From US Squash Urban Squash Renewal

By Kevin Klipstein, President & Chief Executive Officer

At our annual Strategic Review this summer, CitySquash Executive Director Tim Wyant asked about fundraising initiatives and what would be most helpful in support of U.S. SQUASH’s efforts. Half-joking I told him that the most helpful thing would be if he moved his annual fundraiser (“The Bash”) several hundred miles north of New York City. It got a laugh, so either it was very accurate, or made everyone uncomfortable, or both.

Presenting such a compelling story to tell, and with Tim’s great leadership, it is easy to understand the success story that “The Bash” and many of the fundraising initiatives for urban squash have become. More than $50 million dollars has been raised in the last decade in support of urban squash programs nationally. All joking aside, and as I’ve stated before in this column, nothing has had a larger positive impact on squash in the last two decades than the urban squash movement, in engaging the squash community at an entirely new level, enriching the lives of the participants and the volunteers beyond measure.

With Bill Simon as Board Chair, and Greg Zaff at the helm, the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), the national umbrella organization started in 2005 by several of the first Executive Directors to support the responsible growth of urban squash, has already accomplished a tremendous amount. They have developed program standards, best practices, and consistent measurement methods, all critical to sustainable programs.

Now under the leadership of the aforementioned Wyant (Tim will also continue to serve as the ED of CitySquash), NUSEA is embarking on some exciting new initiatives. Moving forward, U.S. SQUASH and NUSEA see real opportunity on the competitive side. While many of the students have found success in tournaments, private school leagues and college, there are, on the whole, very few urban squash players who have reached the elite levels of squash in the US. While there are several factors some of this has to do with the limited competitive opportunities and lack of top-level coaching. To that end, U.S. SQUASH, starting this year, will offer membership to all urban squash players at no cost, and has standardized a 50% discount for all sanctioned tournament play by Urban Squash program participants to reduce any barriers to participation in competitions.

Beyond the regular matching grants U.S. SQUASH has provided NUSEA to seed new programs, NUSEA has been named the Official Charity of the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open, with a portion of the event’s proceeds going to benefit NUSEA member organizations. NUSEA‘s program in Philadelphia, SquashSmarts, is the local urban squash partner of the U.S. Open Squash Championships and helps to facilitate Kids Day at the U.S. Open which is designed to expose hundreds of Philadelphia students to the global world of squash. In conjunction with the U.S. Open this year, NUSEA will host the first ever developmental squad training for their most competitive players. The organization has also brought on Renato Paiva, current Executive Director of Access Youth Academy, and Satya Seshardi, and current Harvard Club of New York pro, as Head Coach and Assistant Coach respectively. Renato and Sat will oversee a series of Regional, Developmental and Elite squads which will provide additional coaching for those with the most squash potential. The squad training comes on the heels of the inaugural Urban Squash Doubles Championships, made possible by U.S. SQUASH and the Victor Elmaleh Doubles Project, where 24 students spent the week training in Denver, CO.

While we have always been great supporters of urban squash (I have served on the NUSEA Board since its inception), these new initiatives will deepen our relationship and collaboration with a group we feel is an important catalyst to the growth and enrichment of our sport. We are proud of our support for urban squash and are often in awe of the dedication and commitment demonstrated by the dozens of professionals and hundreds of volunteers around the country who make urban squash what it is every day of the year. Now if I could only convince Tim to at least hold “The Bash” every other year!!