Women in Squash—Tina Fuselli

By Jennifer Gabler

I’m still on a women’s squash high from playing at the Howe Cup in Redwood City (CA) in October. Kim Clearkin did a fantastic job organizing the event. The venue at The Pacific Athletic Club was resort-like and the competition was fantastic. It also expanded my appreciation for west coast women’s squash as there were multiple California, Seattle, and Portland teams who dominated and won the event, and watching the Stanford women’s teams play demonstrated the powerhouse that Mark Talbott is building on the west coast to rival the traditional east coast college teams.

One of the best parts of my weekend was when I happened to sit with Tina Fuselli and her “AzTxBostonian” teammates at the Friday night dinner, and was immediately drawn to the camaraderie and quick witted banter of this team that had been pulled together from different corners of the US. Our team then had to play the AzTxBostonian team on Sunday and they also proved themselves to be quick footed on the court. Tina, coming from England, has a very strategic/Richard Millman-like game. It was one of those Howe Cup meet-ups that makes the weekend very memorable.

I jumped into the conversation with “How many people play squash in Arizona?” Tina told me that she has a database of over 400 Arizona residents who at some stage have played squash. Turns out that Tina is one of the main spokespersons for women’s squash in Arizona. She is planning a WISPA event for September 2010 to showcase women’s squash to the Arizona community, with hopes of increasing awareness and participation in the sport by women in the area. She already has sponsors, venues, and commitments from 50 non-Arizona players to travel to the event. Other than the Grand Canyon State Games in 2005, this event would be the first U.S. SQUASH sanctioned event in Arizona, and Tina is looking for as many Arizonans and players from out of state as possible to come watch the WISPA tournament and play in an amateur event.

Our discussion quickly transitioned into how to motivate women to travel to the dessert in September to play squash. With Howe Cup on the brain, we came up with a team format event similar to Howe Cup, but with just three players instead of five. Coupled with a resort-like destination, such a team event could prove to be a great way to warm-up for Howe Cup 2010. So put this one on your calendars, pull together teams for the A, B, C or D divisions and come to the Southwest Squash Open to play, socialize, gear up for Howe Cup 2010, enjoy a unique part of the US, watch the WISPA players and support women’s squash.

(L-R): Sapna Sudhir, Sylvie DesJardins, Andrea Callaway and Tina Fuselli.
(L-R): Sapna Sudhir, Sylvie DesJardins, Andrea Callaway and Tina Fuselli.

While in Arizona, you’ll be sure to meet Tina and her squash pioneering persona. Tina is English and started playing at 16 when neighbors opened a club in Putney in southwest London. She played until she was 22 at county level and was ranked as a junior before quitting squash for medical reasons. After taking seven years off from the sport, she was drawn back in her late 20s when she moved to Kent County and joined a local club. In 2002, Tina moved to the US, following her parents to Phoenix (AZ) where she found courts and continued to play, and helped restart the AZSRA (Arizona Squash Racquets Association)—becoming the secretary—and making her living as an event planner and representing all the US interests of a British cricket equipment manufacturer. She met up with Garry John who, coincidentally, had played at the same club as she in Hammersmith, West London (England) where they were both club champions, and now also works for him as his administrator for tournaments and leagues for Lifetime Fitness, Tempe. Tina has run the Grand Canyon State Games in Arizona for the last six years, drawing about 80 players each year.

The Phoenix area squash scene is anchored by two main groups of clubs: one is the “Village Clubs” in Phoenix/Scottsdale with three locations, six international courts, two converted racquetball courts and approximately 150 players; the other is Lifetime Fitness which has developed four locations in the last four years, with nine courts and 100 players. There is also one family within the squash community, Dave and Betsy Foley, who so love the sport that they have built their own squash court at their house.

The Arizona players are led by many expatriates. The base of players is quite seasonal as many players are older and some leave for the summer months. Unfortunately women’s and junior squash has not yet taken off in a big way. Squash competes heavily with tennis, golf and other outdoor team sports. The University of Arizona does have one international court and some private high schools have tried to start teams. Tina believes that once women get exposed to squash, they will see it as a great alternative to tennis in the summer when it is too hot to play outside. Tina has organized a schedule of squash events for the Arizona community that includes fun events such as a wooden racquet/whites only event as well as club championships and the Grand Canyon State Games. For the past four months, Tina and Garry have been running a successful squash league at Lifetime Fitness. She has hosted Friday afternoon women’s and junior’s clinics, similar to the women’s coffee mornings at the squash clubs in England. She is pushing the squash ball forward on every front, feels that she is making progress in attracting women to the game and feels that the WISPA event in September will be a key turning point in her efforts. I’ve got this one on my calendar and I’m gathering my team. I’ll see you in Arizona in September!

But before that, I hope you’ll also put some other key women’s squash events listed below on your training schedule. Howe Cup is the premier women’s event but women’s competitive squash shouldn’t be a once a year happening. Put The Grand Open in NYC on your calendar. It happens in late January, always has a full women’s draw and allows you to get free passes to see early rounds of The Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal. For those who are 35 or older, the U.S. Masters Squash Championships (“Age Groups”) is a great event. This year it will be held in March in Newport (RI). We’ll be back to Demer Holleran’s fantastic Fairmount Club in April for Skill Levels. Then use the summer to get primed for Tina’s Southwest Open Three-A-Side team event in September and Howe Cup to follow in October/November.

Jeannie Blasberg has passed the reins of the Women’s Committee to A.J. Copeland, Kim Clearkin and I. We’ll be posting regularly to the “Women’s Squash Players” group on Facebook so join and check there to find out who is going to what tournament and to keep connected to those Howe Cup friendships.

2010 Women’s Squash Key Tournaments
1/22 – 1/24 The Grand Open, NYC
3/12 – 3/14 US Masters Squash Championship (Open Age Division), Newport, RI
4/16-4/18 US Squash Championship (Skill Level), King of Prussia, PA
9/23-9/26 Southwest Open Three-A-Side Team Event, Tempe, AZ
October/November 2010 Howe Cup, TBD

Join the “Women Squash Players” group on Facebook to get the most up to date chatter among women on what is going on in women’s squash, who is going to what tournament and to stay connected to the women’s squash community.