Community Affiliate Highlight: Free Clinics and Sobhy Sister Exhibition Reinvigorate Cleveland Community Activity

Amanda and Sabrina Sobhy after their exhibition at Urban Squash Cleveland.

Urban Squash Cleveland—a US Squash Community Affiliate Network facility—has returned to full programming for the first time since March 2020 this fall and has reinvigorated activity with a PSA tournament, Sobhy sister exhibition and new community clinics.

The three-year-old Cleveland facility is home to a Squash & Education Alliance (SEA) program, Urban Squash Cleveland, and a growing community membership of nearly forty players. This October, the SEA program returned to full programming six days a week for the first time since March 2020. The Cleveland squash community rallied together to kick off their squash season with world-class squash on display in the Cleveland Skating Club Open, cohosted by the Cleveland Skating Club and Urban Squash Cleveland.

One week after the Skating Club Open, Urban Squash Cleveland’s students were able to jump on court with Team USA’s Amanda and Sabrina Sobhy, who played an exhibition for the students and members after the clinics.

“The PSA tournament and exhibition were a great way to start our season and helped get our attendance back up,” said Iago Cornes, Urban Squash Cleveland Executive Director. “The kids loved learning from the Sobhys. Amanda and Sabrina truly embody the values of our program. There was a great energy that day and it was an incredible opportunity for our kids to witness and learn from high level squash players, and it was great for our kids to be back at the center. Now that we’re back to full programing six days a week, the kids are loving being back together, playing squash, working on their homework and our enrichment activities. It’s outstanding to see life back in the building.”

Joining the US Squash Community Affiliate Network earlier this year has led Urban Squash Cleveland to launch a new committee focusing on community squash and increasing access to and activity in the building.

The four-court facility is located on a campus that also houses their main school partner, Urban Community School, with 700 students K-8, a public hospital, and organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves, The Refugee Response center and an early childhood daycare center. The newly-established committee set the goal of increasing membership options for campus partners and to reach a 90-100 community membership capacity in the next three years.

A new introduction to community programming this month has been free ‘try squash’ clinics, a joint effort between Urban Squash Cleveland, the Cleveland Skating Club and the Cleveland Racquet Club to introduce new players to the game throughout the city. The clinics proved to be a resounding success with a full day of booked clinics, which at USC also included team meet with their after-school education sister program from Buffalo, 716 Squash.

“Our ‘Try Squash’ clinics and team meet with 716 squash was such a pleasure to be a part of,” Cornes said. “We had over 35 kids playing together and having fun, and new players learning the game on the same courts before and afterwards. I can’t stress enough how amazing it was in terms of being back together after two years. Our goal of creating access and growing our community is really palpable in the facility, we’re trying to welcome everybody who wants to play here with affordable rates. Our members are as young as thirteen and as old as seventy and come from all walks of life. We’re undertaking a strategic plan that will help us hone in on important milestones not just for the SEA program, but for our community initiatives as well. It feels like we’re back and that there’s life at Urban Squash Cleveland and the Cleveland squash community again.”

USC is also beginning intensive clinics with a select group of students who will form two teams to compete in SEA Team Nationals at the Specter Center this January. Cornes is encouraged by the enthusiasm and activity throughout the center so far this season and looks forward to the arrival of a new head professional to further enrich activity this season.