It took a village, very literallly, to execute Ritwik Bhattacharya's dream to have a squash academy on the outskirts of Mumbai. At first, the idea was considered by many to be slightly outlandish, but Ritwik was determined to turn his dream into a reality.
It was ultimately founded in mid-2017, with the help of co-founders Munish Makhija and Sridhar Gorthi.
"In 2010, after retiring as a professional squash player on the PSA World Tour, a dream was born to help the next generation. I had set up a few academies and squash programs, and I was helping India's top players in Mumbai, at clubs like Bombay Gymkhana, CCI and Otters Club. However, I always felt like I wasn't doing enough. I needed my own space; a space where a player could fully immerse.
Quality training and high performance are the key to success, and today, unfortunately, a player in the city doesn't get enough time to train!
Also some of the best talent in the country didn't have a home where they could eat, sleep, dream and train squash.
It wouldn't have been possible without Munish Makhija and Sridhar Gorthi. They believed in my dream and supported me all the way. When it finally began, creating such a unique academy was a feeling like no other.
Here we train and live in nature with no distractions and lots of time to rest and recover after a hard day's work."
- Ritwik Bhattacharya
We currently train more than 100 players from Kalote-Mokashi village. Some of them have already been very successful, and we have no doubt that they will continue to work hard and do extremely well in their careers. Through Ritwik and Stephan, they have been trained using the most recent coaching techniques and they fact that they already have tournament experience shows that they are well equipped to take the world of squash by storm.
Additionally, they are more than just players. They can coach, string rackets (as fast as anyone!), etc. Their integration into START has opened up many opportunities for them, opportunities that might not have been as readily available for them otherwise.
In addition to squash, kids from the village are also introduced to boxing at the BoxSingh Academy, which is a part of the same facility. It serves as an option for functional training for squash players, while also providing kids from the village the opportunity to learn how to box from professionals.
We have worked extensively with players from all over the country, including Mumbai, Pune, New Delhi, Salem (TN), The National Defence Academy, and the Rashtriya Indian Military Academy. Our players have been very successful, and have seen the level of their respective games improve by leaps and bounds. As of 2020, START boasts three National Junior Champions, with many others coming in amongst the top. We also have a few players who are now playing professionally on the PSA World Tour. Furthermore, a few players have gone on to attend some top universities abroad. We are eager to work with them further, we have no doubt that they will go on to find more success.