By James Zug
In December 2017, SquashBusters and Moses Brown School officially opened a remarkable squash facility in Providence, RI. More than 19,000 square feet, the Gorgi Family Squash & Education Center is a twelve-court facility, with eleven singles courts and one hardball doubles court built by CourtTech. In addition, there are two classrooms, locker rooms, lounges and a pro shop.
The Gorgi Center is the fifth such urban squash facility to be built in the country. In 2003 SquashBusters opened its first facility, the Badger & Rosen SquashBusters Center at Northeastern with eight courts. In 2007 the H. Chase Lenfest SquashSmarts Center opened in northeast Philadelphia. In 2008 the S.L. Green StreetSquash Center opened in Harlem. And in 2015 the MetroSquash Academic & Squash Center opened in Chicago.
Including the Gorgi Center, the urban squash movement—which spans more than two dozen programs around the country and around the world—collectively has forty-two singles courts and two doubles courts, as well as nearly twenty classrooms, under its direct purview.
The Gorgi Center is the result of a unique three-pronged partnership of urban squash, school and club. A class of twenty-eight sixth graders from Governor Christopher Del Sesto Middle School are studying and training at the Gorgi Center as the first team of SquashBusters students. “We’re so excited to have the opportunity to bring the proven SquashBusters model to Providence and to the campus of Moses Brown,” said Caitlin Barrett, SquashBusters’ executive director in Providence. “The students, administrators, teachers and families of Del Sesto have welcomed us with such open arms, and we’re looking forward to starting this adventure of hard work, opportunity and fun with them. Even in its first few weeks of being open, the Gorgi Center has already become the center of community squash that we envisioned it would be.”
SquashBusters. the after-school youth enrichment program was founded in 1996 by Greg Zaff. SquashBusters has three branches: at Northeastern, at Lawrence, Mass (at Andover and Brooks School) and now at Providence. “All I ever hoped for with SquashBusters was to help kids live a better life and test the limits of what is possible with the sport of squash,” Zaff said. “I think SquashBusters has succeeded on both fronts and our Providence expansion with Moses Brown School as our partner is something we’re all incredibly proud of and committed to.”
The Gorgi Center is on the campus of Moses Brown School, the Quaker pre-K to twelve school founded in 1784. One direct effect of the center is that more than sixty MB student-athletes are now in the squash team, more than double what they had last winter when they borrowed courts in the mornings and afternoons across the street at Brown University. “The moment I became convinced of the transformational potential of this partnership is when I visited the SquashBusters program at Andover several years ago,” said Matt Glendinning, the head of Moses Brown. “I spent most of my time in their classrooms observing the SquashBusters team at work with their students. As a lifelong educator, I was impressed—this wasn’t squash, this was school, and it was serious, rigorous and clearly life-altering. Being the host site for SquashBusters Providence is an extension of MB’s mission allowing us to play a role in educating children who live just beyond our gates, but for whom MB is a largely foreign place. Every day our students practice side-by-side with SquashBusters students—children from their own community whom they otherwise would likely never meet. They share space and conversations, come to know each other’s stories and become friends. The opportunities that can come from these human connections are limitless. SquashBusters’ mission is to challenge and nurture urban youth—as students, athletes and citizens—so that they recognize and fulfill their fullest potential in life. Moses Brown’s mission is to inspire the inner promise of each student and instill the utmost care for learning, people and place. Two great organizations—one just more than twenty years old, the other more than 200—sharing a common purpose: to transform the lives of children.”
The third leg of the stool at the Gorgi Center is the Nicol Squash Club. Created by former world champion Peter Nicol, it operates a public club and elite-level junior academy. Arthur Gaskin, the former world No. 80 and a five-time Irish national champion, is the resident professional (as well as an assistant coach at Brown University); his wife Carey Gaskin is the club administrator; and Pete Avitable, a longtime Providence area coach, is the assistant pro. “Because the courts would largely sit empty during the day when the Moses Brown and SquashBusters students are in school or in the evening when they are home, the Nicol Squash Club maximizes the facility and opens it up to the broader community” said Glendinning. In its first month of operation, the club signed up nearly 200 members. In addition, more than fifty juniors have participated in clinics. Doubles in particular has taken off, as the Gorgi Center boasts the first hardball doubles court in Rhode Island. The men’s pro doubles tour has given an exhibition and the court is busy. ”It’s a unique dynamic that has never been done before,” said Arthur Gaskin. “With low membership fees, we are giving people the opportunity to play squash at affordable rates in a world-class facility and expand the squash community here in Providence.”
San Diego Is Next
In July Access Youth Academy, founded in 2006, is breaking ground on a new facility in southeast San Diego. The 22,000 square-foot, $10 million facility will have seven singles and one hardball doubles court built by CourtTech, as well as classrooms, locker rooms, computer labs and conference rooms. It will be an open, light-filled facility: three singles courts will have glass front walls that will look outside and the entire squash wing will have folding doors to connect the exterior and interior spaces. The first ball in the air will be in August 2019. “We are delighted to make this dream come true,” said Renato Paiva, the executive director of Access Youth Academy. “This unique facility will benefit thousands of families in San Diego where Access Youth Academy can continue to serve not only low-income students but the squash community at large.”