Community Perspectives: Can Technology Help Drive the Growth of Squash and Strengthen the Community?

US Squash receives many requests to participate in and work with young men and women in their educational pursuits, whether for a school project, summer internship, to satiate a specific curiosity or otherwise. One such request came from Nehal Ramlukan. Nehal was introduced to us with a goal, a track record of milestones achieved in his pursuit of developing a squash specific app, and an open mind and eagerness to learn from the team behind Club Locker, the engagement infrastructure for squash in the US. In our time together, we learned from each other, had some fun, and let our minds wander at what technology could do for the game. Read on for Nehal’s story. –Ryan Rayfield, US Squash Chief Technology Officer

Can technology help drive the growth of Squash and strengthen the Squash community? This was the question that I recently explored while contemplating ways to find more matches and new players to play outside of the junior squash circuit. My name is Nehal Ramlukan, and I am a rising Junior from Boston, Massachusetts.

Having grown up with mobile devices and being accustomed to digital experiences using social apps like Snapchat and Instagram I had some ideas as to how squash might benefit from similar experiences but focused on squash. With more time on my hands due to school disruptions and limited opportunities to play Squash, I decided to learn to code and develop a mobile app for Squash.  After a year, I was proud to have built and released my first app, called Social Squash on the Apple App Store. Social Squash was designed to help players find other players and coaches in their local area or when they traveled. The experience was exciting and challenging and yet very different from the type of lessons I would learn in bringing it to the world.

After finding my way to speaking with Kim Clearkin, Chief Program Officer at US Squash, about the app, I was connected with Ryan Rayfield, CTO of US Squash and Clublocker. We decided that the best path forward would be to explore a proof of concept for how combining elements of the Social Squash app and the Clublocker web app could give insight into what product updates might look like and how they may be used to serve the larger squash playing public that is Club Locker’s user base. So, we set out to try a few key elements we agreed might improve the player experience. After initial design sessions over Zoom, and weekly status updates over the past 9 months, I produced a fully functional version of the Clublocker Mobile app concept. This past summer I got to demo the app to USQ with features for push notifications for tournaments, a tournament check-in using QR codes, and a streamlined rankings list. I’m looking forward to how these ideas develop within Club Locker over time.

Reflecting on my experience of working with the engineering team, I now understand the impact that US Squash and Clublocker are having on growing Squash and building a foundation that will last. The software has so many different capabilities and with this comes lots of responsibility and challenges in serving and supporting such a large and diverse community. I feel as if I now have valuable insight into the inner workings of a tech startup, and what it takes to bring ideas and concepts to reality using technology and am looking forward to staying in touch with the team!

Nehal Ramlukan (l) and Ryan Rayfield at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center