History worth repeating

By Carlos Schonenberg

"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." - Aldous Huxley

Covid direct and collateral effects will be around for the next years and that is something we have to come to terms with. Regarding indoor activities, it will only be normal that first options for people looking for new sports or athletic activities, will be outdoor activities. We, that have already fallen in love, are ok with going back to a closed room, but those who don't know the game, after being closed out so long, Squash will be one of the last options they would choose. The growth of the game in general in the upcoming years threat to be little to none. That's one more reason why outdoor squash and physical training make more sense now than ever.

I have been thinking on this idea for almost six years now. It started early 2015, while working for San Diego based Urban Squash Program, Accesss Youth Academy, when I ran some recruiting sessions in some outdoor handball courts. It made sense ever since.

By January 2020 we have applied the first concept at a Public School, tested the model and with no doubt decided to scale it, deciding to build the first Outdoor Squash Court Complex. 

By the end of 2020, the first 6 court squash complex will be inaugurated, and the way to do and learn about the game of Squash will change, for ever.

This center will be our development complex, were we will constantly be researching and developing new ways to upgrade the court materials and floorings. In the meanwhile we will focus on our main mission, bring the game of squash to a new population. 

With a proven 5 year training system, the courts will inaugurate as a junior training academy, that by March 2021, we hope to be serving 150 junior girls and 150 junior boys distributed in the five different junior categories.

The research and development of our prototype brought up three interesting benefits. First, the human natural ability to adapt was proven by our athletes, when due to the characteristics of the side walls, their game style naturally became more precise and aggressive. Fear of going out of bounce also improved their technique, immediately adapting and making sure they could bend down as much as possible in every execution.

Besides the glass court, which for now has only been built individually, when a coach enters a regular court, he immediately loses contact with the rest of athletes in the adjacent courts. With side to side glass walls, or in this case with shorter walls, Coaches can have better control of as many courts his eyesight can reach. Nightmare for those "athletes" who will stop working once the Coach leaves and enters your neighbor's court. This new possibility of having the ability to watch a player closely side to side, can give Coaches and Players new perspectives that will allow them to improve technical and tactical aspects of the game.

Interaction and integration. Aside being and individual sport, the natural conditions of our court designs will generally attract those more introverted and seeking solitude, consciously or unconsciously. The dynamics of the game is attractive to everyone, but not so the process of practice under the current dimensions/material. Current "Team" practices are isolated individual trainings, and so, that team spirit when needed is very unlikely to exist. The look through or short side walls can be an interesting possibility to that other phycological profile that is more extroverted and seeks comfort on more socialization. This way, they can still be doing their rigorous solo work alone on one court, and still be able to see their other teammates on the other courts; reducing the isolation or loneliness feeling they could probably feel on our regular courts. Then again, this are all personal assumptions life and experience has taught me, and by no means scientifically proven, yet.

What is guaranteed with the concept of outdoor courts in general, is the immediate increase in squash players, enthusiasts, aficionados, promoters, coaches directors, etc. Outdoor will mean lower construction costs, later traduced in lower costs for participation. The game needs this population of players, the social players, those who really play for love and passion and yet are the most valuable asset to the growth of competitive and professional practice. We need to grow that love of the game first, then the game itself will provide.

Besides, we cannot expect the best athletes in the world to come from the best athletic facilities only. I have full respect for these athletes, the real ones, but if that is the case, then they are the best in the world, of those who have access to these type of facilities. That is not quiet representative and the idea of outdoor facilities can come to give a big hand of help, increasing the amount of participants and giving more relevancy to a world championship.

The "street" game has been origin of some of Sports greatest histories. Street meaning minimum and sometimes adverse conditions to practice a desired sport. Yet, these warriors emerge and transform to heroes.

Squash has a story of its own, specifically about the outdoor game. What we know about squash today, most had to do with this man and his family legacy. I can't imagine what could we be talking today if that outdoor court hadn't existed. If that man at 11 would have not lost his father, and not become the full time ball boy and court cleaner for that outdoor court. That man was Hashim Khan, you might have heard of that last name.

Besides Hashim's story, the outdoor squash court idea is not new or recent. Courts have emerged in different parts of the world and now the idea of playing outside is more appealing. Glass, steal, concrete and simulated panel courts are some examples. I have no doubt that the outdoor world will be of great benefit to the game in general, and that is why we have adventured into this idea of scaling our models and creating these type of Squash facilities.

We don't need to invent much. We don't have to be part of Aldous Huxley statistics. We only need to get outside and play.