Sunday, September 27, 2009

Urban Squash and Rabbit Proof Fences

I recently watched this brilliant Australian film about Aborigines and the attempts in the early part of the last century to irradicate the aboriginal culture by forcing inter-marrige with whites over continuous generation. After all by the time you make it to the 4th generation of inter-marriage those offspring are only 5% Aborigine and 95% white European. Eugenics is nothing new, attempts like this to eliminate all vestiges of color and promote what is white is right permeates the white European traditions from hundreds of years ago.
So why do I bring this up? I have long been bothered by the urban squash programs that have sprung up all over te country. Essentially, you go into inner cities, select the best and the brightest and through squash and education, preferably in suburban boarding schools, you open a whole new world of opportunity to these inner city children. After watching that Australian movie, it put my dislikie for the premise of these urban squash programs into better perspective. Basically, let's take the best from the ghetto, put them in predominatly white boarding schools, and take the "ghetto" out of them. What about all the others that don't qualify for these programs? Do they have the opportunity just to play squash? Do they have the opportunity to simply because they might love the game learn to play and have that opportunity? I have never been one to use something so close to truth and beauty, like the game of squash is, and use it for any purpose other than to play and love this game and dedicate yourself to being the best player you can. The USSRA (United States Squash and Racquets Association) has hung its future on urban squash and college squash. Here we are in the US, one of the greatest countries in the history of humankind and we have, according to a recent article in Squash News 3, yes 3 full time touring professionals. I always admired Chris Gordon for not going the college squash route, his dedication and hard work has allowed him to reach a level few US players have. But why haven't we been able to produce a top ten world ranked player? What is the difference between Chris Gordon and James Wilstrop or Nick Mathew? Talent, skill? How different were their early squash development? Therein, lies possibly the answer, squash development isn't controlled by one governing body in England, like it is here in the US.
I don't pretend to have the answer, but as long as we view squash as something it can do for us in terms of promoting missionary work in the inner cities or a way in to college, we will never stand the chance of attracting great athletes into this sport. Why should grade point average be coupled with squash potential? Why should a stellar athlete not be exposed to this great game because they won't fit into the mold of a boarding school scholar/athlete? Again, how many of those young inner city children not accepted into the urban squash programs could be potential top 20 or tope 10 world rank players? To many here in the US, the answer probably is (and I do encounter this often when people ask why my son doesn't play college squash -- I simply tell them he wants to play professionally) "who cares there's no money in it? Why not use it to get in to a good college?"
We have no system of promoting squash at a grass roots level, the way baseball, football and basketball are. I for one would rather see squash as part of the PAL (Police Athletic League) open to all then continually promoted in what has now become the eliticism of the urban squash programs. It's time to promote squash and open it up to anyone who wants to achieve whatever level their dedication, passion and god-given ability has provided them. Squash for the sake of squash, nothing more, nothing less. I'm not accusing anyone of overt eugenics, but of certainly promoting at a different level the same elitist premise that has always plagued the US squash community -- still either boarding school or the ivy league.

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