Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Lee Witham Part 5: How to grow squash playing numbers and provide genuine community benefits

‘We need to use funds more astutely to attract more juniors’
By LEE WITHAM (Squash Mad Special Correspondent)

Squash can be a sport that’s all-inclusive and of great importance within a local community.

When promoting squash, it is vital to create an all-inclusive environment for players and their families. A failure to do so could mean your club is missing out on a considerable amount of often untapped talent in players and supporting roles.

The following points are the staples of a healthy squash community:

Community: People are the core of squash. Strive to make a positive difference in their lives and the places where they work and live.

Connection: Celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusivity by creating accessible opportunities for people to lead more active lives.

Collaboration: Embrace partnerships with local, national, and international organisations and enable us to support good causes chosen by our community.

Commitment: Squash will continue to promote healthier lifestyles, Sustainable building, cleaner environments, and more social communities.

Squash and Education Partnerships

In the United States, we have seen great progress in the squash and education programs (American spelling) with the goal of placing students in US Colleges.

The Squash Education Alliance (SEA) is a model of quality educational, athletic, and career opportunities for those who are part of the 2,500-student program from mostly low-income families.

The expansion of the SEA programs will provide much-needed court time when the students find themselves in the workforce and can reengage with the squash and local community.

Students from the Squash and Education Alliance fill the bleachers during the SEA Nationals at the US Squash Arlen Specter Center in Philadelphia

Although the Squash & Education model was established in the USA, other successful programs followed soon after in Colombia and El Salvador.

The UK is making real progress with Rackets Cubed. The programme’s vision is driven by the increasing evidence that active children have higher school achievement and that nutritious foods improve classroom behaviour. The program as the name suggests is not primarily squash-focused, instead, grouping racket sports together.

Squash legend Nicol David recently opened the Nicol David Organisation. The primary focus is empowering young children from low and middle-income families along a pathway including squash, education, and life-skill workshops.

As I mentioned yesterday, Nicol was a phenomenal role model throughout her career and every victory was accompanied by honesty, integrity and respectful behaviour towards her opponent.

Private and public donations play a large part in the success of these organisations.

Some countries do on average donate more than others; it does not mean that they are necessarily more generous in nature.

Key differences in the tax systems have created totally different environments for giving, and from this have grown very different viewpoints on philanthropy. At the heart of each project, you will find donors who are optimistic, generous, and determined to bring positive change – whether that be nationally or in their local community.

However, one issue is how the funds are spent. Building a $5 million structure for perhaps 50 children is hardly the best use of the funds.

This is where the smart building comes in. Let’s build five $1million projects or 10 buildings at $500,000 each, and then we can accommodate 250 to 500 children!

A step ahead of building new facilities is introducing mini, portable courts, as we saw at Birmingham’s New Street Station in a brilliant week-long promotion masterminded by the Squash United group, who are introducing the game to thousands of kids during the build-up to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. This is a great way to familiarise children with squash. More importantly, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to introduce a sport that is generally hidden out of view from the general public.

All programs provide a win-win-win scenario for all concerned. Squash is welcoming new players to its community, local communities are provided much needed support for its younger generation, and with this the children receive valuable educational assistance while learning important life lessons along the way.

It is equally important to invite the parents of children to attend events and feel comfortable. This creates a sense of belonging and has an immediate impact. Welcoming children is only part of the solution. Including their parents is crucial to its success.

The squash community already feels like a global family.

It’s great to see so many people around the world working hard to make the game more visible, more accessible, and more affordable.

Designing modern, efficient venues is all part of the process of seeing that family grow.

Tomorrow: Lee looks at the professional game

Pictures courtesy of Squash United and SEA 


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