By Sarah Odell
I’m not ready to declare this next decade the Era of Women’s Doubles Squash (not yet, at least), but this past weekend was important to the sport’s development.
Not only was the historic Turner Cup – the cornerstone of the WSDA (Women’s Doubles Squash Association) tournament schedule – played in New York City with a record $50,000 purse, but the event was a win for building the base.
As part of the tournament, there was an under 30 pro-am in which young women were partnered with pros playing in the Turner Cup draw. It was exactly the sort of event that women’s doubles squash needs.
For many former college squash players (like me), doubles is a new concept. Last spring as I was interviewing for jobs in New York, I got an email from Suzie Pierrepont along with a phone call from Narelle Krizek asking me to help the WDSA develop younger players. Doubles? Narelle won the US National Mixed Doubles Championships in Boston, and her match was the first time I had ever seen doubles.
Narelle does crazy things with the ball, like jam it into the crease at the front of the court so that it corkscrews into the opposite corner, spinning off the back wall. She can kill the ball into the front right corner from pretty much anywhere on the court. Narelle is the reason I called an acquaintance and asked her to teach me doubles. (So when Narelle calls, the questions is never if, but when.)
So together we schemed to get an under 30 draw for the tournament. I would get the amateur players, and Narelle would do the draw. She wanted eight; I got 12. Every player got two or three games, and – most critical – they got inspired.
Amanda Sohby, the only US junior to ever win the World Junior Championships was one of the pros in the U30. I got to play against her. I mean, when else in my life will I ever step on court with Sohby? And I wasn’t the only amateur to be completely pumped about this!
Yesterday at work, emails flooded my inbox from the other U30 women. If you read my post on Narelle and her sister Natarsha, you know that we’ve been struggling to get women to sign up for events like the National Doubles and the U25. But the emails were so positive—each player told me how much she enjoyed playing with her pro, how much she had learned, and how amped she was to play in another event. Plus all the U30 players were invited to the Friday night Turner Cup party at the University Club. (Socializing and partying in doubles squash is almost as important as the playing.)
By the end of the weekend I had played doubles with Natarsha (Narelle’s gifted sister) and Karen Jerome, who has won more Canadian and US titles than I have fingers.I even played with Narelle. I can’t describe how crazy and awesome it is to play with these women, but my fellow U30 girl Ashley Eyre said it simply: “I had the best weekend ever.”