By Kevin Klipstein, President & Chief Executive Officer
The U.S. Junior Open is held the last weekend before the holidays each year and, therefore, offers a great opportunity for reflection. I started as CEO the week before the 2004 event, so noting differences each year is even more natural for me. I will never forget the first year, having to jump behind the tournament desk to run the event at Yale. There was literally no one to do it, and we were not too sure who was managing Choate! We had around 600 players from a dozen countries, used twenty-four courts, and the event was managed by two US Squash staffers (including me) and a handful of volunteers. It resembled a whirling dervish.
This year, the event had more than 1,000 entrants from nearly three dozen countries, used forty-two courts at venues spread out across more than fifty miles, and was managed by eight US Squash staffers, along with more than thirty other paid members of the team. Aside from the obvious advances in management, and the size and scope of the event, I noticed two remarkable differences from ten years ago: the first being the incredibly high caliber of play by all juniors, especially those from the U.S.; and the second being the rapidly advancing level of play at a younger and younger age each year. In one anecdotal measure, assuming my game is a constant, being in my mid-forties and having played for thirty years, I have dropped in the span of just a few years from being able to hold my own with the Under-19’s to now competing with the Under-13’s.
Looking forward to the next ten years, with the momentum we have in junior and elite development, it’s easy to predict U.S. players will achieve world-class results during the Junior Open, which will likely be hosted at grand venues that you could not imagine existing today. And finally, all of this will be accomplished with me or likely my successor staying well away from the tournament desk which, I am sure, will suit the staff just fine!