Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Howe Cup combines old favourites and new technology

Referees get an App as Howe Cup moves with the times, and there are lots of hot moves on the dance floor as always
By CHARLOTTE RICHMOND – Squash Mad Reporter

The Howe Cup winners, the Four Corners
The Howe Cup winners, the Four Corners from Texas

The Howe Cup maintained its tradition as the biggest women’s tournament in squash, with the best venue, best dancing (of course), the best party night in squash (totally confirmed), and the introduction of some Californian sparkle in squash fashion (see picture below).   

The weekend of November 14-16 concluded the 81st annual U.S. Women’s Howe Cup Team Championships at the impressive McArthur Squash Center at Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia, with more than 30 teams of women competing in singles and doubles divisions A, B, C and D.

The Howe Cup was held concurrently with the Women’s Squash Association Boar’s Head Club Open, in which Emily Whitlock defeated Sabrina Sobhy to take the title.

The first U.S. Women’s Howe Cup Team Championships was held in 1928, and the permanent trophy, the Howe Cup, was donated in 1955 by Mrs. Virginia Griggs in honor of the leading family in women’s squash, the Howe family.

Orla round my hat: The Dancing Queen from Santa Barbara
Orla round my hat: The Dancing Queen from Santa Barbara

Since then, the tournament has grown and divisions have been added. The B division competition began 1958 and the ‘B’ Howe Cup trophy was donated in 1959 by Mrs. Henry Flynt and Mrs. Mary W. Knapp. Ten years later, in 1968, the C Division was added, and in 1969 the ‘C’ Howe Cup trophy was donated by Mr. James Traviss. The newest addition to the tournament, the D Division and ‘D’ Howe Cup trophy, was formally sanctioned in 2008.

Kim Clearkin, Tournament Director for the 2014 and 2009 Howe Cups, noted the importance of the Cup to its participants: “The Howe Cup brings together women of all ages and abilities from all over the country for one weekend of fun, yet competitive squash. Friends reunite year after year and it is this camaraderie that keeps the event alive and thriving.”

“I know I have made many new friends through Howe Cup and I look forward to catching up with them every year. Women dont generally like to play tournaments but the team aspect makes it social and having different playing levels makes it less intimidating. It is an amazing tournament for sure – and the Saturday party caps the event,” Clearkin continued.

The Saturday night party is a staple of the Howe Cup, with dinner, drinks, and dancing. For many, it’s one of the off-the-court highlights of the event. As is tradition, ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” opens the dance party.

The Women’s Committee meets each year at the Howe Cup, many of its members come from all across the country to vote for award winners, and voice any other concerns that come up for women in squash.

HowesparkleThis year, the Achievement Bowl and Sportsmanship awards were given at the Saturday night party. Jennifer Gabler, an avid squash player from Connecticut, and Orla O’Doherty, Irish transplant and Head Pro at Santa Barbara Athletic Club, took home the respective awards.

More than 30 teams, and over 170 women, competed in this year’s Howe Cup. The A-Division and Howe Cup 2014 winners were Larissa Stephenson, Casey Wong, Ali Rubin, Isabel Young, and Mei-Lin Ong from team Four Corners, based in Texas.

The California Giant Sparkles (right), of which Clearkin is a member, led the B Division. Her fellow team-mates included Orla O’Doherty, winner of the Sportsmanship Award, Astrid Terry, Dory Gannes, and Gwyneth Terry.

The C Division winners, based in New York–the first Division win for the state for some time–were from the Brooklyn Cyclones team; members included Djeneba Ballo, Lorraine Bates, Joetta Francis, Tracy Gates, and Kathryn Mintz.

Washington DC found success in the D Division where DC Darlings took first place, with team members Abby Markoe, Ainsley Stapleton, Martha Shaindlin, Aneka Wisker, and Tayler St. Clair.

HowerefThe Howe Cup also featured two divisions (A and B) for a Doubles Championship, also called the MPB Doubles Championships.

This year’s A Division winners were partners Fernanda Rocha and Ali Rubin from Boston. The B Division winners were sisters Chelsea and Clare Barker of Colorado.

As for the technology, Kim Clearkin writes: “We had an amazingly successful tournament – possible the best ever.

“The UVA facility is amazing and probably the best in the US. There are 8 singles courts, plus one glass court plus two doubles courts. Each court has an iPad for scoring, a bigger screen so you can see the score, and a video camera so you can potentially video. There are also other screens around so that you can stream whichever court you like on them. You can set the sound system for different parts of the facility. It was built for purpose and is great.

Howescreen“We were using the US Squash scoring app. So each court used the iPad to enter scores. The results were uploaded to the central USQ tournament database automatically, and in real time.

“At the tournament desk we had an overview of what was going on on each court so I didn’t have to wander around countless times a day to see what was happening. (right).

“This was the first team tournament to successfully use the technology and it was a great help as I didn’t have to enter scores manually.

“We also ran a refereeing clinic just before we started which proved very successful. More than 30 women turned up to talk about refereeing and rules, and I think because of that they were much more confident when they had to referee. We had no trouble at all with behaviour. 

“I have to say the women completely surprised me by how much they got into using the iPads for scoring. I thought they might shy away from it but they totally were into it and positively wanted to make it work. Proud of my C and D ladies in particular for that.

“I enjoyed the whole weekend, especially as I managed to come second in the doubles and my team, the Sparkles, won the B Division. My team did me proud, although I was in a state of happy exhaustion at the end.”

COMMENTS PLEASE: Do you know of a bigger women’s tournament anywhere in the world?  Should Kim be running for President? Are the Howe Cup girls ready for Strictly? Feel free to comment below.

Pictures courtesy of BETH RASIN, KIM CLEARKIN, US Squash and social media

Orla O'Doherty and Jennifer Gabler with their special awards
Orla O’Doherty and Jennifer Gabler with their special awards



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