[Above: Karim Ibrahim, Barrett Takesian, Scott Brown, Lauren Mariano, Adam Hamill]
by Chris McClintick
Squash in the United States is on the forefront of modernization and expansion. The U.S. boasts the fastest-growing squash participation rate worldwide with 66% growth overall since 2010 to more than 1.7 million players today. The US Squash-pioneered Club Locker technology has revolutionized the squash experience for clubs, players and tournaments around the country. As the U.S. squash landscape continues to change, so too does the required skill set for those teaching the game, running clubs and directing tournaments.
It was within this vein that US Squash and Portland Community Squash (PCS), the country’s first public mixed-use squash and education facility in Maine, initiated a leadership development internship program this summer focused on training college students for a potential career in squash to meet the growing demand of dynamic professionals.
The inaugural crop of interns included Lauren Mariano, a senior at Babson College, Scott Brown, a senior at Connecticut College, and Karim Ibrahim, a junior at St. Lawrence University. For six weeks, the interns based themselves at Portland Community Squash under the guidance of Adam Hamill, US Squash Director of Professional Development, and Barrett Takesian, PCS President.
“The three college players brought energy, talent and fresh ideas to our organization,” Takesian said. “The entire PCS community benefited, as did the US Squash movement.”
The internship syllabus included vital training with US Squash policies and procedures. Through both coaching sessions on court in the morning, and classroom sessions in the afternoon, the interns became certified US Squash Level 1 coaches. They immersed themselves in Club Locker tournament software—the basis for all accredited organized play throughout the U.S.—and learned the essential US Squash policies and event management skills required to host a US Squash-accredited tournament. Towards the end of the six weeks, the interns organized and administered a US Squash junior silver tournament.
Takesian led discourse and an exploratory study on squash business models. The group looked at Community Squash, Urban Squash, Institutional Squash and Commercial Squash models, breaking down the foundational elements of each such as business structure, court usage, programing, financing, revenue drivers and partnerships. One study focused on the 2021 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, and potentials avenues that US Squash and organizers could harness the Games as a way so plant grassroots efforts in the region.
“Working as an intern with US Squash and PCS is easily one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had,” said Mariano, who studies Global Business Management and represented Babson at the 2018 College Men’s National Championships. “Between coaching young players, to hopping on calls with enthusiasts all across the country, the work always felt purposeful. While the sport continues to grow in the U.S., it was great being part of the movement. I encourage other college squash players to do the same.”
Throughout the case studies, the interns connected with squash leaders who have impacted the sport locally and nationally, who shared their obstacles and successes.
“To be able to work and learn about the logistics that go into running a squash program or building a squash facility gave me a greater appreciation for the sport I play,” said Ibrahim, a two time-national league champion in his native Egypt. “It was powerful to have the chance to speak to innovators growing the sport across the country and hear their unique stories in squash.”
While the program is in its infancy, the long-term vision of the program is to sustain a pathway for passionate young squash players to not only forge a career in squash, but also to create more access to the sport and cultivating new squash communities around the country as a direct result of their efforts.
“We are looking forward to continuing the momentum from this summer into next year with PCS,” Hamill said. “Our long-term vision for this program is to expand further and integrate with more best-in-class programs around the country to create more opportunities for young, capable professionals, who will ultimately provide a new wave of support for the institutions driving the sport forward in the United States.”