Tuesday, September 17, 2013

US Squash: Are You Forgetting Someone?

The other day US Squash announced that they are "seeking Regional Squad Assistant Coaches for the advertising [sic] 2013-2014 season." This is an admirable effort, the purpose of which is to "bring together the broadest base of talent from across the country" so that promising players can train together with like players in their region. The goal is to eventually enhance the National Teams.

There's only one problem. The country has been divided into 7 regions: New England, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, the Mid Atlantic region, the Great Lakes region, and the West Coast.

This nicely accounts for the traditional 'squash states' along the I-95 corridor, and recognizes the Chicagoland area, but completely overlooks Atlanta and the rest of the South, where there has been significant activity lately, and all of the Midwest, Dallas, and Denver and the Mountain states. It also lumps together the entire West Coast, which is one big lump. 

I've heard one complaint several times before about US Squash, whose very name implies a nation-wide organization, and that is this: US Squash routinely overlooks and does not care for squash players unless they are in the customary powerhouse states. 

What about smaller squash communities that can be no less dedicated? Memphis, I know, has a solid core of squash enthusiasts. I've played in Louisville, and they love their squash there. I've played in Dallas and Denver, what about them?

US Squash wants to grow the game, and they work hard at it—a very dedicated bunch of people over there... 

But they have to break out of an old pattern of doing business and pay more attention to the first two letters of their name. Think national, fellas, it's time. (And that's good news, by the way.)


7 comments:

  1. Give us a break. It is a good initiative and you can't have a squad in a place like Memphis with one or two players (and I don't know of any top juniors in Memphis, but hope there are some).

    This is for elite players, not intermediates.

    All players, no matter where they live, have an opportunity to be on a squad. The TN players ARE eligible.

    http://www.ussquash.com/teamusa/team-usa-selection-criteria/

    "Eligible players from these regions can sign up for Regional Squads in other locations."

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  2. You're both right. There are no junior players in Memphis (or Tennessee that I know of) but there is passion for squash here and in Nashville. And Tom Rumpler runs great tournaments for all ages in Atlanta. Maybe a visit or exhibition in Memphis and/or Nashville by one of the regional squads or a few of the best players would gin up more interest. We would welcome you, host you, feed you, showcase you, and probably lose badly to you (with a couple of exceptions) but is there any other way to grow the sport?
    John, Memphis

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  3. First, i started my blog by saying this program by US Squash is "admirable." So I like it. David above seems to think otherwise. My only point, echoed by John, is that you don't grow the game by ignoring vast swaths of the country. That has historically been the case, but it is time to end that practice. Show these areas some love and they will respond. Saying that players from these areas can travel upwards of a 1000 miles to play in another region, as David suggests, isn't exactly conducive to growing the game. Develop a full-country strategy. I played in Louisville and played two very knowledgeable 5.0 players. I played in Sewanee, TN and had a good match. They are out there....

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  4. Dear Squashist,

    Your information is not accurate, and your accusations unjust.
    US Squash has nine regions, here they are with the states they include (all 50):

    • Central: AR, CO, KS, LA, NE, OK, TX
    • Connecticut; CT
    • Great Lakes Region: IA, IL, IN, KY, MI, MN, MO, ND, OH, SD, WI, WV
    • Mid-Atlantic: DC, DE, MD, NJ, VA
    • New England: MA, ME, NH, RI, VT
    • New York: NY
    • Pennsylvania: PA
    • Southeast: AL, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC, TN
    • Western States: AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA, WY

    Like many organizations, regions are determined to roughly allocate an equal number of people per region. Of course, with a higher population density in the Northeast, there are more regions. This also happens to reflect the squash playing population which is roughly 50% in the PA//NJ/NY and New England area. The reason for having an approximate equal number of players per region is to help ensure fair access to development opportunities.

    That said, it is clearly more challenging for players who live in regions where there are fewer players/people and therefore as a result, greater distances to travel. All of these factors must be balanced and reevaluated regularly, and US Squash recently actually added its ninth region (CT) due to the increase in number of players in that state in the last decade.

    For the junior squads, regions with limited junior playing populations at this time, Central and Southeast specifically, are welcome to engage with the Association (office@ussquash.com) to begin the development/hosting process, however at this time we do not have plans to host squads in these areas. That door is always open.

    To your larger point regarding thinking outside the Northeast, please note that in just the last two years, 2010-2013, for west coast tournaments, we saw a:
    o 634% increase in junior tournament participation
    o 375% increase in the number of tournaments
    o 55% increase in the average number of players per tournament

    These gains are due to several factors, two of which are our efforts to work closely with the many dedicated teaching pros, tournament directors, parents and volunteers in that region, and careful management of a difficult-to-balance national ranking system which requires constant tweaking of the allocation of various levels of tournaments.

    Respectfully,
    Kevin Klipstein
    CEO, US Squash

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  5. First, Kevin, you know I think US Squash is great, so .... I didn't intend to write my blog 'accusing' the organization of anything, so much as suggesting it start addressing the needs of the admittedly nascent group of players in the middle regions of the US.

    Other than not realizing that KY is part of the Great Lakes region, my information is accurate. I am aware that US Squash does have a 50-state carve-up, but in the program in question, several states were not included. That was my observation. It is not a 50-state program, and i think it should be.

    The larger point is that those states do indeed have players and they need somehow to be attended to. You allude yourself to the benefits of organizational attention by pointing out what happened on the west coast, where participation has spiked many-fold: "our efforts to work closely with the many dedicated teaching pros, tournament directors, parents and volunteers in that region" helped grow the sport there. That's what I'm talking about. It is analogous to an inspirational club pro who through his or her efforts brings people into the game, as opposed to the sluggard pro who waits around for people to show up.

    Now, like many things in life, there is likely a monetary angle to this, about which I know nothing. But I imagine that's part of the equation.

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  6. My point was that the TN players CAN participate in the regional junior squads. I was trying to correct what I thought was inaccurate in the post.

    The junior regional squads are meant to develop the elite talent in each region. They are not an initiative to encourage juniors to start playing the game or to start to compete.

    Both have a place in developing the sport. We do need more efforts to encourage juniors to take up the game and start competing.

    In fact, US SQUASH has a new initiative to encourage juniors to start competing. It is no longer necessary to become a US SQUASH member to play in bronze level junior tournaments, which are aimed at players who are beginning to compete with other juniors.

    US SQUASH has also had a program to provide funds to convert racquetball courts into courts where people can play squash.

    More efforts will be needed. However, I think the local districts need to lead the effort to build squash in their communities. US SQUASH can and will provide advice on how this can be done most effectively.

    I hope that our friends in TN and elsewhere who are trying to grow the sport will attend the US SQUASH Assembly next month to learn how other districts are working to grow the game.

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Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....