by Chris McClintick
Bill Broadbent, the longest serving US Squash Board and Committee member, recently stepped down from his position on the Investment Committee following twenty-five years of service, and a pioneering philanthropic legacy that laid the foundation for growth of junior squash, team squash and urban squash in the U.S. over the last three decades.
Broadbent has served on either the US Squash Board of Directors or a US Squash Committee from 1996-2021. During his time on the board, Broadbent chaired the then-active Junior Committee and founded—and contributed generously with his wife Camille—to the Junior Development Endowment for the association. In addition to his Board service, Broadbent helped modernize US Squash’s governance in 2007 by merging the endowment funds’ management and bringing them under a single Investment Committee, on which he served through this past February.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Broadbent was a competitive tennis player before moving east to attend Williams College. After graduating, he started his financial career in New York City. Not knowing many people in the city, a friend Hank Higdon suggested he join the Yale Club as a summer member. Broadbent was introduced to squash for the first time that summer, and quickly picked up the hardball game with applicable skills from his tennis background. His passion for the sport truly took hold that summer once he won the C level draw of the Yale Club tournament.
Broadbent’s love for squash evolved once his children, Will and Avery, started playing at the respective ages of 7 and 9. The Broadbent family returned to the east coast in 1990 following a period in the San Francisco Bay Area, settling down in Greenwich, Connecticut. Broadbent joined the Field Club of Greenwich and brought his children on court in hopes that they too would fall in love with the sport, and instead learned an important squash parenting lesson.
“I took my children to play and we hit the ball a little, I came off court and told Camille ‘this is not going to work, these children have absolutely no ability. Maybe we should just focus on soccer, it’s a bigger ball and you can kick it,’” Broadbent recalled. As often was the case, Camille kept Bill grounded and suggested they go back the next day and try again. “I think I became even more frustrated the next day,” Broadbent laughed. “I spoke with another parent, Craig Stapleton, who suggested we get some instruction from one of the pros. I think the key was for me to step back as a parent and let somebody else who knew what they were doing get involved.”
The advice paid off, Avery and Will fell in love with the game thanks to quality instruction from the Field Club’s Chris Spahr, Richard Chin in Southport, Damien Walker at Sportsplex, Richard Millman in Mamaroneck, and Peter Briggs at Apawamis. Briggs—a U.S. Squash Hall of Famer–admired the Broadbent family’s approach to the game.
“When I would work with Will and Avery, Bill and I had the same ethos and philosophy that it was the quality of your practice time and not the quantity of your practice time,” Briggs said. “That you should hit every shot with a purpose and not be cavalier about the process. And that the value in the training and in the whole paradigm was the process. I think he believed that if you were true to the process, you respected your opponent, respected the game, respected the rules to the game, thereby respecting yourself—then you were going to succeed more than fail. He definitely took the success and failure thing in a very sanguine way. Just like the Rudyard Kipling poem if, ‘You can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.’”
The U.S. and Greenwich junior squash scenes were very different in the 1990’s than the geographically diverse participation rates and Greenwich squash hotbed that the U.S. squash community is familiar with today. The Broadbent family’s efforts in the 1990’s helped lay the foundation for both the national and local Greenwich junior squash communities to expand and thrive in the decades to come.
The Broadbents were some of the only junior players in Greenwich at the time, and in order to compete in top US Squash tournaments would regularly travel to Boston and Philadelphia. After immersing themselves in the small, tight-knit junior squash community, Broadbent joined the US Squash (then USSRA) Junior Committee. In 1997, as chair of the Junior Committee, Broadbent launched the Junior Squash Endowment realizing the potential to leverage the means of the community towards improving and growing the junior game. The Broadbent family generously led the initiative with a founding $100,000 contribution.
“I knew there was an opportunity to take junior squash to a higher level, but what it needed was someone to take the time to talk to other parents and try to move it to another level,” Broadbent said. “Clearly we needed to be better organized and to raise money to support the efforts. In our day junior squash was fairly small and you really had to get to know the families involved because often it would be the same kids at the tournaments. A lot of those families had the means to be supportive of these programs early on. In seeing the same families, it gave us the opportunities to speak with them about supporting junior squash and programs like SquashBusters.”
Locally in Greenwich, the Broadbents helped develop the most successful high school programs in the country at the Brunswick School and Greenwich Academy. In 1996, Jim Stephens, the long-time Brunswick coach, saw Will playing squash at the Field Club and told him he thought he could play varsity for the Brunswick. Will was eleven years old and in sixth grade and was the U13 national champion. Brunswick didn’t have their own courts at the time and would rent two courts at Sportsplex in Stamford. In Will’s first season, Brunswick won their first New England Championship with Broadbent winning his match at #5 on the ladder.
“Thanks to the Broadbents and their support of the Brunswick program and myself, other kids started to follow,” Stephens said. “We had all kinds of children who saw what we were doing in the Greenwich area and wanted to be a part of it.”
Inspired by a few other families in the junior squash community, the Broadbents had started taking William and Avery to compete in the Scottish and British Junior Opens. In 1996, Broadbent suggested to Stephens that the entire Brunswick team travel overseas to compete in the tournaments with their financial support. In an unprecedented move at the time, the Brunswick program competed as a team in an individual tournament against the world’s best, long before Team USA squash would eventually do the same with the nation’s best in 2014.
“Those trips changed our team dramatically,” Stephens said. “We went over in December of 1996. We came back and nobody had heard of Brunswick as far as squash goes, and we beat everybody. As a team we gained a new appreciation for the game and what we saw abroad was so inspirational. I couldn’t quite believe it myself when we came back and beat everybody in New England. There weren’t nationals back then, but there were forty programs in New England and we were nothing up until that point. Those trips were instrumental.”
Towards the late 1990’s and early 2000’s squash participation rates in Greenwich started to take off. Higher profile junior tournaments were now being held in the area and Brunswick and Greenwich Academy were cementing their status as two of the best programs in New England. In 2000, the Broadbents made a significant contribution to Brunswick’s new eight court facility. Avery and Will led their teams and individually each won the U19 division title of the Greenwich junior tournament in 1999 and 2001 respectively. The Broadbent’s support for team squash reached the college game as Avery and William attended Brown and Harvard, respectively. Most notably, the Broadbent Family created the endowed Head Coaching Chair in squash at Brown and the Executive Director position at the Harvard Varsity Club.
In 2019, the Broadbents made a significant contribution to the US Squash Junior Endowment to endow the future of the Greenwich Junior Squash Championships in perpetuity. The leadership gift was made in hopes it would inspire and encourage other families to join them in making legacy gifts and in effect, endowing other major junior tournaments in their respective city.
“Squash is a life sport,” Broadbent said. “It gives you an opportunity to meet some really nice people at tournaments, whether junior or team, singles or doubles. I think that’s very important. The squash community is a fantastic one with terrific people. Squash has been very good for our family, it played an important developmental role for our children growing up and we wanted to have the opportunity to give back. We thought one of the ways we could do that was helping various schools and universities and their athletic programs. We wanted to make a difference.”
Since the inception of the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships in 2004, Greenwich Academy and Brunswick have been the most successful programs in the country with thirteen and five national titles, respectively.
The First Home for Urban Squash
Before the Badger and Rosen SquashBusters Center at Northeastern became the first urban squash facility in the country, it was a dream and a sketch on a piece of paper.
Greg Zaff, founder of the SquashBusters program and leader of the urban squash movement, first met Broadbent on the doubles court in a Field Club of Greenwich Pro-Am in the early 90’s where Zaff served as a pro.
“I remember his face being all red, his focus and his competitive tenacity—something I had not encountered before.” Zaff recalled. “He was basically firing in winners all over the place and high fiving me every time he did. I rode his coattails to victory and it was a lot of fun. He had incredible zeal and spirit and desire to win. I liked being around his energy and it made the whole weekend for me.”
In 1998, the two Williams College alums crossed paths at the grand opening of their alma mater’s new squash facility—the twelve court Simon Center. The pair went for a walk together outside, during which Zaff revealed the napkin sketch and detailed his vision for a SquashBusters facility—all without a location, partners, or investors at that point in time.
“It was raining out, I remember it vividly,” Zaff said. “I showed him the sketch and told him I was trying to build a home for SquashBusters. Bill said to me, ‘if that thing becomes real, you can count on me for a big donation. I’m in.’ It wasn’t real, but he was the very first person—before anybody on my Board of Directors—who said, ‘you turn that thing into a real deal.’ It did become a real deal, he named court 3 after Will and Avery and gave $100,000. It was an example of his stepping up with leadership and generosity before anyone else did, and before we had any success, which to me is very revealing about a person’s character because it says they’re doing it for the right reason.”
The center proved to be transformative for SquashBusters, increasing their community reach and capacity to serve more Boston youth, and setting the model for urban squash facilities around the country over the next twenty years.
“When I put myself back in time to that walk in Williamstown, it isn’t so much that the money would have been there from other places, it was more the belief that he gave me, which is different from the money,” Zaff reflected. “When you’re going out on some uncharted course to do good in the world and have no precedent for it happening, there’s a part of you that’s carrying around doubt and fear. When Bill stepped up before anybody else, there was an injection of confidence, self-belief and courage that he instilled in me. And that propelled me to believe that I was going to do it. As he did when we played squash together, he was going to blaze a trail and let others follow. There are a lot of philanthropic people in the world of squash that have given lots of money. There are not a lot a lot of pioneer philanthropists, the kind of person that says screw it, I’m going first here and I don’t care what others are doing because it’s the right thing to do.”
SquashBusters has served more than 1,000 students since launching in 1996, and the urban squash movement now has more than 25 programs around the world with a dozen programs following SquashBusters in building their own urban and community squash facilities.
The end of Broadbent’s tenure on US Squash Investment Committee service signifies the end of an era of giving, trailblazing, and making a positive difference in the lives of many.
“Without a doubt he’s one of the most influential figures in the sport of the past 30 years,” Zaff said. “And I don’t even know all of the things that Bill has done because he always did them with such humility. When I reflect back on this journey I think of him as one of the people that made it possible and inspired me, and whose character I admire and respect.”
“I can say personally he’s been a loyal friend to me and a great communicator,” Stephens said. “The Broadbent family had the means to be charitable and have gone out of their way, very unselfishly, and wanted to promote the game and get more children involved. They have been so generous with their monetary contributions, but also with their time and interest. Bill’s interest has always been to grow the game, and it can’t really get any better than that.”
“I think Bill is unique in the idea that he understands the idea of legacy,” Briggs said. “In that you handle yourself in whatever way it may be—socially, philanthropically, athletically, businesswise or anything—you handle yourself in the present always aware of the legacy that went before you. And you act accordingly to protect the value of that legacy to create your current legacy in the present, and therefore create a fertile ground for a future legacy. A lot of it was done somewhat without bluster and a lot of it not anonymously, but in a modest, humble way. He’s not the guy who needs affirmation or validation for what he believes in to see his name in lights.”
Broadbent is inspired by the potential the Arlen Specter US Squash Center has to change the game in the country.
“I think the Specter Center is a great testament to Kevin Klipstein’s leadership, the Board of US Squash and all of the donors,” Broadbent said. “I think it’s a very exciting development. It’s going to dramatically increase the visibility of the sport and also allow the community to be more involved through the sport through the various urban and community programs. It’s going to be a world class center and it should definitely help us to raise visibility and it will be a great attraction for Philadelphia and the country.”
Broadbent is proud of the progress that squash in the U.S. and US Squash as a national governing body has made throughout the past twenty-five years.
“My time on the US Squash Board and Investment Committee has been very rewarding,” Broadbent said. “I’ve really enjoyed it. We have a great team that is going to move the process forward and help us raise a substantial amount of money in the future. If you’re going to be involved in some form of philanthropy it’s got to be fun and enjoyable. Both Camille and I always felt that way about squash and that’s another reason why we got involved. We thought it was the right thing to do, and it was a way that we could give back to squash, for everything the sport has done for our children and our family.”
“I’m so thankful to Bill and Camille for their involvement and for Bill’s service,” said Kevin Klipstein, US Squash President & CEO. “They’re a family who has humbly been closely involved, consistently over more than three decades. There is no pretense with them at all – they care, they support, they set an example for others. Bill is thoughtful, disciplined, passionate, persistent, and above all, honest – he holds himself and others to a very high standard. Bill also understands that if you really want to make a difference, you have to roll up your sleeves and be part of the solution. He’s shown that drive over and over, and I personally am extremely grateful for his steadfast encouragement. We are a better sport and organization for his deep and enduring commitment.”