Article and image courtesy of the Washington Post.
While some sports enthusiasts were glued to the National Football League draft this weekend, the squash-playing set was gathered in Harlem on Saturday for the sixth annual StreetSquash Cup.
Ten teams, with teams from Goldman Sachs, GS +0.81% the Harvard Club and more, faced off at the tournament, which drew top professional and amateur players to support StreetSquash. The upper Manhattan nonprofit enrolls area students in a program of squash instruction, academic support, college preparation and mentoring.
Four amateurs, a pro and a member of the StreetSquash corps played on each squad, and the teams raised more than $1 million for the cause.
“Squash is mushrooming and not just at the collegiate level,” said Chris Walker, a former world doubles champion. “The urban squash programs feed in fantastically for communities all over the country and so whenever we’re asked, if we’re in town, the pros are always keen to do something and to help.”
For many of StreetSquash’s students, the program is their first exposure to squash.
“I was like, ‘Squash, I don’t know what that is. Isn’t that a vegetable?’ ” said high-school senior Mawa Ballo. “After a couple of weeks of joining, I got into the team and I was like, ‘I love it.’ “
Ms. Ballo said the sport has helped her stand out in the crowd. And she’s had access to academic opportunities through StreetSquash as well.
“Squash is different, not a lot of people play it, so when I started it was like, ‘Oh, you have all these other things that you can do that nobody has done.’ I was going to a college prep course in ninth grade,” Ms. Ballo said, adding that she was the first among her friends to decide what she’d be doing after high school graduation—she will be attending Connecticut College in the fall.
Raheem Logan also attributes his acceptance into boarding school and college to Streetsquash, which he has been involved with since he was in seventh grade. He’s now a sophomore at Wesleyan and plays on their squad.
When he was first introduced to the program by StreetSquash recruiters who visited his class at Thurgood Marshall Academy, Mr. Logan was wary.
“I wanted to play basketball. My mother was like, ‘You’re going to be different from every other kid in the neighborhood. I want you to do something different,’ ” he said.
Several years later, Mr. Logan acknowledges his mother was right. “It’s shown me a world outside of Harlem. Around here, I’ve been surrounded by one race my entire life and squash helped me stretch myself a little bit.”
Mr. Logan anticipates his relationship to squash lasting well beyond his college career. “The connections I’ve made, it would be almost shameful for me to stop playing. And I love the exercise as well,” he said. “It’s helped me grow up in so many ways. I can’t just turn away from it.”