The fifth-annual Character in Sports Day at the 2018 FS Investments U.S. Open was highlighted by honoring Abby Markoe and Chris Spahr.
Kevin Klipstein, the president and CEO of US Squash, welcomed a large crowd to Drexel to celebrate sportsmanship. Throughout the 114-year history of US Squash, Klipstein said, the association has celebrated the intrinsic values of squash: courtesy, fair play, graciousness, honesty and an abiding sense of respect and fellowship with opponents. Because of the uniqueness of squash—unlike most other racquet sports, squash opponents physically share the same space—sportsmanship is a core proposition of the game. “At US Squash, we are focused on lifelong engagement in the game,” Klipstein said, “and sportsmanship is central to that vision.”
He then gave the 2018 Feron’s Wedgwood Sportsmanship Trophy to Abby Markoe. A lifelong player, Markoe captained the team at George Washington University. In 2008 she helped found SquashWise, the urban squash program in Baltimore. Based at Meadow Mill Athletic Club, it has a 100% high school graduation rate and 80% college matriculation rate in a city where fewer than 70% of students graduate from high school and only 42% go to college. Markoe leads a staff of five full-time employees and operates an annual budget that has grown from $150,000 to $800,000. Next week SquashWise celebrates its tenth anniversary.
“Squash has opened up a lot of doors for me,” Markoe said. “a lot of new relationships personally and professionally. I am an advocate for racial and gender equity and access to the great values of squash are central to that effort.”
The Feron’s Wedgwood Sportsmanship Trophy, started in 1979, is US Squash’s oldest sportsmanship award. Previous winners include U.S. Squash Hall of Famers Goldie Edwards (1980), Carol Weymuller (1988) and Demer Holleran (1989); last year’s recipient was Hope Prockop.
Klipstein later brought Kristen Callahan and Chris Spahr onto the ASB GlassCourt. Kristen Callahan, Bob Callahan’s wife, said that sportsmanship was the most important thing to Bob. They then awarded Chris Spahr the 2018 Robert W. Callahan Sportsmanship Award.
Spahr is the squash director at the University Club of Boston. The son of the late national champion Kit Spahr, he grew up in Philadelphia and played on undefeated teams at Haverford School. At Franklin & Marshall, Spahr was a three-time All American and two-time captain, helping lead the Diplomats to a No. 2 national ranking. Spahr has captured two masters titles in doubles, the 40+ in 2007 and the 45+ in 2012, both with fellow Bostonian Doug Lifford. He has also played in every Can-Am Cup since its inception in 2008 and famously called a ball down on himself at 14-all in the fifth in the deciding match of the 2016 Can-Ams. After ten years as the head squash pro at the Field Club in Greenwich, he has spent the last eighteen years at the University Club, coaching hundreds of juniors and running dozens of tournaments each year. He and his wife Catherine are the parents of two squash playing children, Dartmouth’s Carson Spahr with whom he has won seven U.S. Father & Son titles, and Caroline Spahr, who played for Team USA in the World Juniors last summer.
“This is the greatest honor I’ve ever gotten in squash,” Spahr said. “Bob was sheer class—a tremendous person and leader. As a coach, a player and a father, I am humbled to receive the Callahan.”
The Robert W. Callahan Sportsmanship Award was started in 2014. Previous honorees include Ed Chilton, Rich Sheppard, Richard Chin and last year’s honoree Mark Talbott. Bob Callahan was the men’s coach at Princeton for thirty-two years before he died in January 2015 at the age of fifty-nine. His teams won three national titles and more Skillman Awards than any other college in the nation. He founded the world’s oldest squash summer camp and in 1998 directed the World Junior Men’s Championship. He was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame in the Class of 2011.