by Soo Venkatesan

Soo Venkatesan shares reflections five months into her role as Chairman of US Squash.

The approach of Thanksgiving heralds a special time of year to reflect and celebrate blessings for our family. Raising two boys who love to play any game with a ball, family gatherings over the holidays typically involve sports: as a fan, athlete or in heated games of glowstick wiffleball. This year clearly will be different.

It’s easy to lose perspective during challenging times. Sports help to remind us that growth is created through the journey. For squash players, we are lucky to have a lifetime to master the lessons that our lifelong sport gifts to us. Our abundant rewards include an active lifestyle, quality relationships, development of character and a growth mindset – essential for enduring health, success and joy in life.

Squash also teaches us resilience. Nine months into a global pandemic, it feels we are “2-0 down,” but squash players as a tribe are tenacious – especially in five-game comebacks. Together, we have championed the long view before, adapting our hardball game some decades ago. We sacrificed the loss of court inventory in the short term for the greater good of unifying a global sport. The result today: the U.S. is a world leader in squash with a growing community diverse in nationality, race and faith that enriches our culture as a sport.

As the national governing body, our responsibility is to play the “long game” to coordinate and drive growth through collaboration with our partners and all elements of the squash community. US Squash has made significant, long-term investments in enabling infrastructure to broaden participation generally, and a year ago, with the launch of the Community Affiliate network to bring mission-aligned partners together to grow the inclusive model of community squash. Today, affiliates in Atlanta, San Diego, and Portland, Maine, join the soon-to-be-completed Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia as founding hubs to scale best practices that open doors for players from all backgrounds to access squash more easily and form enduring relationships in the process. Also on the horizon are girls’ and women’s growth initiatives to build on our strengths as a pioneering sport, from advocating for equal opportunity over the last century, to achieving here in the last decade gender parity in top prize money at the professional levels, now a global standard.

Notably, MLB made headlines last week by advancing the first woman to lead a team within any of the major men’s sports leagues. Kim Ng stated that while unlikely 30 years ago, she remained “dogged in the pursuit of [her] goals.” This struck a chord as I reflected with gratitude on the many dedicated changemakers at all levels of our sport pushing to provide greater access to squash for the love of the game. US Squash will seek the community’s support to lift the stories of inspiring leaders who embody the sport’s dynamic culture.

We are humbled and grateful for our changemakers, coaches and squash devotees. As we reflect and look forward, we are excited to provide ways the squash community can lean in – collaborative partners and volunteers will help us accelerate impact. The “long game” is won through dogged perseverance and unity. US Squash – like squash facilities and programs nationwide – has been hit hard in 2020, but our commitment to our inclusive vision for the sport is unwavering. We look forward to the next phase of our journey together.

Prior to her current role as Chairman of the Board, Soo Venkatesan served as Vice Chair and led a US Squash Access Planning Task Force in 2019. For more information on the work of that Task Force, please see here: Expanding Access: A Strategic Framework for Growth

View a great example of a community squash program leading during pandemic: Building Relationships and Community at PCS