Saturday, June 30, 2012

Binns of the Tousled Hair Teams with 'The Great One' To Create a Kick-Ass Site

Peter Nicol, he of everlasting squash glory, has teamed up with the good-natured and chronically tousle-haired Jethro Binns to launch There is every indication that this site will leap right to the top of your internet viewing list, so get your bookmark button ready. 

This is in fact a relaunch. The earlier site was already good, but there was not enough to keep the Squashist's interest, which is at times as focused as that of a hyperkinetic, diarrhetic flea. So a high bar indeed .... 

But this relaunch will have a library of over 100 videos, with a new one added daily! This quotidian blast of squashy goodness will make a terrific impression on squash browsers the world over. Other squash luminaries will appear on the site as well. 

Indeed, I offer this prediction: This site will fundamentally reset the internet expectations of the squash-loving public -- it's a game changer! Other sites will have to step up or risk becoming obsolete.

Here's their site: bookmark this if you haven't already done so.

Good luck to them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Squash is Dying in the US! Oh Wait, No It's Not....

From time to time there erupts on the squash scene much ado from doom-and-gloomers who are convinced that squash is dying a slow death in the US. They point to court closings (an unassailable fact in cities, alas) and bemoan the old days when clubs abounded. Their conclusion: the sport is doomed.

But my own experience argues against that. I see a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of players. 

So I was interested when the PST's e-zine noted that the Sporting Goods Manufacturer's Association had found a significant uptick in squash participation.

This was a professional, accurate analysis, with a total of 38,172 completed surveys. They found more than 1.1 million US residents had played squash during the previous year (2011), with about 400,000 of these being more frequent, 'core' participants. Most -- 64% -- of these core squashists fell between the ages of 25 to 44, putting a lie to those who say the sport falls off after college. 

The findings show a nearly 40% jump in some squash participation between 2009 and 2011, demonstrating that increasing numbers of folks out there are interested and giving squash a try.

Which is an important point: Whenever I meet someone interested in trying out the game, I always get them on the court and give them an introductory lesson. I make it a point to use the easier beginner balls, and anyone who is a true squashist should do the same: get them out on the court and have a few beginner balls handy. 

The true squashist is a squash evangelist who not only loves the game but makes it a point to transfer his or her own enthusiasm for the game to others.

So get out there and play. And no, chicken littles, the sky is not falling....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Squash in the Fourth Dimension

The 4th dimension is of course Time, and time, in publishing, can throw a wet blanket on things.

I just received, on June 5, the April/May issue of Squash Magazine, the official publication of US Squash. The fact that I received it late, not even within the extra-wide 2-month window of its publication date, was noteworthy. Why would a publisher do that? Well, being in publishing myself, I can guess that the answer is probably related to ad dollars. The publisher and editor, Jay Prince, was probably holding out for a few more ads before he put the magazine to bed. Jay gets some money from US Squash to put the magazine out, but he relies heavily on ad dollars to keep the enterprise afloat.

I can completely understand. We have had to do that a few times when advertisers have turned uncharacteristically impecunious (ie, cheap!). But it is dangerous to do that when publishing a news magazine, because it puts in jeopardy the usefulness of the very thing that constitutes the reason for the publication in the first place: news....

In the April/May issue there are four feature articles. Each one reviews the results from a squash tournament. And all four of the tournaments on display in this issue were from March.

So I received the issue in June, and am to read a series of articles about tournaments from March... In the age of the internet, this is not a winning formula.

The issue has a few other head-scratchers, like an invitation to attend the CitySquash 10th-year party at the University Club in NYC, which had already taken place nearly a week before I received the issue.

Now, this should not be read as criticism of the management of Squash Magazine. I am sympathetic to the problems of publishing under financial duress.

But I think it might be time to change the model. Forget publishing a print magazine; printing and postage costs are too expensive anyway. Prince and his editorial staff can publish the news about squash and run all their feature articles online as quickly as possible so that the information on their website is still fresh. I visit online squash sites all the time, so Squash Magazine's current articles about the US Junior Championships, the adult US Championships, the US Doubles Championships and the US Skill Level Championships were no longer of interest to me -- I had read about them months ago!

US Squash gives Jay Prince money to help fund the magazine because receiving it is a benefit of membership in US Squash, so if the magazine were to resort to an online-only presence, then some significant additional information on the site should be closed to US Squash members only. That could be easily done by setting up a password-protected part of the site. In this section would be additional articles, association news, and enticing visual items, including images and videos from tournaments as well as podcasts, blogs, and other online-only offerings.

The internet is perfect for covering a sport. You can talk about it all you want, include some pictures and diagrams, but actually watching it is always going to have the most impact. But above all, the internet respects the dangers of the fourth dimension when it comes to the dissemination of news. It's time Squash Magazine made the digital leap.