The sport of squash is a hidden gem. A gem because of it’s health benefits--it has been pegged by Forbes as the healthiest sport around, topping the likes of rock climbing, swimming, and basketball--and because it is one of the most mentally stimulating sports given the alluring combination of breakneck speed and chess-like tactics.
However squash is certainly hidden; it is the least accessible sport in the United States. For the entirety of squash’s US history, it has been an elite sport played by affluent white people. Take me for example--I had never heard of the game until we played it during physical education class at my prestigious northeastern prep school. The American squash community is mostly a microcosm of the top one percent, but while many people view that as a criticism of the sports’ exclusion, it should also be viewed as an opportunity.
Given the abundance of money in the sport, squash has the chance to grow exponentially, spreading its health benefits and entertainment across the masses. The movement has already begun with urban squash programs sprouting up across the northeast. Programs like Squashbusters, CitySquash, and Squash Haven have introduced squash to their cities’ youth, generating college opportunities and a lifelong hobby. Most recently, Portland, Maine joined the effort. Portland Community Squash raised over 1.5 million dollars to build a squash and study space and kickstart an urban leadership program for Portland youth. In order to further tackle the accessibility issue, Public Squash Foundation is raising money to build communal outdoor squash courts in New York, which would drastically improve the game’s visibility and accessibility.
Fundraising should not be an issue for the squash community. What American squash needs is leadership committed to increasing accessibility and encouraging newcomers. US Squash has donated to nearly every urban and community squash effort. It has also shown a commitment to equality when it made the purse of the U.S. Open, the world’s biggest professional squash tournament, equal for the men’s and women’s draws. Thus, US Squash appears to be totally invested in the expansion and furtherance of the sport.
The sport is primed and ready for massive growth across the United States. With many cities already committed to urban squash programs and more to come, squash should emerge from it’s exclusive history to a new era in which it provides more people with a healthy lifestyle and a lifelong passion. I have found squash to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my life and I am thrilled to see that the sport is trending towards a more inclusive future.
- Will McBrian