England captain Daryl Selby tells Squash Mad’s Alan Thatcher why he has pledged to wear eye protection in all PSA tournaments from now on after suffering an eye injury during the British National Championships.
37-year-old Daryl Selby, one of the most experienced professionals on the PSA World Tour, will sport eye guards in his next tournament, the Troilus Cup in Canada from February 21-25.
He will also wear them on court in his favourite “home” tournament, the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, from March 8-13, when he faces Joel Makin in a tough, 'Battle of Britain' first round tie.
As well as pledging to wear eye protection at all times from now on, Selby also revealed that he has asked his wife Lucie to do the same when she plays in local league matches in Essex.
Selby counts himself lucky not to have been badly injured when a stray shot off the frame of opponent Ollie Pett’s racket caught him a glancing blow in the eye at Nottingham Squash Club on Thursday.
Selby explained: “I was in the front left corner and deliberately hit the ball down the middle, as a lot of pros do, to keep the ball off his forehand volley.
“Unfortunately, he caught it a little bit late. The ball struck the edge of the frame and, as I turned to watch what was happening behind me, I saw it coming towards me.
“It was a bit like wearing 3D glasses at a cinema and stuff comes towards you. Obviously I saw a ball coming towards my eye.
“I just managed to lean back and turn my head enough to one side which meant that the ball hit the eye socket. That stopped it from going directly into the eye itself, which could have caused a lot of damage.
“I was taken to hospital and the specialist told me there was no damage to the retina, which was a big relief. On the flip side, she said I was fairly lucky because of where the ball hit me. Lucky or not, it made me think very deeply about the whole subject of eye protection.”
Selby felt bad about being awarded a walkover against Pett and returned to court the next day against George Parker sporting a pair of goggles.
Parker won through in straight games and afterwards Selby refused to use his eye injury as an excuse. He did, however, admit that he hated the word “goggles”.
He said: “The word is a massive turn-off. It sounds awful. I prefer to use the phrase ‘eyewear’ as they do in the US.
“In the US they think we are idiots for not making it mandatory. In the States, you pack your bag ready for a game you take your racket, shoes, ball and eyewear. Every time. But in the UK and Europe I think it’s time we discussed the topic in a serious fashion.”
Selby’s viewpoint has been influenced not only by his own experiences, but also by talking to top coaches Nick Matthew and Phil Rushworth.
Both were hit by a ball in the eye as a result of innocuous incidents that occurred while coaching, Rushworth’s leading to a detached retina. A similar thing happened to Selby’s father [Paul] when a junior threw a ball back to him when he wasn’t looking, and it hit him in the eye and he suffered a torn retina.
Selby added: “At the Commonwealth Games doubles, every player has to wear eye protection and nobody complains. But at club level, there must be something seriously wrong if people don’t wear eye protection when they play doubles.”
Selby was keen to discuss changes we have seen in rugby, football and cricket to protect players from serious injuries. He added: “In football there is a debate about heading the ball because of so many high-profile cases of dementia being blamed on heading.
“In rugby they have changed the rules around tackling to stop head and neck injuries, and in cricket they have adapted the helmet design to protect the back of the head after one unfortunate fatality.
“That’s how sports evolve and if squash was to introduce compulsory eye protection, nobody will be talking about it in 10 years’ time.
“It will just be an automatic response, just like wearing a seatbelt or wearing a helmet when you ride a bike.”
The subject will certainly spark some debate in the Selby household after his wife Lucie ignored his earlier advice to wear eye protection. Daryl added: “I am hoping she will now!”