Women in Squash

By Jennifer Gabler

Little did Beth Rasin know when she failed to make her college tennis team that her disappointment, which fueled her search for another racquet sport in which she could compete, would send her on a life-changing journey. “After I got to U.Va., I discovered that there were several nationally ranked players who were also enrolled, and it wasn’t in the cards for me to make the team,” recalls Beth Rasin. “Somewhere I saw a notice for the women’s squash club and figured I would give it a shot.” That “shot” turned into a passion for the sport, a national championship and a variety of career opportunities, including organizer of world-class athletics, writer, media relations professional and a documentary film producer.

“It was the women of the U.Va. squash club—Sandy Worthington, KC Crane, Pat Bruegger, Karen Wynn—who really got me going. They loved the game and shared that with me, by teaching and playing with me.” After graduation, Beth moved to Washington, DC, and took her first lessons with pro Bruce Collins. At his suggestion, she entered the B National Championships where she won a few rounds and got hooked on tournament and league play. When she moved to Boston, she continued playing at The Squash Club in Allston. When she landed at her now home base of NYC, she geared up her tournament play, playing in 12 tournaments each year including Nationals, winning the Bs in 1985.

What Beth loves about playing squash is the combination of great physical exercise and total mental engagement. “Court smarts and intelligence can go a long way towards compensating for any physical lacking.” When Dale Walker, (former Yale Coach and fixture on the women’s scene), was coaching Beth’s opponents she would tell them, “Beth Rasin doesn’t look like an athlete. You may be able to outrun her but you won’t outthink her.”

An annual event during the Tournament of Champions over the past few years has been a clinic, hosted by Rasin, for girls from PowerPlay (L), and last year, the Hashim Khan documentary she has been working on with Josh Easdon (below) premiered.
An annual event during the Tournament of Champions over the past few years has been a clinic, hosted by Rasin, for girls from PowerPlay (L), and last year, the Hashim Khan documentary she has been working on with Josh Easdon (below) premiered.

Beth is an organizer by nature and also has the attitude that “If I’m getting the benefit, then I should give back.” She began getting involved with the Metropolitan Squash Racquets Association (MSRA) in NYC, ran tournaments including the Howe Cup, joined the MSRA board and eventually became its first woman president. In the late 1980s, she was asked to organize the Women’s American Squash Professionals Association (WASPA) tour, the first professional squash tournament circuit in the US with an annual schedule of 12-14 women’s hardball tournaments. The WASPA tour featured some great battles between Sue Cogswell and Alicia McConnell, the “Chris Evert/Martina Navratilova” match-up of the hardball squash world.

Beth took her skills as an organizer to a national level when she joined the USSRA board of directors in the early 1990s. In 1990, she joined the women’s national team selection committee and from 1992-1998 served as the women’s national team manager. She spearheaded the creation of a systematic selection process, expanding it to include trials, training weekends and bringing younger players into the national team pipeline, all of which raised enthusiasm for the women’s national team program. In 1996, the US placed 8th in the world, the best ever finish for a US team, men’s or women’s

A lawyer by training, Beth created the agreements that spelled out the protocols and obligations of U.S. national team members, including the men’s, women’s and junior teams. She was also asked by WISPA to be their legal advisor as they were building their tour.

Beth’s organizing skills drew John Nimick’s attention and her involvement with Nimick and his Tournament of Champions (ToC) drew her into the world of sports media relations. John needed assistance with advertising sales, faxing results into the PSA and writing the nightly press release. Beth took on both these jobs but soon expanded her role at ToC to developing a true media relations program, which resulted in coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Today Show and local television. She also led the development of the website, managed the volunteer staff and was named Associate Director of the ToC. “Working with one of the sport’s top professional promoters and being in such a spectacular venue has enabled me to draw major media attention to the Tournament of Champions, which is very rewarding,” Beth says. “The most powerful component of the ToC for me, though, is the extraordinary sense of community that we create every year for squash fans worldwide.”

Producer Beth Rasin and Director Josh Easdon introduce the film Shawn BrackbillWhen Princeton coach Bob Callahan needed assistance with the only world squash championship to be held in the US to date—the 1998 Junior Men’s World Championship—Beth volunteered. She assisted with sponsorships, program advertising and onsite logistics. “For two weeks, I lived in a dorm with with 125 teenage boys,” she recalls with a big grin. “Several of those boys—Ong Beng Hee, Gregory Gaultier, Adrian Grant, Nick Matthew—are now some of the top players at the Tournament of Champions, creating a wonderful continuity in my squash involvement.”

When Beth decided she wanted a career transition away from the full-time practice of law, her varied experiences with the management side of squash helped her establish a career in world-class sports events. She was named the Director of Marketing and External Affairs for the Giants Stadium venue of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Soccer Championships. Beth led the marketing effort that resulted in a sellout of Giants Stadium for the opening game, an unheard of attendance for a women’s sporting event, setting the stage for the three-week World Cup Championships to become the biggest sports story of the year and the largest women’s sporting event in history. Two days after the Women’s World Cup final, Beth got on a plane to be the press officer covering squash for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, where she was also assigned to cover shooting and table tennis.

Beth’s creative side has always been fueled by her longtime interest in writing. A regular contributor to Squash Magazine, Beth has written profiles of top women in the game and covered events such as Howe Cup and Nationals. “I really enjoy telling stories, and I think everyone has a story from which we can learn something.” The opportunity to get involved with telling the life story of squash’s greatest icon, Hashim Khan, led Beth to add the role of filmmaker to her resume.

“Josh Easdon, whom I knew as a teaching pro in NYC, contacted me to see if he could do some promotion at the Tournament of Champions to create awareness and support for a documentary about Hashim Khan on which Josh had started working.” In addition to placing an ad in the tournament magazine and promoting the project on the ToC website, Beth arranged for Josh to interview the players and squash greats who were at ToC. When Josh confessed that the fund raising part of the filmmaking process had him flummoxed, Beth offered some suggestions and Josh asked her to become a producer on the film.

Five years later, after travels to Pakistan and England, interviews with all of the game’s great players, digging out archival photos and footage, and many, many editing sessions, the film is ready for distribution. It has already been screened at the Detroit Windsor Film Festival and the DocuWest Film Festival in Golden, Colorado. “We will be arranging screenings in all the US squash communities, looking for a TV broadcast opportunity, continuing to enter film festivals and getting it ready for sale on DVD,” says Rasin, who has found the project both arduous and extraordinary.

Beth has done all of this while still playing squash. In the 80’s and 90s, she was a nationally ranked A player and a member of the silver medal winning US Women’s Team at the 1997 Maccabiah Games. (When the US Organizing Committee for this past summer’s Maccabiah Games asked her to be the Squash Chair, Beth, of course, said yes.) She also has a bronze medal in doubles from the 1997 World Masters. Currently she plays mostly doubles at The CityView Racquet Club in NYC.

Looking forward, Beth will continue to serve as Executive Director of PowerPlay NYC, a nonprofit that provides sports and life skills training for under-served girls in NYC. (In fact, as we went to press, Beth was named New Yorker of the Week by the local cable station NY1 for her work with PowerPlay.) She will start getting into high gear for the 2010 Tournament of Champions and continue to be a practicing corporate attorney. The day I interviewed her she had gotten up at 6:30am to train for the National Mixed Doubles and was driving to Williamstown, MA, to help run The Berkshire Open. Once she gets a few things off her plate, including the film distribution, Beth says she would like to play more squash and get more sleep. She is a talented person with many interests and always being tapped to provide leadership. She’ll have to work hard to fit in more squash and sleep.