U.S. SQUASH: advancing through growth and innovation

*Article taken from the U.S. Open Official Program, view PDF here.*

By promoting our sport at the highest level, we celebrate the best in the world, while at the same time accomplishing the goals of increasing the availability and awareness of squash, and laying the foundation for providing resources needed to do it on a bigger and better scale each year.”

– Kevin Klipstein, CEO of U.S. SQUASH

The U.S. Open provides an opportunity to bring together every great aspect of our sport – from the top level elite professionals, to community and grassroots participants; from fanatical followers watching the event onscreen via SquashTV, to local Philadelphian supporters joining the crowds to watch the gripping battles live from the stands; from squash enthusiasts tweeting about their favorite player’s success in the tournament from the other side of the world, to schoolchildren staring in wide-eyed, inspired wonder as they actually get to meet their squash idol in person at the event.

Squash has touched the lives of millions, and its lure is addictive.  With an involvement level of some 25,000,000 players in 185 countries across the globe, this challenging contest of agility, strategy, talent, and mental and physical strength brings together an enthusiastic community of passionate and energetic players.

The United States has the fastest growing squash participation level of any country worldwide – the most recent data from the Sporting Good Manufacturers Association shows a remarkable growth of 82% between 2007 and 2011.  Junior squash is one of the fastest growing areas, with participation in U.S. SQUASH junior events increasing more than 400% in the same period.  Doubles participation has surged with the success of the pro tour, with the women added in recent years and local tournaments and leagues increasingly active.  Women’s squash is another area which has been significantly intensifying, and this year's Women's Squash Week in September was the biggest ever, with events held in twelve cities from coast to coast for hundreds of players of all ages and levels.

As well as higher participation rates, U.S. SQUASH membership has increased by 105% since our low in 2005.  Nearly 16,000 U.S. SQUASH members enjoy the benefits of being able to view their club, district and national rankings online, link with our entire national membership community, contact other members directly, arrange matches online, receive tailored communications about the latest squash events and news, and receive discounts with partner organizations.

One of the most exciting recent innovations at U.S. SQUASH has been the launch of the new U.S. SQUASH website, which features enhanced interactivity, information, profiling and membership benefits.  With the significant increase in membership in recent years, and the high levels of traffic that the site experiences (it is the most highly trafficked national squash website in the world!), the new site has created a modern and advanced platform for the expanding U.S. SQUASH community to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates, rankings, events and program information.  A mobile web app will be soon to follow, similar to the one already available for the 2012 U.S. Open!

One of the main goals of U.S. SQUASH is to make squash more broadly accessible to play and watch, and to promote it to those who aren’t familiar with the world of squash.  Traditionally, squash was available only to those few who could afford to join clubs, and tournaments seen only by members of those clubs, but in recent decades we have moved in to a new era, where the joy of squash is accessible to everyone, from every walk of life.

The urban squash movement, led by the visionary social entrepreneur Greg Zaff, was the start to this change, when Squash Busters was launched in Boston in the mid-90s.  The program was the starting block for what is now a national network of urban squash programs across the United States, overseen by the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), offering squash, education, mentoring and a bright future to the nation’s underprivileged and at-risk youth.

Not only has the urban squash program had a phenomenal impact on the lives of the young people who access the services every day, but also on the squash community as a whole.  Equally fulfilling is the opportunity for passionate squash players to share their love of our sport by passing on the flame to enthusiastic young people.  No longer does the squash community exclusively focus inward. Hundreds of squash players volunteer at urban squash programs across the country, tutoring and coaching the students.  They form deep relationships that last years and pass on their love for squash, often rediscovering it themselves in the process.

U.S. SQUASH’s own mission is also about focusing more broadly on growth and progression – using collaboration and innovation to intensify the awareness and participation in our sport, and achieve the vision of giving all people the opportunity to enhance their health and well being through squash.

Hosting an event like the U.S. Open raises the awareness of squash both internally and externally, and brings together local, national and international supporters of our sport – from local clubs and communities, urban squash players and volunteers, and grassroots participants, to international pro competitors, worldwide fans, and global stakeholders.  It provides an excellent opportunity to reflect annually on everything we strive to achieve and inspire a renewed appreciation and recognition of our sport and its dedicated community.

 

 

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