FROM playing shots to brewing hops, Lisa Aitken’s life does not lack in variety. The Dundonian is still fully committed to a professional squash career that has seen her establish herself as Scotland’s leading female player. A world ranking of No.40 further underlines her status as a key figure in the global game.

Nothing lasts forever, however, and perhaps with that in mind, the 30 year-old last year signed up for a degree in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University.

Conveniently, Scottish Squash’s headquarters are also based at the same campus, allowing her to hotfoot it from her lectures to the court and back again each day.

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Eventually, though, something may have to give. The amount of travelling involved in elite sport – she was recently in Cairo and is scheduled, COVID-19 permitting, to be heading to Boston shortly – may start to become problematic the further she gets into her studies. But for the time being she is content to continue with a complex juggling act.

“The course has been very interesting so far,” she says. “The hard bit is trying to balance the two. I’m halfway through my first year and it’s been a challenge trying to work out how I’m going to commit to squash full-time and also be a full-time student. I’m at Heriot Watt which, thankfully, is also where Scottish Squash is based so my lessons aren’t too far from the courts. But with all the travelling I need to be savvy with my time management.

“I’ve come to uni at a later age. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was 17 or 18 and it’s very easy just to take that route into uni just because you’re supposed to. Now I’m doing something that I’m 100-per-cent committed to. That makes it a bit easier.”

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It is difficult to imagine a day when Aitken isn’t banging the drum for squash in some capacity. It remains a source of annoyance that the sport was again overlooked for the Olympics but she remains confident that squash will continue to grow regardless.

“It’s frustrating that it keeps getting overlooked. We put in a phenomenal bid to the IOC. When you see the bid it seems like a no-brainer – and then it doesn’t get in and it’s hard not to feel like there are other things going on there, political or whatever. But as a sport all we can do is continually be positive and get the message out there.

“Marketing the sport in general has become a lot better. We’ve got people who are a bit more tuned in with what needs to be done.”

Ensuring that there is at least one squash court in every leisure centre is another mission as she looks to make more young people familiar.

“The first point of contact for most kids with squash would be stepping into their local leisure centre to play another sport and maybe walking past a court and asking what was going on there.

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“Unfortunately, we’re in a position now where a lot of places have closed down their squash courts. That’s something we’re constantly fighting against. But when you go into schools most kids seem aware about squash. Maybe it’s a legacy from Glasgow 2014 or because we have development officers going into schools and getting them familiar with it.”

Aitken’s next commitment is closer to home at this weekend’s Sterling Trucks Scottish National Championships.

“There’s no tournament quite like the nationals,” she adds. “There’s something about being No.1 in the country and then going on to represent your country. And it’s just great being with all the best Scottish players.”