Monday, May 21, 2012
Please Don't Tell Me How Thriving New York Area Squash Is...
Having just heard that New York Sports at Columbus Circle in Manhattan is closing its two international courts to convert them to studios -- anyone who continues to foster the illusion squash is thriving in New York, I would likely want to throttle you. Having just seen this weekend nearly 30% of the Hyder Cup 3.5 draw coming from the club I coach at, a draw under 18 (which in years past was twice sometimes three times that size), I can only state the New York Squash scene is in trouble. The future of this game is not in the hordes of juniors and junior development programs...it is in the adults who have played for their lifetime and who pass along the game to younger players or to eager new players of any age.
Of course if the venues keep shrinking, where will adults play? Will the remaining clubs build new courts, expand? Doubtful. I played for years at Columbus Circle, and can remember vividly when they finally converted the narrow courts into international courts. I taught my son to play there when he was 10 years old, it was one of the best places on earth. Having been out in the suburbs for quite a while, I was preparing to start playing in the city, which I missed and was so looking forward to going back to Columbus Circle. This is a huge disappointment.
The people who coach juniors at exorbitant lesson rates are not the future of squash in this City or for that matter anywhere else. They are cashing in on a disturbing trend. They are catering to a very elite group who can afford those high prices. Those who cannot afford it have to rely on playing experienced players who will teach them the game. I am writing this because I am mostly scared that this game will eventually die out and become nothing more than a game you play at the junior level, maybe it helps you in your college application, but then beyond that how many will play well into their adult lives. And if the future of squash is and remains that elite few who can afford 100 to 200 dollars a lesson, then this game will never grow and sustain itself.
You can throw whatever membership numbers you want out there, it simply gives an illusion of a thriving squash community, which there isn't. When parents finally catch on that squash for college isn't really a viable route, that only the best junior players (who happened to be coached by the most expensive coaches) really only make the squash teams in college, the remaining ones, to me have been sold a bag of goods. For those who end up playing and loving this game and fit it into busy schedules whether at college or when they are embarking on careers -- they are the future of squash, they are the ones who will sustain and encourage juniors to develop and play their whole lives, they are the ones who will bring new courts to the City.
..And with that they will again bring a great diversity to the game, they will come from all walks of life and play at clubs where you never know who will be on court with you: a welder, a doctor, a stock broker, a student, even a poet. I don't pretend to have the answers, but I do have lots of questions and when I hear of another court converted over to a studio I start looking for answers as to why?