it would look like or whether it was even possible.
But Saxby started hitting again slowly in October and by January Saxby was competing again and in fact, Saxby thinks that since returning she has had some of her best performance. Saxby also won Nationals last month.
The difference is a change in perspective following giving birth.
“Squash is no longer my whole world and I am ok with it,” said Saxby.
“In the end, if I lose its ok because I get to go home to my little family.
“I almost think about why I didn’t have a baby sooner.”
But while a change in attitude has led to success on the squash court, it was a challenge for Saxby.
“I used to be a perfectionist and I would follow the textbook with my training and my nutrition,” said Saxby.
“It was my life; I was so focused.
“Now I have accepted that the training may look perfect and stop comparing myself to others in a different situation.”
After a win at Nationals, Saxby now has her sights set on Birmingham 2022.
“We have selections through to April next year so I’m working really hard towards that,” said Saxby.
“I’m going to compete in as many events as possible so I make it really hard for them to pick me.
“Beyond that I’m not sure what the future holds, but for the moment my focus is Birmingham.”