At the Threshold of a New Community Era

Reflections from the Chair, Soo Venkatesan – September 2021

September marks remembrance and transitions. I hope you are enjoying a return to familiar routines and communities and adapting to the challenges of ongoing uncertainty. The entire team at US Squash, and Team USA, are firing on all cylinders, striving to grow the game to the next level, as so many of you are doing in all corners of the country to build community and share the core values of our sport. Thank you for your unflagging efforts, patience and constructive support during these difficult times.

Monday’s Digital Drive showcases exciting milestones on the path of US Squash’s “long game” investments in excellence and Team USA. The appointment of Ong Beng Hee as the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach comes at a pivotal moment for squash in the United States. We have four women ranked in the world’s top 25, an enviable national squash facility, and more athletes supported through our High Performance Program (HPP) than ever before – with 10 representatives in Cairo and Atlanta this week! Team USA is on the rise, with the community’s backing and our remarkable athletes’ grace and grit.

Behind our aspirations for excellence is a greater drive for growth, access and community. Fostering belonging among new and diverse constituents ensures a vibrant future for our lifelong sport. Next month’s U.S. Open will present our national governing body headquarters and home of Team USA at the largest community squash center in the world. Located in Philadelphia in one of 22 national Promise Zones, the Arlen Specter US Squash Center joins US Squash Community Squash Affiliate partners in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Harlem, Newport, San Diego, and Portland, Maine as community access hubs that welcome and integrate players from all playing abilities, ages, diverse faiths, and multicultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

This focus on community is essential to the wellness of our sport. Last week, Naomi Osaka stunned tennis fans worldwide with her decision to take a break from professional play, shining a spotlight on the isolating pressures of elite individual competition. We must take note; Ms. Osaka has poignantly reminded us on the value of “Team” in Team USA. Today, we are blessed with the opportunity to build a greater sense of belonging, unity and purpose – of togetherness – anchored by the Specter Center. American fans can root not only for a growing roster of dynamic HPP athletes, but also Philadelphia public school league athletes (on eight teams to start) who will experience the joy of team squash alongside their peers and Team USA.

The reach of the Specter Center and a growing network of community partners serving as beacons and incubators for innovative programs extend far beyond respective neighborhood boundaries. Personally exciting for me is a new US Squash program to be piloted coast-to-coast aimed at integrating youth across various schools, and urban, club and community squash programs, in scholastic team competition. The rewards from shared purpose, authentic relationships, and social connection and team fun are far-reaching in a sport as multi-faceted, competitive and global as squash. Sports unite our differences and connect us.

We are all threads of the Team USA tapestry and patrons of an interconnected, diverse and global sport. The Specter Center is an extraordinary milestone and asset for us all – locally, nationally and globally. I welcome you to join us virtually for our Grand Opening Ceremony on Saturday, October 2 (streaming details to be shared in coming weeks) as we celebrate together our shared passion and love for squash.