Club Squash

For the third year in a row, I peeked in at the National Collegiate Club Team Championships. They were again in Philadelphia, but after two years at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center, this year they moved down 33rd Street to Penn.

But there was the same grassroots excitement. You had 6.0-rated players and other former high-level juniors who could easily play for any top program, and you had some players who had only picked up the sport a few weeks earlier. You had coaches in snazzy branded gear, and you had teams without coaches or without courts on campus or without any financial support whatsoever from their university. I talked with one player who served as his team’s captain, coach and administrator, all in one.

The variety among the twelve women’s teams, twenty-four men’s teams and twelve co-ed teams was palpable. There were teams that have serious varsity women’s programs (Stanford, Georgetown) but because of Title IX have just a well-run club men’s team. There were men’s club teams from colleges that also have a bonafide varsity men team running parallel (all the Ivies but Columbia; other teams like Tufts, Navy, Drexel). Of course Cal Berkeley, which has had a robust club squad for half a century, was there. So was former varsity, recently demoted to club programs like Brown (who fielded both a men’s and a women’s team) and George Washington. I counted eighteen states (including the District of Columbia) represented among the forty-eight squads.

This is a wonderful growth opportunity for the game in the U.S. There are many more colleges with squash courts or easy access to squash courts than what we saw in Philadelphia. And more eager players: Peter Heffernan, who was helping run the championships, told me that he calculated that more than 1,900 kids play high school team squash in one form or another, but there are only 1,100 kids playing organized college squash. Creating lifelong players, filling quiet courts and expanding access to team squash—one of the best parts of the squash community in America—is a major goal for the second century of collegiate squash.