Squash in the Bayou City: Who Knew?

Houston is an unconventional city in many respects, but none more so than the fact that you have to dig below its post apocalyptic landscape of freeway “folk art” to discover all kinds of cool and unexpected things. A perfect example of this is the thriving Houston squash scene.

Inside the unassuming local of the sixth floor of the Allen Center Parking Garage is The Downtown Club at The Met which has, among other things, five international singles softball squash courts—one of which is a glass walled show court—making it the flagship squash facility in Houston. The Met boasts over 200 active squash players and the talent pool is deep since many of them are ex-pats who bring their accomplished games from the four corners of the globe.

(L-R) Ian Munro (HSRA President), Muhammad Sadiq (Teaching Professional), Aquib Hanif (PSA Touring Pro) at The Downtown Club at The Met.
(L-R) Ian Munro (HSRA President), Muhammad Sadiq (Teaching Professional), Aquib Hanif (PSA Touring Pro) at The Downtown Club at The Met.

A more recent, and very welcome, addition to the Houston squash infrastructure is Lifetime Fitness. Over the past several years, Lifetime has been increasing its presence in the greater Houston area and there are now five locations, four clubs with two international squash courts each and the flagship location, Lifetime City Center, with four international squash courts. These facilities are attracting new and experienced squash players by the score, adding to the dynamic player base in H-Town.

On the personnel side, Houston is privileged to have two outstanding teaching professionals, Guy Cowan and Muhammad Sadiq, who call the city home. Both were very accomplished players on the PSA tour, and now, by teaching and promoting the game, they are growing the player ranks and improving the level of play city-wide. Muhammad also promotes an annual men’s professional tournament, the SMH & BCD Houston Squash Championship, which attracts many of the top-50 PSA players and is one of the highlights on the Houston squash calendar.

The major driving force behind Houston squash is the Houston Squash Racquets Association (HSRA), which is the local affiliate of US Squash. This non-profit organization has over 200 active members and promotes squash in Houston by running a city-wide box ladder, holding sanctioned tournaments, running a junior’s program, sponsoring professional demonstration matches, organizing social events, hosting a website, and last but not least, promoting a biannual tournament of the Women’s International Squash Professionals Association (WISPA). Over the years, most of the top women players in the game have competed in the WISPA Texas Open, making it a great show for the public and impressing otherwise genteel southerners with the intensity of the game of squash played at the professional level.

In the trivia department, Houston was the first US city to play softball squash year-round. In the non-trivia department, Houston has hosted some exceptional squash tournaments,  most notably the US Nationals in 1987 and 1991, and the Coca Cola US Open in 1990, which featured the top PSA players in the world, among them Chris Dittmar, Jansher Khan and Jahangir Khan.

The next time you come to Houston, do yourself a favor. Pack your squash bag, contact the HSRA (hsrapresident@yahoo.com), and take a diversion off the freeway to one of our superb squash clubs where our members will be pleased to host you for a match and show you a great facet of Houston that is unbeknownst to most visitors.