By Kevin Klipstein
This past spring Martin Bronstein posted his monthly story on SquashTalk.com in which he leveled some charges against me and the President of the French Federation. In conclusion he asked, “…where do these Sports Governing bodies presidents, CEO’s and officers come from? The Harvard Failed Business School? What gene do they share that ensures they always make the wrong decision?”
While he, like everyone, is entitled to his opinion, his piece was rife with false and misleading information. To help him reach a more balanced conclusion about what we do in the US and why, I felt it necessary to reach out to Mr. Bronstein. We exchanged emails in which I asked, “If you have time, I would like an opportunity to talk with you about U.S. SQUASH, some of the great programs we have, and the results we’re beginning to see here in the US. Perhaps through more regular communication, you will be comfortable in providing a more informed commentary for your readers of what we do, how we do it and the impact it has on the sport. While I believe poor work or irresponsible actions deserve to be called out in any arena, ours included, it seems to me to be a disservice to do the same about groups and people who are, on the whole, working very hard, with positive results.”
As it happened I was going to be taking a brief personal trip to England a few weeks later so we agreed to have lunch. After Mr. Bronstein expressed delight that people actually read his column, I went on to describe some of what was going on in the US squash scene. I touched on the hard work we had done to change our governance and operating structure, the partnerships we had created with CSA, NEISA and NUSEA, the impact of urban squash, the increase in number of National Championships to more than 20 annual events, the 30% growth in junior squash participation in the last four years, and perhaps most significantly, the organized play infrastructure taking shape in the US by offering in-club ladders, box leagues, team leagues, tournaments, Club, Regional and National Championships.
I described how players could participate in our “PLAY SQUASH” initiative, and compete in club ladders, box or team leagues and tournaments, and have all of their results count towards a club, district, state, regional and national ranking, viewable in his or her individual online profile. His first knee-jerk reaction, the same that everyone has, was that “adults don’t care about their ranking!,” to which I responded that people probably didn’t think the golf handicap system had any value when it was rolled out either. His more considered response was something like, “England needs something like this! And why doesn’t anyone know about this?”
As we continued to talk, we both lamented the failure to host the 2008 U.S. Open, and lack of corporate sponsorship support for the sport and its major events. Something I tried to communicate clearly was that without the infrastructure described above, the sport would never be positioned to attract significant corporate funding to increase its profile.
In light of the recent decision regarding the 2016 Olympics, reality has become quite clear for the sport. Golf and rugby “add value” to the Olympic Games and were therefore selected. Until squash positions itself in a similar way, we stand little chance. And while I have no doubt the sport will continue its healthy trajectory, with or without Olympic recognition, pursuing the programs and initiatives described above and growing the sport at the grassroots, while also promoting major marketable events, increases our chances for consideration and enhances players’ experiences all at the same time.
I’m looking forward to Mr. Bronstein treating me to lunch on his next visit to New York—that will give us a chance to discuss genetics and its impact on decision-making, something we didn’t have time to talk about during our first meal.