By Anthony Ricketts, PSA No. 6
2007 has seen much squash activity in the United States. Personally, I have played in Chicago, Virginia, New York (and also Toronto for the Canadian Classic). There have also been events in Portland and Washington, DC, (and this is just in the space of two months). These events have been a complete success for the promoter, who puts in the countless hours of his/her time for the sport they love; for the player, who is playing squash not only as a business but also for the passion that is evident amongst today’s players; and also for the spectators, who seem enthralled and amazed at our sport and keep coming back the next day for more action. All of these things really are promising and very pleasurable for everyone involved.
The junior program in the US is also one of the most exciting in the world. In terms of participation level for both boys and girls, and standard of play, I am certain all Governing Bodies involved are excited and see real rewards coming. As we all know the healthier the junior program, the better the sport will be in the future.
At every tournament I play, a question I am commonly asked is: “Where do you see the sport in the next 10 years?” This is obviously a hard question to answer, and I seem to be always unhappy with the response I give. But on a recent trip back to Australia, I began really thinking about this question. Where do I really think our sport will be in 10 years time?
Firstly, I genuinely believe that squash has endless potential to become a leading sport, not to mention that it has already been voted the world’s healthiest sport. However, there are obvious challenges we are facing and trying to address. As we are all aware, a deciding factor that will certainly take our sport onwards and upwards in leaps and bounds is the Olympic Games. This is something that should be an absolute priority (and most certainly is with our Governing Bodies). However, there are many politics involved that, at the present time, squash lacks the financial backing to influence. But this does not change the fact that most of squash’s marketing budgets should be used with the sole purpose of getting squash into the Olympic Games. As a result of squash being included in the Games, government funding for the game of squash would boom overnight—not to mention the game being shown to the world.
The next thing that is an endless battle for our sport is TV coverage. This also has seen vast improvement in terms of quality and presentation to the public. Jean DeLierre is truly the leading man for this job and will need to be tapped into more for things to start changing in this area. However, there are many challenges to overcome for this to happen. Though much of what needs to be done and how to make it happen is beyond my knowledge, I am confident that with the right contacts being exposed to our game, there is real potential for this to improve.
All of this being said, if these things are not achieved in the next 10 years, it would most certainly not be a negative. Our sport on a professional level is at its record prize money, which means more people around the world want to put money into running professional squash events. The number of professional players registered with the PSA is also at a record high, which ultimately means more and more people are looking at squash as their business. And the leading schools in the world (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc.) all have fantastic squash facilities with plenty of hype around the schools about their squash programs.
So although we have obvious challenges which, if overcome, will really change the sport on all fronts overnight, we have so much going for us right now that our sport of squash will continue to blossom if they are not achieved in the short term.