From US Squash Why Change?

By Kevin Klipstein

In the 1998 Nora Ephron film You’ve Got Mail, change is everywhere as Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) of “Fox Books” opens another megastore near several small book stores in New York City, including “The Shop Around The Corner” owned by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan). When Kathleen eventually closes her bookstore, she writes to an online companion, “People are always telling you ’change is a good thing,’ but what they are really saying is something that you didn’t want to happen, has happened.”

Moving past the unintended internet love story between Kathleen and Joe for a moment, it seems people react to change in different ways. Simplifying this idea in business terms, experts in the change management field believe there is a normal bell curve representing the categories of how people react. At one tail of the curve there are innovators and early adopters, the vast majority are in the middle, and the laggards are on the other tail. Innovators often create the change itself, early adopters embrace the change, well, early. Then there are the majority of us, who reluctantly accept change, accept it because we need to, or because everyone else seems to be moving on.

Of course, how one reacts depends on the situation. A few years ago, I didn’t have any gray hair. Now, I get double takes in the elevator and comments like, “Man, you’re face doesn’t match your hair!” Going gray is a change that I would probably not initially describe as good, but I am looking forward to not being proofed when I order a beer at my 20th high school reunion this fall. So count me as an early adopter in this case.

Changes often occur overnight, though the benefit or impact usually takes much longer to realize. The biggest change squash has experienced in the US—the one from hardball to softball in the mid-1990’s—was gut-wrenching and exhausting. Some would still argue that this was not a good change, but with the majority of squash courts in the US being of international standard or converted racquetball type, and record numbers in junior and adult participation, the transition appears to be very positive.

Ten years ago, there were no urban youth squash players. In 2007, with over 230 players competing in the National Urban Individual Championships, it is now among the top-five largest and most exciting junior tournaments in the country. Surely this is a change that we can all agree is a good one—for the players and for squash. Three years ago, online membership registration did not exist, and few welcomed it. Now 72% of members join or renew online, and players complain when they need to mail or fax in an entry form.

With the USSRA formally doing business as US Squash, a new logo to be launched this summer, and the headquarters moving to New York this month, more change is on the way. The change will mean the loss to the organization of dedicated staffer Jeanie Shanahan and our bookkeeper Lila Hartung, though we know they will move on to great opportunities and wish them the best. Often, successful change relies on keeping what is good from the past, such as a century-long rich history of squash in the US, honoring it, and building on it. It will be up to the leadership, the remaining and new staff members, the Board, and committee members of the Association to make sure we do just that.

So is change a good thing?

Well, at the end of the movie, we are led to believe that Kathleen and Joe lived happily ever after, and when You’ve Got Mail came out, it was riding the wave of AOL’s popularity and this still new thing, the Internet. Companies, including Microsoft, were racing to trademark the awful “audio signature” sound of the phone line connecting. The Internet rocked at 56Kbps. Now who wants to give up their DSL or cable broadband connection and go back to phone modems? I thought so.