US Squash has announced Access Youth Academy, located in San Diego, California, as the third facility – and the first on the West Coast – to be accredited as an official US Squash Community Affiliate.

As a Community Affiliate, Access Youth Academy (Access) joins Portland Community Squash and Atlanta Community Squash – first announced in August of 2020 and November of 2019, respectively – and will be followed by the Arlen Specter US Squash Center, slated to be completed in December of 2020 on the campus of Drexel University in Philadelphia as the permanent home of US Squash. Both Access Youth Academy and the Specter Center will be located in Promise Zone neighborhoods – a federal program designating twenty-two communities nationwide with underserved populations, with the goal of improving educational, economic and health outcomes for the residents of these communities.

“We are delighted to become a US Squash Community Affiliate,” said Renato Paiva, Executive Director of Access Youth Academy. “The program aligns perfectly with our plans to broadly expand the reach of squash in the San Diego area to provide access to the benefits of the sport for those who otherwise would not have it. We believe this partnership will facilitate the growth of squash in San Diego and on the West Coast in a very significant way.”

Paiva recently joined Kevin Klipstein, President & CEO of US Squash, Ned Edwards, Executive Director of the Specter Center, and Narelle Krizek, Assistant Director of the Specter Center, for a discussion about Access joining as a US Squash Community Affiliate, the program’s rapid progress towards opening it’s new facility, and what that will mean for squash in Southern California. The recording can be viewed below.

“At US Squash we have always been impressed by the record of success built by Access Youth Academy students and the committed staff and supporters of the program,” said Klipstein. “We look forward to partnering closely with them as a Community Affiliate as they move into their new facility, which will provide an anchor for the sport in Southern California as they build broadly inclusive programming that will allow new generations of players to enjoy the lifelong benefits of squash.”

Access was founded in 2006 as with the goal of providing opportunity and support for at-risk children in the San Diego community through squash, education and mentorship. Since then, the program has built a consistent record of achievement with supporting students from seventh grade, through high school and college, and then for an additional two years post-graduation as they enter the workforce or pursue advanced degrees. The program has also produced players who have reached the upper levels of the national junior rankings and been recruited as varsity college squash players. The urban squash and education program run by Access is a member of the Squash & Education Alliance.

This success created the momentum necessary for Access to raise the funds to build a home facility – now under construction in Southeast San Diego with a planned opening in June 2021. The facility will feature seven singles courts and one hardball doubles court, office space and classrooms, community spaces and an outdoor gym. View a walkthrough of the the Access facility here. Access plans to expose the sport to thousands of new players in the San Diego area through layered programing including partnerships with local schools to integrate squash into physical education curriculums. Access will run accredited tournaments, leagues and ladders facilitated through the Club Locker platform, and offer clinics and learn-to-play opportunities to the local community.

“Fourteen years ago a small group of San Diegans came together to test whether an urban squash program could survive and thrive in San Diego – a city with a very small base of squash players at the time,” said Blair Sadler, Board Chair of Access Youth Academy and former US Squash Board Member and Finance Committee Chair. “The success of Access Youth Academy stems from the twelve-year commitment mutually made between the program and each student from middle school through the post-college experience. Our new state-of-the-art education and squash facility will now allow us to expand dramatically the impact of our programs in the Promise Zone neighborhood where many of our students and their families live.”

The Community Affiliate initiative begins the process of developing more formal relationships with key regional facility partners that are closely aligned with US Squash’s mission of promoting squash’s growth and development by increasing access and awareness, supporting meaningful lifelong engagement in the sport, and encouraging sportsmanship while achieving competitive excellence.

Community Affiliates conduct US Squash programs and activities to build the sport, inclusive of junior scholastic squash team programs, junior squash grassroots development and high-performance programs, squash and education programs, adult squash development, and accredited leagues, ladders, and tournaments. Community Affiliates receive programmatic assistance including US Squash software and support services, regional and national promotion, and coordination on pilot programs focused on creating and testing best practices for growing the sport.