by Kevin Klipstein
My kids love the Sesame St. book called “Please Do Not Open This Book” which involves Grover and Elmo fighting over whether to turn pages to get to the end of the book. Grover warns there is a monster, at the end of the book, and does everything he can to prevent Elmo from turning the page. He tries to glue the pages, nail the book shut, and puts bricks in front of the next page, etc. Despite all of his efforts, Elmo is always one step ahead, and onto the next page. On the penultimate page, they agree to each approach the last page from different sides of the book, and when they do, each claims the other is the monster. They fall down, laughing hysterically, immediately wanting to do it all over again.
We have the same reaction at the end of the squash season too. However, unlike the book, for US Squash, the season never truly comes to an end. We spend five months in the “off season” preparing for what is effectively a “monster” seven-month season, kicking off each October. This summer, to increase the quality of our programs and services, we will add to the array of integrated technology solutions in the Club Locker product, and will begin the process of bringing together our websites into one experience for membership, tournaments, leagues, rankings and reservations. Our infrastructure is already the envy of the other developed squash nations.
Additionally, during the spring and summer months we increase our focus on National Team efforts. In the last decade we have built the US Squash National Team program considerably. Some may be aware that the U.S. is the only country that fields its National Team (and governing body) without direct government funding. Fielding a team to compete in the World Championships generally costs $30,000 – 50,000, or $5,000-$7,000 per player.
In 2008, US Squash made the decision to fund the core team of four junior athletes. This funding was later expanded support those competing only in the individual championships, whose numbers then increased when World Squash decided to host the individual championships for each gender annually, increasing the size of the squad by two more athletes.
In 2013, US Squash launched the Elite Athlete Program (EAP) which provides direct funding for full time American squash professionals training and competing on the world tour. As a consequence, we have increased our professional athlete support to unprecedented levels, from less than $20,000 annually , to more than $200,000 annually, in direct support for five athletes. This relatively new program allows the men and women to train and compete full time, realize their full potential, and represent the United States.
We have also continued to build the base of our pyramid in meaningful ways, introducing regular junior Regional Squads and an annual Regional Championships, as well as other Team USA opportunities for international competition such as the Pan American Junior Championships and traveling together for the British Junior Open. Our recently announced US Squash Academy, starting this summer, will bring together U.S. juniors, college players and professionals into one training environment, creating an incredible spirit and unity.
Much of this framework was inspired by David Ganek, which led to his historic endowment gift for the Head National Coach. As a result, we continue to benefit from the leadership of the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach Paul Assaiante. Our goal is to “always be on the podium,” whether it’s our teams or the individual athletes, juniors or adults, and we are well on our way.
So for us, the book doesn’t end, and we’re writing new chapters every year as we break ground on programs and technology to drive the sport forward at every level over the next several decades.