By Sarah Odell
I met professional squash player Suzie Pierrepont last spring at the U25 National Doubles Tournament at the Field Club of Greenwich, CT. Suzie, a 23-year-old Brit, is ranked 25th in the world and is now based in the U.S. at the Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y. While US Squash works to grow women’s interest in the sport, on the professional side, the Women’s International Squash Player’s Association (WISPA) is adding tournaments. No surprise: There’s a pay gap between men’s and women’s pro squash – men’s purses are double – but WISPA is working to add women’s events.
FGN: For those not familiar with the WISPA tour, what is it like playing professional squash?
SP: The women’s tour is run under the name WISPA, which started in 1984 and has been growing ever since. It has year-round, global tournaments at varying levels, from local events to our biggest tournament, The World Open. By playing the tournaments, you accumulate points that give you a world ranking. I play about 12 tournaments a year, from England to Egypt, France, Malaysia. My favorite tournament is the Hong Kong Open. I love it out there, great city, great weather, great shopping and one of our biggest and best tournaments. Playing on the circuit is the best job in the world — I get to travel and play my favorite sport. Just wish it paid more!!
FGN: You were raised in England and learned to play there. Why did you decide to move to the United States to train?
SP: I’ve always loved playing in the US. My first ever WISPA tournament was the Marsh McLennan Open at the Apawamis Club in Rye. A couple of years ago I came out to Wilmington, Delaware (where I have family) to do summer training. I was playing in Philadelphia and had such a great time and my training went really well. I was disillusioned with squash in England so when I was asked if I’d like to make a permanent move, I jumped at the chance.
FGN: How do the women’s tournaments compare with the men’s?
SP: Many of our tournaments are run together. The prize funds rarely match. [For example the tournament purse for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open is $74,000 for the women and $145,000 for the men — click on “full calendar” for purse sizes]. There are some other discrepancies, too. For example, the men play with a 17” tin [which serves as a kind of net located at the bottom of the front wall – hitting it ends the point] while the women have a 19” tin. Some of us hope for an amalgamation of the two tours. It would be a very positive thing for the game and a massive benefit to both tours.
FGN: What have you gained from playing sports?
SP: There is so much more to sports than just exercise and fitness. There are also some amazing opportunities — the chance to meet great people, travel, compete and learn a lot about yourself. I played almost everything I could growing up, not just squash but tennis, field hockey, and some sports you guys probably don’t know, like netball and rounders. And I loved them all.
FGN: What can you pass on to younger players and do you do much coaching, or is your time mostly training?
SP: I do a fair bit of coaching. Squash is a tough sport to make a living from so when I moved out here I started doing it to support myself and I now really enjoy it. What I try and stress most to anyone I coach, at whatever level is that we are all supposed to be playing because we like it. It should be fun. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of squash that I really do not find fun (court sprints for example) but I do it because I love playing squash and I love getting better, challenging myself, and I hope they feel the same way.