Five years ago, when US Squash started operating the Delaware Investments U.S. Open “in-house”, we did so based on the advice of marketing experts. “Make the U.S. Open HUGE” and “Get squash on TV!” were the two most common refrains from those we spoke with in the field.
Each year we have added one more day of capacity crowds at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, normally the home of the Drexel Dragons and their D1 basketball team. With 10,000 people through the doors during ten days of competition, the event has now taken on a life, and a spirit, all its own.
Adding to the electrifying atmosphere created by the world class athletes and the crowd are additional celebrations throughout the week, including Junior Day, Women in Sports Day, Character in Sports Day, the Hall of Fame Induction Luncheon and the Champions Reception. Each of these events recognizes the best in the squash community and gives us the opportunity to appreciate the special contributions so many make to the sport. For the first time, all living past U.S. Open Champions were invited to the tournament, and many attended throughout the week, further highlighting what a gathering place the competition has become.
The Squash Summit brought together 100+ professionals this year from around the country to discuss the development of the sport, while the Annual Assembly provided community leaders the opportunity to engage with senior volunteers and the professional leadership at US Squash. Additionally, the U.S. Open wasn’t the only competition, with the Senator Arlen Specter Junior Championships, the Intercollegiate Doubles Championships and the National Skill Level Championships, all taking place during the fortnight.
Those in the squash community, and certainly those of us who work in squash every day, understand the inevitability and importance of the sport being brought to an increasingly larger and larger audience, in terms of both fans and participants. SquashTV streams constantly, the PSA YouTube posts gets millions of views, and the Tennis Channel now airs and re-airs all PSA World Series tournaments. There is no doubt that the U.S. Open is huge, and each year it is seen by more people than ever before.
Even with this growth, and increased profile, what is perhaps most striking, is how close this global squash community truly is in so many ways. It is brought together in the spirit of competition, bound together by the common values of sportsmanship and fair play, and carries with it a genuine sense of camaraderie among the players, supporters, fans and sponsors.
During a time of continued unimaginable tragic world events, and the relentless encroachment of technology on our time to connect with people in person, to have this sense of closeness, connection and community, even in an ever-expanding universe, makes squash a truly remarkable spectacle.