Squash Haven and CitySquash Again Sweep the A Draws at Urban Team Nationals in Philadelphia
Over the weekend of January 14-16, the 14th annual Urban Team Nationals brought 450 students and nearly 100 staff members to Philadelphia for 3 squash-filled days of competition. The event welcomed organizations from 19 different programs across the country to share in the weekend festivities and make new urban squash friends. Squash Haven and CitySquash dominated the A draws. Urban Team Nationals has grown tremendously since its inception in 2004.
Urban Squash Leaders Honored by U.S. Squash
This fall several members of the urban squash family were presented with national awards. Robert Hensel, board chair of Minneapolis’ Beyond Walls, was awarded the United States Olympic Committee Volunteer Coach of the Year Award. StreetSquash Newark’s board chair Geoff Mitchell won the United States Olympic Committee’s National Coach of the Year Award. Richard Chin, longtime board member of StreetSquash Harlem, won the Robert W. Callahan Men’s Sportsmanship Award.
Alumni Reflection: A Week with Squash Urbano Colombia, Jazmin Matos, StreetSquash ’12
After graduating from StreetSquash four years ago, it has been exciting to hear about the new travel opportunities offered to the younger urban squash generation. In July, I was able to be a part of one of these opportunities as a counselor of StreetSquash’s Cartagena service trip to Squash Urbano Colombia. Along with nine StreetSquash students and three staff members, I spent the week volunteering at SUC and its partner school, Institución Educativa Antonia Santos, and learning more about the Colombian way of life.
Executive Director Development Program Completes Its Inaugural Year
NUSEA’s inaugural Leadership Fellows Program ended with a learning retreat to Chicago to visit MetroSquash. The program’s 12 Fellows consisted of four aspiring leaders from NUSEA member programs and eight Executive Directors. The 10-month professional development program gave participants the opportunity to meet with staff and Board members from other programs, share and observe best practices across organizations, and reflect on opportunities for growth in their own organizations. “The Leadership Fellows program supported and affirmed my goal to lead an urban squash program,” SquashWise’s Deputy Director Hope Blinkoff reflected.
Alumni Nationals Brings Together Over 75 Alumni From 6 Programs
Over the weekend of August 5-7, over 75 urban squash alumni gathered together at Harvard University for the Urban Squash Alumni Nationals, a team tournament where college students and graduates of different member programs play as teammates. Alumni came from MetroSquash in Chicago, SquashSmarts in Philadelphia, StreetSquash in Harlem, CitySquash in the Bronx, Squash Haven in New Haven, and SquashBusters in Boston.
Deerfield Academy, UVA, and Stanford Host Summer Squash Squads
In an effort to support squash excellence among its programs, NUSEA hosted 100 students for three Squash Squads this summer at Deerfield Academy, University of Virginia, and Stanford University. UVA Coach Mark Allen and Stanford Coach Mark Talbott led the UVA and Stanford Squads, respectively, and Squash Haven’s Squash Professional Owen Butler led the Deerfield Squad. Students were nominated and chosen for squads based on skill level, work ethic, and dedication to the sport of squash. SquashWise’s Malia Carter, a rising junior, was the sole student to earn admission to all three squads. “My favorite part was meeting new people and learning new squash techniques and skills,” said Carter. “The experience of learning from college coaches and being recognized by people all over who can help you get into that college is amazing. It benefits you in the long run and gets you ready for the life you want.”
Justice Kagan, Lester Holt and 3 U.S. Senators Add Star Power to 3rd Annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour
The third annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour brought 22 civically-minded high school and college students from 11 NUSEA member programs to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C for an inspirational academic and athletic journey. From July 6-13, students met with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Senator Al Franken, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt to learn about their careers and to highlight the importance of public service and civic engagement. “The Tour is one of the most important events that NUSEA organizes each year,” explained NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. “In addition to bringing together students from across the country, it highlights the value that our member programs place on community service and encourages the 2,000 students enrolled in our programs nationwide to think about the ways that they can make a difference in their communities.”
Racquet Up Wins Four Titles at the 4th Annual Kenyon College Urban Midwest Championships
Over the weekend of July 22-24, 10 programs from the Midwest and Northeast came together to compete in the fourth annual Urban Midwest Championships at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. The 132 students participating in the event hailed from Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Boston, New Haven, Detroit, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. Racquet Up Detroit stood out in the competition this year, winning four titles. “At this tournament, students connect to each other in a special way,” said Racquet Up Detroit Executive Director Derek Aguirre, who has attended all four years. “It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate the growth and enthusiasm for squash in the Midwest.”
Pittsburgh’s Steel City Squash Joins NUSEA as 19th U.S. Program
July saw the induction of Steel City Squash into the NUSEA network. Founded in 2014 and ledby Executive Director Brad Young, the Pittsburgh-based program currently has 35 4th-6th grade students enrolled from partner schools Miller African-Centered Academy, St. Benedict the Moor School, and Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy. The after-school programming runs out of the University of Pittsburgh and is off to a strong start. They have connected with other programs in the NUSEA network, setting up friendly matches and even attending NUSEA’s Urban Individual Nationals and Midwest Championships this summer. “My philosophy is that while the amazing experiences NUSEA provides are expensive, the experiences are worth it a hundred times over,” said Young.
Spring Fundraisers Raise $5 Million for Urban Squash Nationwide
A record $5 million was raised this spring at the annual fundraisers of NUSEA member organizations. Across the country, in cities big and small, hundreds of donors rallied to support the urban squash cause, pushing the fundraising bar higher and making it possible for our programs to continue to grow. Events for Pittsburgh and Cartagena, Colombia exceeded $75,000. Detroit, Hartford, Newark, Oakland and New Haven brought in over $100,000. Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Philadelphia each surpassed $300,000. Both New York programs netted over $1 million. The most financially successful event was the SquashBusters Derby in Boston, which celebrated the organization’s 20th anniversary and raised $1.2 million. “The Derby makes SquashBusters possible — plain and simple,” said SquashBusters Founder and Executive Director Greg Zaff. “The Derby’s success mirrors SquashBusters’ success – slow and steady progress each year, investing in personal relationships with players and corporate backers, and trying to keep learning and improving with every race.”
Minneapolis, Toronto, and Harlem Programs Host Regional Tournaments
In April and May, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Harlem each hosted regional urban squash tournaments. Minneapolis’ Beyond Walls, the Bronx’s CitySquash, Philadelphia’s SquashSmarts, Urban Squash Toronto, Racquet Up Detroit and New Haven’s Squash Haven all left these tournaments with titles.
Bill Simon Honored for 11 Years of Service as NUSEA’s Board Chair
On May 18, supporters of urban squash gathered at the University Club in New York City to honor William E. Simon, Jr. who stepped down as NUSEA’s Founding Board Chair after eleven years in the role. A former star on the Williams College squash team, Simon has helped lead the growth of urban squash from its inception to include eighteen accredited programs in the United States and four abroad today. An award in Simon’s honor was created and endowed that each year will give one college graduate from an urban squash program the opportunity to go on a service trip abroad to volunteer at an international affiliate program of NUSEA.
31 Students Win Scholarships to Summer Schools at Exeter, Taft, Choate, Miss Porter’s, and Lawrenceville
With partnerships with Lawrenceville, Choate Rosemary Hall, and Miss Porter’s School, NUSEA has secured thirteen new scholarships for urban squash students to attend multi-week summer academic programs at Northeastern boarding schools. These thirteen scholarships are in addition to the eighteen spots already designated for urban squash students at summer academic programs at Phillips Exeter Academy and The Taft School. In total, thirty-one academically-accomplished students from urban squash programs will attend overnight academic programs this summer through NUSEA-partnerships. A national application process was managed jointly by NUSEA and its school partnerships, and students were selected based on academic accomplishment and program recommendations.
On Saturday April 30, 90 students traveled to Yale University to compete in the the Northeast Individual Regional Tournament. Hosted by Squash Haven, the tournament showcased Northeast U13 through U17 talent from Squash Haven, SquashBusters Boston, StreetSquash Newark, and Hartford’s Capitol Squash. A-division girl winners included U13 Vanessa Olivar from Squash Haven, U15 Krishna Patel from Squash Haven, and U17 Melissa Marquez from Squash Haven. In the boys’ A-division, the winners were U13 Malike Alassani from Capitol Squash, U15 Umarr Lahun from Squash Haven, and U17 Quinlan Jeudy from StreetSquash Newark.
In 2007, Chicago’s MetroSquash welcomed its second class of 30 middle school students. A sixth grader from that class, Joseph Harris, is now a rising junior at Tufts University, and he was urban squash’s first attendee of the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. During school breaks, Harris returns to MetroSquash to encourage current students, participate in college panels, and support his younger sister, a MetroSquash team member. “Joseph has overcome many obstacles and demonstrated exceptional resilience,” said MetroSquash Executive Director David Kay. “He is an exemplary MetroSquash student and we can’t wait to see what he does next.”
New Haven, New York, Boston and San Diego Programs Win Titles at Largest Urban Team Nationals in Boston
Over the weekend of January 16-17, the 13th Urban Team Nationals brought 430 students to Boston, the tournament’s inaugural host city and the birthplace of urban squash. Connecticut’s Squash Haven again edged out New York’s CitySquash in claiming the most urban national titles in recent years, winning three of the eight A divisions. CitySquash won two A draws, and San Diego’s Access Youth Academy, StreetSquash Harlem and Boston’s SquashBusters each won a title. Reflecting urban squash’s focus on education, the weekend also included an essay-writing contest for each age division, and for the first time a group of boarding school and college representatives attended the event as part of the event’s boarding school and college fairs.
In 2010, Lauren Patrizio Xaba left a job in finance to found SquashDrive, NUSEA’s member program in Oakland, CA. With five staff members and a partnership with UC Berkeley, SquashDrive now serves 60 students from 4th to 9th grade. While Xaba is seeing her hard work pay off — SquashDrive received two $250,000 foundation grants for its academic program this year — she remains focused on bringing the organization to greater heights. For Xaba, the passion for the work is still there. “The kids definitely get me up and going,” said Xaba. “Knowing we are making an impact and we are able to play such a role in their lives as mentors and a support system, that’s what drives me.”
December was a busy month of competition, as urban squash students across the country were gearing up for this weekend’s Urban Team Nationals, which is being jointly hosted in Boston by Northeastern, Harvard, and SquashBusters. On December 5th, 60 urban squash players from six Midwestern programs traveled to Gambier, OH, for the Kenyon Invitational, while 80 students descended on Hartford, CT for the Trinity Invitational. CitySquash swept the Hartford event and Racquet Up and Urban Squash Cleveland earned titles at Kenyon. A week later, on December 13th, 80 players gathered at CitySquash in the Bronx for the Fordham Invitational, another team tournament. StreetSquash’s girls and Squash Haven’s boys won their divisions in the inaugural high school competition.
With 278 urban squash students enrolled in college today, NUSEA recently launched several new initiatives in collaboration with our member programs geared towards helping our college students and alumni earn degrees and prepare for the workforce. The initiatives include a peer mentoring program, an internship placement program, and a series of professional development and networking events around the country. Since 2003, a total of 435 urban squash students have graduated from high school, and 98% of these students have gone on to post-secondary schools.
Community service is at the core of the urban squash model, as programs aim to develop citizens as well as student-athletes. Collectively, programs organize over 200 community service projects a year, giving over 10,000 hours to their communities. Through their work, students bond and gain confidence as they realize how they can help their communities. As Hartford’s Capitol Squash Executive Director Meg Taylor noted, community service activities provide “an opportunity for students to give back to their community, while also learning about social issues and civic duty.”
As the college season enters its final weeks, a record 57 urban squash players are playing college squash for 28 schools. Sixteen students play for NESCAC colleges Bates, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams. Two urban squash women represent Ivy League teams, Columbia and Penn. Hobart and William Smith’s men’s team boasts five urban squash players in the top nine, making it the first collegiate roster filled with a majority of urban squash players. In all, there are 28 women and 29 men from urban squash programs playing college squash.
NUSEA proudly welcomes Chucktown Squash as its first Southern program and its 18th member program in the U.S. Established in 2010 in Charleston, South Carolina, Chucktown Squash serves 30 students from 5th to 10th grade. With its rock solid partnership with the College of Charleston, the program has access to the university’s classrooms, squash courts, and a dedicated base of volunteers. “Chucktown is doing life-changing work for its students and families,” said NUSEA’s Executive Director Tim Wyant, “and NUSEA is proud to have the organization be a part of our network.” Among its accomplishments, Chucktown helped one of its students enter the selective public school, Academic Magnet, and another gain admission to a local private school, Porter Gaud. “Being a part of NUSEA provides the ability to share best practices,” said Chucktown’s Board of Directors Chair Todd Abedon. “You need allies in the world, and I think this is a great way for [us] to develop that support.”
Over the past three months, NUSEA co-hosted four fundraising events across the U.S. to support Khelshala, its international affiliate based in Chandigarh, India. Khelshala’s founder Satinder Bajwa traveled from India for the events, which raised over $80,000 for the nonprofit. The fundraisers, took place in Palo Alto, Boston, Greenwich, CT, and New York. They introduced the organization to hundreds of people, broadening Khelshala’s network of supporters. The last and largest of the four events took place in New York City at Linen Hall. Sayta Seshadri co-chaired the event and welcomed the 2014 World Champion Ramy Ashour as its honored guest.
Over the weekend of November 6-8, 10 of the country’s top urban squash girls formed a NUSEA team to compete alongside 250 women at this year’s Howe Cup, which was hosted by Harvard University. Led by former Dartmouth coach Chris Brownell and NUSEA’s Squash Director Julie Monrad, the girls traveled from their home programs in Santa Barbara, Detroit, Baltimore, Harlem, Chicago, New Haven, and the Bronx. The group split into two teams of five players to compete in the B and C divisions. Additionally, StreetSquash paired 17 girls from their program with the New York teams, and SquashBusters formed its own team of six girls. Playing in the Howe Cup provided invaluable lessons for the girls’ games and the opportunity to begin developing relationships with women across the country.
Freddy Hernandez first stepped onto the squash court as a 6th grader when he was accepted into CitySquash in the Bronx. Now, 12 years later, he has a degree from Franklin and Marshall, works for US Squash, coaches privately in Manhattan, and continues to find ways to give back to the sport and program that shaped his future. “In a way I feel like I’m giving back to CitySquash, and more generally the sport of squash in the world,” said Hernandez. “It’s definitely fun to be part of a sport that has given me so many opportunities. Without squash I don’t know where I would be right now.”
This fall, NUSEA’s member programs welcomed over 400 new students to the urban squash family. As part of the annual recruitment process, over 1,000 students from 60 different schools across the country tried out for our 18 member programs in the U.S. “It’s cool to see these kids have the courage to try something new,” said Owen Butler, Squash Haven’s Squash Director in New Haven, CT. NUSEA’s international affiliates such as Squash Urbano Colombia and Urban Squash Toronto also increased enrollment this year. Tryouts last between several weeks and four months, and each member program sets its own standards for selection, taking into consideration factors such as dedication to academics, athletic interest and ability, commitment to the program, and attitude.
Squash Haven, SquashBusters, and CitySquash Earn Team Titles at Yale’s Northeast Regionals
On Saturday, October 10, Squash Haven, SquashBusters, and CitySquash dominated the 3rd Annual Northeast Regional Championships. The Bronx and Boston programs took home a title each and New Haven won two divisions. Hosted at Yale University and led by Squash Haven’s John DeWitt, the one-day tournament had a record-breaking 180 participants from six different programs. Capitol Squash Board Chair David Kinsley summarized the day: “Competitive play offered windows of opportunity for staff to pass on valuable lessons about discipline, effort and general tools for future success. The spirit around Yale was electric with so many of the urban squash programs from around the Northeast gathered.”
On Saturday, October 10, a group of 12 college students and alumni gathered in Philadelphia for a one-day NUSEA event at the U.S. Open. Hosted at Drexel University, the day kicked off with a “lunch and learn” session with guest speaker Kenny Scher on his career in business. Kenny is the former Executive Director of NY Squash and the current CEO of Creative Alternatives, the leading clothing and equipment supplier at the U.S. Open, Tournament of Champions, and all urban squash events.
Over the past month, St. Luke’s Squash Directors and SquashRx leaders, Lucia Cantarini and Brian Mathias have proven their incredible commitment to supporting urban squash with two inspiring events. On Saturday, September 19, Lucia Cantarini and Brian Mathias opened the doors of St. Luke’s Squash Club for a women’s tournament, to raise awareness for NUSEA’s upcoming Girls Excellence Initiative. On October 6, Brian and Lucia held an exhibition match between World No. 4 Camille Serme and World No. 8 Nour El Tayeb, also to benefit urban squash.
Alec Wysoker, urban squash’s longest serving volunteer, started at SquashBusters mere months after Greg Zaff launched the program in 1996, and has been there once a week since. His unparalleled commitment inspires everyone from players to coaches. As Greg Zaff said, Alec Wysoker is “just a fabulous, unbelievably good person.”
Students from as far as Colombia Travel to Amherst, Williams, and Kenyon for Summer Tournaments
This summer, urban squash tournaments had a record number 700 participants from across the country and the world compete for championship plates. Amherst and Williams Colleges were flooded by 450 players for our 13th Annual Urban Individual Nationals. Our Midwest Regionals Tournament at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, welcomed over 100 players. Even our older urban squashers joined in the competition, as 120 college students and alumni returned for battle at Alumni Nationals hosted by StreetSquash Harlem.
Many thanks to US Squash for organizing the 4th annual Denver Doubles tournament, which was held from August 3-7. Our 18 players learned hardball doubles at the Denver Athletic Club with pros Suzie Pierrepont, Victoria Simmonds, Graham Bassett, and Preston Quick. We were also thrilled to have Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper jump on court for some friendly competition with our players as well.
For the first time, the University of Virginia hosted 25 high school urban squashers for a four-day intensive squash camp in Charlottesville, VA. The UVA Squad was inspired by NUSEA’s similar partnerships with Deerfield Academy and Stanford University, which also held summer training camps for urban squash’s top players. This year 99 students participated in one of these three training camps, which provide top-level coaching and the opportunity for urban squash players from around the country to travel, train, and spend time together.
This summer, The Taft School, a boarding school in Watertown, CT, welcomed middle school urban squash students to its five-week summer program. The Taft partnership was modeled after NUSEA’s partnership with Exeter Summer School, which for the third year in a row provided scholarships to 10 urban squash students to attend its five-week summer school. The partnership with Taft was spearheaded by Drummond Bell, a Taft trustee and NUSEA director, with additional support from Taft graduate Chris Olsen. The partnership with Exeter was funded by several dozen Exeter alumni.
This July, 21 civically-minded urban squash high school and college students took part in the Citizenship Tour, an eight-day athletic and intellectual journey from New York City to Washington, D.C. with stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Among the many notable Tour guest speakers were Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland.