By Sarah Odell
It’s only March, but I’m feeling that 2012 will be a good year for women’s squash. I’ve posted plenty about the many challenges we face, but things are looking up. Here’s what I see:
- PEOPLE RECOGNIZE HOW GOOD THE WOMEN ARE: Suzie Pierrepont and Narelle Krizek played in the men’s draw at the 3rd annual NYAC Invitational. People started the weekend grumbling about why women were allowed in the men’s draw, but by the end of the weekend everyone was just talking about how darn good Krizek and Pierrepont were after they not only ousted number one seeds Tim Wyant and Julian Illingworth, but made it to the semifinals..
- MORE WOMEN PLAYING: This weekend the US National Doubles Championships in Rye, New York feature 13 women’s teams in the open, six in the 40s, and 10 in the 50s. This will be the largest showing of women’s doubles teams in recent history. And what’s the buzz? How many 20-somethings are playing in the Open.
- GROWTH BEYOND THE EAST COAST: I’ve gotten to know Eric Eiteljorg, who grew up playing in Philadelphia (the squash capital of America) but moved his family west to become Executive Director of Mile High Squash in Denver. If a small but tightly-knit squash community like Denver can support Eric, two full-time staff, and a burgeoning urban program, squash can flourish outside of Philly, New York and Boston. The significance of Mile High’s success isn’t limited to the victories of students, but reveals the growth opportunity for squash. If more people like Eric drive these initiatives, squash may become not only an NCAA sport, but an Olympic one, too.
- WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT LOOK LIKE: I spoke with Emily, a high school freshman and one of the students served by Mile High Squash. Emily came to the program as a C student, but has blossomed into an A/B student who wants to play squash in college. What’s so great about that last statement is that Emily now wants to go to college. Squash is bringing her places and changing her outlook. Programs like Mile High give young women like Emily (and young men, too) the opportunity to compete, and learn more about themselves through athletics. They win, but so does squash. Girls like Emily are the future of the game. They cross socioeconomic, racial, religious and gender boundaries. I can’t think of anything more exciting.
With women’s squash growing, not just in numbers, but geographically, I’m ready to believe one day we will see Nicol David and Nick Matthew at the Olympics. If you’d asked me last year, I could not have imagined it. But when I see young people like Emily, a guy like Eric, or Narelle playing against the US singles national champion (and making him run) I suddenly have hope.