Made in Tribeca and Scotland: Nicol Squash

It’s safe to say that both Peter Nicol and Jess Winstanley grew up with squash — Peter picked up his first racquet at age 8 in Aberdeen, Scotland, going on to be the world’s best player for five years, and Jess helped her mother run squash tournaments all over the country starting in high school. They first met at the Tournament of Champions held each year in Grand Central and when they finally went on their first date, Peter had retired and the two started to envision what would become the family business.

Fast forward to NYC in 2021 and they have opened Nicol Squash, a workout facility on West 42nd Street with four courts, classes and coaching by Peter and his staff. It’s a beautiful facility — a giant white box built over an MTA easement just west of Dyer — with classes not just for their youth program (they have coached the top players for years) but also for adults of all skill levels, hybrid classes that include cardio training, and of course court rentals for regular players. (There’s a fun vid below from PIX11.)

“We’ve worked together for 16 years, and this is how we have always wanted to live,” said Jess, “with everything intertwined.” (Their son, Bode, who’s 8, also plays but soccer is still his #1 sport. “He could get into it — he has the mindset for it,” said Peter, “but I am not sure he wants to because its’ our work and he’s aware of that. which is fine by me.”

When Jess and Peter fashioned themselves into a squash team, they were first living in London, and then Scotland, and running squash camps here in the summer with Jess’ mom — at Hotchkiss and Episcopal boarding schools. They launched a subscriber-based platform of video content called SquashSkills that got some traction, but their coaching sessions were growing fast.

They made the leap to move to the US (and Tribeca) in 2014, knowing they had the support of eight families in a program run out of Poly Prep. They bumped around the city at different clubs, eventually settling at Open Squash in Midtown before deciding to build out their own space. They signed the lease in November 2019, hacked their way through the pandemic, and opened the doors on Sept. 13, 2021, as the paint was drying.

They have taken steps to make the place more inclusive than squash has been in the past. The facility is not membership based; anyone can come in off the street and take one class or rent a court. And the coaching fee is the same for Peter as any of their other pros. And Peter has grown to love it more than playing. (See below.)

As business partners, Jess and Peter also have a leadership coach — in their world, that’s what the pros do. In their first session, the coach gave them a questionnaire, “and we realized we were sort of like half people,” Jess said. “We complement each other,” said Peter. “We are each other’s best partner.”

“His empathy link is really high,” said Jess. “And I just get shit done.”

Nicol Squash
476 W. 42nd St. | Dyer & 10th

I wanted to do a post about Jess and Peter’s new business, but chatting for a bit with Peter about the start of his career was so interesting that I am adding our conversation here as a Q&A. Fans of the sport will know Peter as the Roger Federer of squash — he’s that good. And anyone looking to reinvent themselves will love this too.

When did you first start playing?
I was 8 years old and my mum and dad helped run a tennis club in our town of Aberdeen — well, calling it a club is a bit much since it was really just two clay courts and a shack. They were one of five couples who kept this together, put the lines down, rolled the courts. At the time squash was booming in the UK and a group of people got together to build a squash complex with five courts and a lounge area for kids in Inverurie — about 16 miles away.

Almost overnight it was a huge success. A 1000 people joined in the first month and there were another 1000 people on the waiting list — this is a town of 12,000. There was not much else to do. There was a golf course, of course, ’cause there’s one in every town in Scotland, but not much else. We went as a family – my mum and dad had never played before – and all the kids in town joined. There would be 3o to 40 kids at the club all the time. They had 40+ box leagues. There was just huge participation of the whole town including all the juniors since it was very junior-friendly — there were no restrictions on us or times we could play. So that was what I did from September to May — that plus soccer. Then from May to September we played golf and tennis.

When did you realize you were good?
I think I had an aptitude immediately. My first sport memory is playing badminton under the net with my sister and all her friends while my parents were playing matches at the local hall. I would play with my sister and we would hit just about anything off a wall. So hitting something with my racquet was not hard.

What did you love about it?
The thing about squash is It’s all encompassing — it’s a lot of movement, a lot of tactics, a lot of complexity and its continuous, like soccer, you are continuously moving. And I like to keep moving. With tennis I used get frustrated because it finishes so quickly after a shot. Squash is a longer tactical battle. Even at a young age that hooked me in — got me more interested.

I was also smaller so I had to be more tactically astute and smarter. And I had to run. Which I love doing. Because it’s an open skilled sport, there are multiple ways to win. You can get all shapes and sizes specimens, standards, and they can all enjoy the sport and get benefits from it. This is also why I love teaching the sport to kids. There are so many scenarios where kids are learning and can be completely different types. So many sports you have to have certain attributes – basketball, football, there’s a certain athleticism you need for those sports — but squash allows for much more accessibility. It doesn’t filter out at any age. There’s always a way to manage and adapt to allow you to compete.

Did you go to college?
No, I took a year off to go to England and my mum and dad, who did not have much money, paid for me to go live with a coach in Leeds. I applied to Aberdeen University and agreed to defer for a year to see how the playing would work out. My mum wasn’t overly happy because she really wanted me to have an education. But my dad had gone opposite route, where he was a fantastic soccer player but his parents made him get an education. So he was more “go for what you want to do — you can always go back and study.” So the compromise was I had a five-year deferral option, where I could enter university at any time. After one more year, I had already become successful enough to know I could try to go pro.

I was 17, living away from home for the first time. I passed my driving test and the next day drove down to Leeds and it was the scariest drive I had ever done.

But the plan turned out to be great for me, because it focused me on really trying to improve. I saw so many athletes start strong but fall off, because you are basically your own boss. You are not accountable to anyone — you are almost running your own business. So that held me accountable. I really wanted to be successful and that was a real clear driver and motivator. I still have hankerings to be an engineer or an architect. I am never going to do that, and I am ok with that.

When did you turn pro?
My coach in Leeds said he had taken me as far as he could, and I needed to find someone who had also travelled the world circuit. Neil Harvey became my main coach for the next five to 10 years. That’s when I joined the professional tour and started earning money. I was 18, turning 19. That was when I totally stopped relying on my parents and decided that I had to fend for myself and if I make it I make it.

It was very affordable, since squash is not a lucrative sport, and I was also supported by Prince and a wonderful man named Andy Bunting, who was their international terms manager. He got me a contract that was maybe a little bit earlier, but it made my career in terms of being a professional. I spent the summer training for three months straight and went into quite heavy debt — getting massages, a great trainer, everything I thought I needed to succeed — and then came to the US and played for three tournaments in three weeks — six matches in six days, traveling on the seventh. I won all three tournaments and could pay off all my debt from the summer. From that point forward, I could be self sustainable and figure out what I needed for myself. I put a lot of the money back into my growth.

[Peter would go on to be the world’s number one player for five out of the six years from 1998 to 2004, and he retired in 2006 at the age of 32.]

Was it difficult to retire?
It was not a tough decision at all. I had never been injured in 13.5 years. And for 12 of those years I was in the top 10 without a break. I played at a high level and played continually and I had given everything I possibly could. Mentally and emotionally I was just done. I wanted to move on to something else.

I tried a few different things, but now I have really found my second passion, which is coaching. Which is awesome, to find that. I feel like I worked hard to find that passion — I spent a lot of time in therapy while I was world #1 because I wasn’t particularly happy. I actually think coaching is more fulfilling than the playing was for me. I was one dimensional — and maybe I had to be to be the #1 player in the world, at least for me. But subsequently I have a much greater enjoyment of the game and of the people around me.

I also love the family we have created, and not just my family in our home, but also our squash family. We have coaches who have been with us for almost a decade, and they are family too. It’s much more fulfilling.



  1. What a great pair of individuals. Congrats to them. Fun fact – Peter is an amazing soccer player as well!

  2. Our son goes to Nicol Squash and it is fantastic. They are amazing people and the facility and program is outstanding. Great energy!

  3. What a great man! I used to love watching Jonathon Power and Nicol battling out on the court. He is a true gentleman and squash is much better with his presence. Thank you!