In the past five years, US Squash has made substantial progress in serving its mission of leading squash’s growth and development by increasing access and awareness, supporting meaningful lifelong engagement in the sport, and encouraging sportsmanship while achieving competitive excellence at the highest levels. Over this period, several major strategic initiatives have been launched to lay the foundation for accelerating growth in the coming decade and beyond.
Growth trends remain strong nationally. According to recent data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, a third-party industry research organization, core squash participation (defined as individuals playing eight or more times annually) increased 47% between 2013 and 2018.
There has been 100% growth in junior tournament participation since 2014, with the most rapid growth occurring in non-traditional squash regions such as the West Coast, Texas and the Southeast. The number of high school teams competing in accredited leagues has more than doubled, with notable growth in public school participation.
The Arlen Specter US Squash Center has shifted from an idea to an active construction site well under way at Philadelphia’s 32nd Street Armory. The Specter Center is poised to anchor US Squash programs for generations to come upon its opening in the fall of 2020. The 20-court facility will be a model of community engagement and access, serve as the US Squash national headquarters, house the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame and a Learning & Innovation Center, and offer athletes state-of-the-art high-performance development resources.
US Squash has placed increased emphasis on sportsmanship and is committed to supporting positive behavior across its programs. Good sportsmanship is rewarded through and expanded recognition program for juniors and adults alike. Enforcement of the Code of Conduct has also been stepped up when a violation occurs. US Squash is revamping training and education for players, officials, families and spectators to make sure that everyone understands the rules and applies them fairly on and off court. The organization will continue to work with the community to build a shared set of expectations to uphold squash’s core values of fair-play, courtesy and respect.
College squash has also undergone historic changes over the last few years. In 2017 the women’s and men’s associations re-formed under a single entity, the College Squash Association (CSA), with an independent board of directors. After assisting with the governance change process, US Squash remains a close working partner with college squash, and in 2018 the CSA hired David Poolman as its first full-time Executive Director & Commissioner who works out of US Squash’s New York City office. In a short period of time, the CSA has made significant strides in clarifying recruiting and eligibility standards and enforcing existing policies to ensure a fair and level playing field. These efforts will surely pave the way for continued growth in the number of varsity teams as the sport burnishes its reputation in athletic departments at the collegiate level.
The U.S. Open Squash Championships was brought back in-house by US Squash in 2011 in partnership with Drexel University, and over the past nine years the tournament has remained a premier world championship and leader in event presentation and equality. The U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer full prize money parity in 2013; now all PSA World Tour Platinum Events require full parity and last year’s World Championships in Chicago offered a record $1 million prize pool split equally between the two divisions.
On the National Team front, progress continues toward the goal of “Always on the Podium”. At the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Team USA claimed both the men’s and women’s team gold medals for the first time since squash’s inclusion to the Games in 1995. Over the course of the seven-day competition, the U.S. men and women won a total of seven medals, five of which were gold.
Over the last five years, Team USA’s juniors have cemented their position as a force on the international stage. The U.S. girls matched their best-ever finish of second in 2015 for the third consecutive tournament, while the boys recorded their best finish as bronze medalists in 2016 and repeated the historic feat in 2018. In January 2020, Team USA will send over fifty junior players and ten coaches to the British Junior Open in Birmingham, England, marking the sixth annual Team USA trip to the British Junior Open.
For the first time, US Squash now has an end-to-end high-performance development pathway. At a junior level, this includes regional and national squads, as well as Junior Team USA competition including the Battle of the Border, the British Junior Open, the Junior Pan American Games and the World Junior Team Championships. The US Squash Academy also brings together members of Team USA ranging from U11 players to college graduates for two weeks of intensive training each summer. Nationally-ranked U11, U13, U15 and U17 players go through on-court training and competition, as well as classroom sessions. The Academy blends current Elite Athlete Program (EAP) Players with high-potential college athletes for a professional training environment and introduction to strategies and preparation for a potential career on the professional tour.
US Squash established the innovative EAP five years ago, and the program now provides ten of Team USA’s top athletes with a salary, insurance, expense reimbursements and administrative support to aid them as they climb the rankings on the professional tour. US Squash is among the few governing bodies that hires its athletes as full-time employees.
US Squash’s progress is rooted in innovation, and in service of the needs of the squash community the Club Locker technology platform was formally rolled out in 2014. Club Locker has continued to develop to meet the needs of the squash community both in the U.S. and internationally, with a range of integrated functions serving individuals, clubs, organizations and federations.
Club Locker is transforming the way people experience squash. Club Locker’s scoring app allows real-time live scoring and streaming, streamlining tournament management and reducing wasted time and resource use. Players can record league and friendly scores, find opponents, register for events, make reservations, and follow the results of families, friends or rivals directly on their mobile device. The best-in-class reservation system is used by over 200 clubs. Club Locker Venue provides scoreboard and display solutions that allow fans to easily follow results during events, while allowing facilities to increase member engagement and promote their programs. Club Locker is now the industry standard and is being offered to squash organizations globally through an international Technology Collaborative in support of the broader mission of growing participation and encouraging lifelong engagement in squash.
“We are fortunate to be a part of such a vibrant U.S. squash community,” said Kevin Klipstein, President & CEO of US Squash. “The sport is a central part of the lives of so many of our members, families, coaches and officials, and at US Squash we will continue to work hard to deliver against our mission to deliver meaningful lifelong experiences in the sport. We are grateful for our partners and supporters, and the entire community whose passion inspires us daily.”