Ivy Pochoda backs call for outdoor courts in USA
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
As the calls grow louder across the globe for more outdoor squash courts, two American national champions have been sampling the delights of playing on an open-air facility in California.
The Daily Squash Report has kindly given permission to reprint an article about two famous players hitting on an open-air handball court in Los Angeles.
DSR publisher Ted Gross wrote: “In these days of the terrible coronavirus epidemic, who and where else but in Los Angeles should two former national Squash Open doubles, men’s age-group singles and former women’s intercollegiate national squash champion be playing squash, (albeit with no back walls)…but on an outdoor court!
“Angeles Wealth Management, Llc, Senior Finance manager Jon Foster was the former U.S. Open Doubles champion in 1993, 1994, 1995…and the national 45+ men’s singles squash champion in both 2004 and 2005!
“Author and novelist Ivy Pochoda played squash professionally between 1998 and 2007. She reached a career-high world ranking of #38 in March of 1999, having joined the Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) full-time in 1998.
“In her college career at Harvard University, she was the women’s individual squash national champion that year and led Harvard to a national championship in all four years on the team.
“She was also named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, was a four-time All-American and First Team all-Ivy. In May of 2013, Ivy was inducted into the Harvard University Squash Hall of Fame.
“With the Covid-19, Coronavirus looking like it will be around for a very long time, is it time to seriously think about supporting and building more open-air, outdoor squash-courts!?”
I wanted to hear Ivy’s thoughts on the experience, and when I contacted her to ask her thoughts about outdoor courts, her response almost made my laptop explode. She wrote back with a big smiley “Yes!”
She wrote: “Hey Alan. Glad you reached out. So, I’m pretty excited about a new way forward for squash, especially in Southern California, the home of good weather.
“I think that the sport could use a major rebrand out here where people relish the sunshine year round. And if there is a single silver lining to COVID, beyond having more time to drink and eat in excess, it’s that we have been forced to reckon with this notion that until squash is visible to a larger audience, we are going to be limited by those already in the know.
“In other words, this is the time for outdoor squash. Los Angeles has a rich handball tradition that’s very community driven. It would be simple to build the same enthusiasm for squash.
“I think uniting handball and squash, as well as pickleball, which is a smash here too, is an essential growth mechanism for the sport. Too long has squash in the US inhabited a realm inaccessible to the majority of Americans.
“Los Angeles is filled and I mean filled with public recreation centers that serve those who cannot access gyms, clubs, etc. Many of these already have handball. In fact, the pretty underserved public school a few blocks from my house (I live in a seriously underserved community) has SIX handball courts. Imagine if we put backwalls on those! What a trip.
“It’s super fun to play outside in the sunshine. I found it electric to play on a handball court next to a bunch of fully tattooed dudes playing extreme handball.
“There was a vibrancy and an excitement that I hadn’t ever experienced on court in a traditional sense. I know that this breed of outdoor squash won’t appeal to traditionalists, but screw it. It is squash, just like basketball is basketball on a smaller court, and swimming is swimming if it’s not in an Olympic pool.
“Not everything must be official and sanctioned. It must be accessible and fun. That is the spirit of sport. And this is the way forward.”
Wow! What an endorsement. Not just from an average player but from a US national champion and ex-professional. The rest of the squash world needs to wake up and absorb Ivy’s comments.
Squash has been absolutely battered by the coronavirus pandemic and courts and facilities are closing down week by week.
A revolution is taking shape and it may not be in the familiar, cooler climates of Europe and North America.
Taking squash to the masses in countries with warmer climates may be the biggest and most important single factor when it comes to keeping squash alive and flourishing in a new kind of inclusive environment.
Ted Gross added: “Just think, in the space of just one 60ft x 120ft tennis-court enclosure, SIX international squash-courts can be built and accommodated!
“Doing this in states with climates that are best-suited for outdoor squash courts could actually begin to balance the demographics of the U.S. Squash-playing community … between the east, west, and southern parts of the country.
“Doing this could just perhaps begin to provide tournament venues not traditionally wanting and/or able to host junior and adult squash-tournaments.
“The concept may (at first) seem to be a radical idea, but think of the most popular sports played out-of-doors, e.g. soccer, basketball, baseball, football, golf, volleyball, tennis, pickleball, handball, swimming, surfing, skateboarding, etc.
“If those are among the very popular outdoor sports played outdoors…why not SQUASH!?
“Just imagine…squash courts located in all city recreation parks around the country!
“What a wonderful and innovative way to promote and further popularise our great game of squash!”
Pictures courtesy of Daily Squash Report and Ivy Pochoda