2011 has been a year of highs and lows for squash players in the New York area. Earlier this year, we heard the news that the legendary Printing House would close just when rumors of a massive Chelsea Piers facility began to circulate. I know I was not alone in hoping that Chelsea Piers would add capacity at their Manhattan facility; however, October’s official announcement confirmed that 11 singles courts and one doubles court would be built in Stamford, CT.
The Chelsea Piers announcement was the latest in what appears to be a five-year suburban court construction boom. Anderson Squash Courts, who, along with ASB and McWill, comprise the area’s major court builders, have built a number of public and private courts in the last five years, nearly all in the suburbs. Town Sports International has added courts to their Stamford and White Plains New York Sports Clubs in recent years. Pyramid Squash opened in Tuckahoe in 2009.
Universities and schools are at the forefront of new court construction. Many of them, having long supported squash as a part of campus life, have noticed a renewed public interest in the sport and have thus renovated courts or added to existing facilities. German-based ASB reports having built 36 courts at academic institutions in CT and upstate NY in recent years. Additionally, as suburban communities continue to develop, those communities become their own metropolitan centers, and entities like Town Sports or Atlanta-based Lifetime Fitness see the opportunity to expand their presence in these burgeoning regions.
Given the relative small number of suburban squash facilities versus those in cities, one could argue that new court construction in the suburbs may be a better economic decision than building in urban areas. Lifetime Fitness, which recently added eight courts in Florham Park and Berkeley Heights, NJ, is given sole credit for revitalizing the squash scene in Austin, TX, where Lifetime’s eight courts are the region’s only international courts. In total, Lifetime estimates that the nine clubs and 36 courts added nationwide in the last five years have resulted in more than 15,000 squash members.
The growth in membership not only brings an economic benefit, but also allows clubs to reach out to different groups within in the squash community. Daily Squash Report’s Rob Dinerman covered this in an excellent article on doubles court construction, which has also seen a recent growth spurt. The four new courts at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club (“SHCC”) speak to this.
SHCC is a century-old club located in Scarborough, NY. As part of a series of capital improvements to the club’s many facilities, SHCC recently completed a new Indoor Fitness Center, which includes three ASB singles softball courts and one ASB doubles court. These courts are in addition to the two pre-existing singles hardball courts and one doubles court originally built over 70 years ago. Although SHCC members prefer to play doubles, the club acknowledges that parents want their children to have access to regulation-wide singles softball courts.
The club’s new fitness center and squash courts opened on November 26, 2011. SHCC plans to celebrate the opening of the new courts, as well as its centennial anniversary (1911 – 2011), with a men’s singles softball tournament for players ages 45+ to 80+. Said Tournament Chairman Mike Solin: “Each December for 37 years, SHCC had hosted a hardball squash tournament on our two hardball courts for men’s senior singles hardball players. With the building of the three new singles softball ASB courts as well as an ASB doubles court, the Club wanted to both continue that tradition and expand our reach within the squash community. In this spirit, we look forward to hosting a group of men’s senior singles softball players at our club next month.”
Sleepy Hollow Country Club Men’s Singles Softball Tournament
When: December 10-11, 2011
Where: Sleepy Hollow Country Club (located in Scarborough, NY—just 30 miles outside of Manhattan and a quick ride on the Metro North train)
Levels: Men’s 45+, 55+, 60+, 65+, 70+, 75+, 80+
Cost: $95 for US Squash members / $110 for non-members
Deadline: December 2, 2011
Click here for more information. To sign up, email Mike Solin
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Photo: NY Squash at the Baltimore Museum of Art
All the 200 women (especially the New York teams) and innumerable organizers deserve a huge Thank You. It was everyone coming together that really made for a wonderful weekend. Special thanks must also be given to a couple of special people this year. Without them, NY Squash would not have been able to run down Meadow Mill Club, with such overwhelming presence, in a good way of course.
First up, special thanks go out to David Hughes, our unrelenting and ever so insightful coach. Not only did he manage to keep a straight face amidst Tehani’s (oops! I was trying so hard not to disclose this, sorry T) shrieks of appeal, he watched every single match and was always ready to help each and every one of NY Squash’s players. Wondering how he made it through three days of being surrounded by 200 squash playing women? Go figure, we are still wondering how that was existentially possible.
Secondly, a lot of credit goes out to Sarah Odell, our fearless Howe Cup organizer. As a member of NY Squash board, she voluntarily toils through the days and nights, organizing events and gathering the masses to participate in such events. Through her vivacious and enthusiastic efforts, Sarah has successfully organized tournaments such as the inaugural NYC Citywide Spring women’s doubles league, the Under 30s National Doubles Championship in May, the DONAT (Doubles or Nothing At All, I kid you not) Southampton’s invitational in August, and now, the Howe Cup. How one finds such dedication and perseverance leaves people like me baffled and in awe. Thank you, Sarah, for reeling in the troops and creating such successful events for NY Squashers! Special thanks must also be made to Tracy Gates-- fellow Howe Cup organizer and Captain-in-crime. Though Tracy has only played squash for a couple of years, her game may fool you and tell you otherwise. Not only did Tracy help to ensure that all the logistics (T-shirt size, skirt size, shoe size... and others I shall not mention) were well planned out-- she was also an inspiration to all on court. She ran, oh she can really run, fought, and exemplified such great sportsmanship. Lastly, but certain not the least, special thanks to NY Squash for allowing this event to be possible. This year, NY Squash subsidized all entry fees for the NY Squash ladies who willingly participated in this event. In addition, they worked with Harrow to provide the team with team t-shirts, which of course, helped in intimidating our opponents.
It is also of great honor to share with you guys that our very own NY Squash President, Jessica Green, as well as the Chair of NY Squash’s women’s committee, Emily Stieff, were honored at the Howe Cup tournament party. Both of them were awarded the US Squash Achievement Bowl award. This award is given out to the women who have showed commendable sportsmanship and made significant contribution to the advancement of the game. Jessica and Emily were aptly chosen for the award-- for they grew women’s squash to where it is today through both their tenacity and some say, marketing prowess. Congratulations, Jessica and Emily!
Photo: Teams NYC with Coach David Hughes, Captains Sarah Odell and Tracy Gates, StreetSquash director Sasha and StreetSquash parent volunteers.
How(e) did the New York Teams do at Howe Cup?
As I look back a week later at the event, my heart still warms up with camaraderie and pride that we all felt during the event. The New York team stuck together for all our matches. We cheered fervently between points; gave evil glares for bad calls; took all of our meals together; and most importantly, we listened to our teammates. I think we were the only team that watched every match and gave advice to any team member during breaks. We didn’t win every game, but because we fought tenaciously for every point, we never really lost.
Baltimore’s Meadow Mill Athletic Club hosted the 3-day event, comprising 200 women representing 36 teams from all over the country. This was the impression left by the New York team. First: there were a lot of us, with five singles teams and 6 doubles teams. Second: we were organized. Not only did we manage to ensure that all our players showed up in time (even with just two hours of sleep the night before, I knew I had to take the 5 a.m. train down from NYC into Baltimore so as not to let my teammates down by being late. Now what happened during my match was a different matter...), but we also traveled with a coach. Last: We looked awesome. NY Squash sponsored our uniforms and we looked totally united with matching outfits. It was JUST like playing college squash all over again (except that the women ranged from ages 13 to 70).
The “Meadow-Mill-shattering” shriek made me realize something. New York squash players are strong. I do not know if it is the nature of us being seasoned New Yorkers, but each player that I have watched walk on that court had a spark of strength burning fiercely in their eyes. Everyone played the best squash that they possibly could. Sweat poured down their foreheads as they lunged as far as they could, and throughout it all, they did it with a smile at the end of the match. The tournament culminated in a night of fun and an endless flow of libation to celebrate the success of Howe Cup. We formed Conga lines, strutted around the Baltimore Museum of Art like models on Project Runway…well, some of us anyway. No names, but I won’t say who was more 'Runway' and who was more of a ‘Project’. We ate, sang, and danced. We befriended more female squash players over a weekend than we had in more than a year. It was glorious.
I think the best illustration of this was during a match by one of our A players. For an entire hour vs. Boston (grrr!), our player rallied point after point. She lunged, gasped for air, volleyed every shot she possibly could bring herself to. You know those moments deep in a point, when you know you have to “step up” to intercept the ball, and despite what your mind knows, you can’t will your body to do it? Well, those were the shots that she was stepping up to make. Her opponent was small, swift to the ball and had that ever so gentle touch that brings a hot squash ball into the nick. At one point, our player asked for a “let” as her opponent struck the ball about 2 inches away from her own body. “No let”, the referee declared. Silence ensued... until a shriek pierced into the air, “WHYYYYYYY NO LETTTTTTTTT?”
Now one can only imagine the frustration that a player feels when calls go against them. Especially in an 11 points PAR scoring system, each call is pivotal to the end result of a game. One can argue that, as long as you are a good and clean enough squash player (and I will argue that at the top level, women do push and shove each other, and playing “good” squash is never as clean as one imagines it to be), the calls should not affect the end result of a game. But in all honesty, there are several, if not many reasons why we are not professional, touring squash players. Let us just leave it at that.
Now, on to Howe Cup 2012. NY Squash will undoubtedly show up with a vengeance, the kind that will scare the other teams away...obviously.