By FREDDY RAMIREZ, Editor of Restrung Magazine
This year (2014) both the Delaware Investments US Open Squash Championships and the United Healthcare United States Open Racquetball Championships had non-American champions.
Though this is not uncommon for the squash side. But, over the last few years, racquetball’s biggest prize has been taken by non-Americans.
And for the first time in history, there were no Americans holding first or second place in either the Men’s and Women’s pro draws.
Racquetball, which has historically been an American sport, only over the past few years has begun to produce serious professional players outside of the United States. Racquetball is growing in popularity in Mexico and South America.
On the squash side, the history has been, typically, the US Open is won by non-Americans. In Squash, Americans struggle to produce top tier professional Squash players. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but mostly it’s a numbers game. As it is with racquetball.
Players in the US.
Racquetball (US) 4, 357,000 participants – core players 2,448,000*
Squash (US) 1,112,000 participants – core players 387,000*
Though we don’t have hard numbers, we’ve heard numbers worldwide have gone as high as 14 million participants for racquetball, which we think wildly optimistic. For squash, hard numbers for worldwide participants are indicated at around 20 million*.
The International Racquetball Federations lists 103 countries that are members, though the numbers of its constituents that actively participate and have funded programs is probably a much smaller number.
The World Squash Federation probably has harder figures than ours, which are 175 countries (where it is played)* – 127 national federations*
Looking at the US Collegiate scene, Squash has a more solid core than does racquetball, which is probably why Squash manages to raise more money for professional events and social engagement programming here in the States than racquetball has been able to. We admit, this is purely speculation on our part, but we feel pretty confident in saying this.
But this observation is less about numbers and more about pointing to both US Opens looking at who the winners are and saying, “This is noticeable.”
* 2012 SGMA Sports Marketing Survey – Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
Pictures courtesy of US Open Squash and Restrung Magazine