Brown Shocks the College Squash World; Squash Leads College Sports in Equal Opportunity, Academic Qualifications, Diversity and Inclusion

Brown University’s sudden surprise announcement yesterday that women’s and men’s squash would lose their varsity status as a sport has sounded the alarm community-wide. Setting aside the Brown administration’s conflicting messages in their announcement, perhaps most distressing is the implicit reliance on either false, or totally outdated, assumptions about squash. In fact, the very goals the “Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative” seeks to address with immediate effect in divesting from more than a dozen sports, such as the need for the “recruitment of outstanding scholar-athletes,” providing “equal opportunities for men and women,” and “supporting diversity and inclusion,” squash exceeds or leads in.

Academically Qualified Student-Athletes

Squash players are high performers in academics. Squash recruits at the most rigorous colleges and universities in America are consistently at the top of the school’s Academic Index chart. This allows athletic departments to balance their index requirements and recruit less academically qualified athletes in other sports in order to boost their competitiveness, while at the same time remain competitive in squash.

Equal Opportunity

At the collegiate varsity level, there are an equal number of women’s and men’s teams, and further, the sport is one of only a few worldwide that offers full parity in prize money at the professional level. No other sport is as thorough or committed to equal opportunity for women and men than squash.

As recently as this March, the global Professional Squash Association (PSA), which oversees women’s and men’s squash, were the first signatory to support the United Nations Women Sports for Generation Equality initiative.

Diversity & Inclusion

Squash has invested heavily in diversifying the sport and offering opportunities to benefit from the sport to kids from all backgrounds. Squash and education programs are in nearly two dozen cities across the country offering academic tutoring, mentoring and squash instruction to thousands of kids in underserved communities as a vehicle to higher education. These squash programs offer opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have them. Amherst College is among a growing number of schools using athletic recruiting to become more diverse and inclusive, and to increase social mobility in this country.

Because of squash’s 150-year global history, squash attracts athletes to U.S. schools from every corner of the world. World Champions rein from all five continents, and more than fifty countries are represented in the college ranks. This geographic and ethnic diversity from all over the world dramatically enhances the value of the collegiate experience for the entire college community.

Contrary to outdated and poorly informed impressions of the sport, squash literally defines what it means to be equal, inclusive, diverse and balanced in its focus on academic and competitive excellence. Squash athletes are the embodiment of what it means to be a scholar-athlete.

A Rising Sport

Squash is clearly on the ascendancy. US Squash membership has grown 12% year-over-year for the last four years. It’s grown 300% in 15 years. Junior squash participation nationally has exploded in participation by more than 500% in the last decade. There are more than ten times the number of high school squash programs actively competing in the country than there were just 15 years ago.

This growth has driven colleges to add varsity programs, at schools as diverse as Stanford University, Drexel University, George Washington University, the University of Virginia, Dickinson College, Columbia University, Chatham University and most recently, Georgetown University. Why? For all the reasons already stated: the sport attracts academically qualified, diverse athletes from all over the world and in every city and neighborhood in the country, from St. Louis to San Diego, Detroit to Dallas, Boston to Baltimore, and from the south side of Chicago to the south Bronx.

Finally, squash is one of the few truly lifelong sports, allowing people and families to enjoy the sport and its benefits from ages five to 95. Ensuring access to the sport for all is part of US Squash’s core mission, and every measure of the sport indicates significant progress towards this vision.

Given Brown’s squash program is fully funded by endowment funds and other commitments of support, it’s difficult to accept any rational argument for reducing the sport’s status to club level. Therefore, the question to ask the Brown University administrators is whether, based on the facts, is whether there are actually any sports better suited than varsity squash to address their stated goals of excellence, equality, diversity and inclusion?

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  1. Zeke S May 29, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    To the statement, “Contrary to outdated and poorly informed impressions of the sport, squash literally defines what it means to be equal, inclusive, diverse and balanced in its focus on academic and competitive excellence. Squash athletes are the embodiment of what it means to be a scholar-athlete” Squash is still a sport in the US that’s prerequisite usually involves being a member at a costly club and lessons that cost more than many families can afford. It is great what urban squash academies are doing to bring squash into lower-income communities and schools but there is still a huge disparity in those given the ability to excel in Squash in the US.

  2. Mary Livingston May 29, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    I am a Brown alum. I responded to the email I received from Brown president Christina Paxson yesterday. I said that squash meets ALL of the criteria they say they are looking for in their “new vision” for varsity sports, as your article points out. Brown is making a BIG mistake.

  3. Nathaniel (Nat) Taylor May 29, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    Well done US Squash on behalf of all Brown Squash alumni and those who support the game!!

  4. Julian Wambach May 29, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    To help SAVE Brown Squash, sign and share the Petition!

    When I opened the email from Stu which contained nothing but a forwarded link to an innocuous zoom link and a request that I please “try to attend the webinar today at 1 pm!”, I was a little confused but supposed that it was probably some information regarding the start of next season. Usually, he would give us a few days head’s up about things like this, but I assumed that maybe it had slipped his mind; after all, Covid-19 had certainly been preoccupying the thoughts of many. Besides, it was a webinar by the Director of Athletics– perhaps we were being granted the new locker room that had been rumored so we wouldn’t have to split time with both the tennis team and any miscellaneous visitors (yes, the squash team locker room was also the visiting team locker room.)

    Imagine my surprise when the meeting started late, at around 1:03, was finished by 1:09, and also delivered a death sentence to many of the students’ most treasured aspects of the University. It was almost like a bad joke when the DA offered a lame, halfhearted apology– and it got even less funny when he said that the administration would be happy to help any with the transfer process, proving that the University truly had no idea what they were doing. For me, and many of my fellow athletes, playing the sport isn’t the only reason why I joined this team. It’s about camaraderie, about brotherhood, about building lifeline friendships, about having an older student that you know you can also ask for advice or help on homework, or a couch to crash on if your roommate asks for a private night in the dorm. It’s about the strength of the bond that only comes born through shared hard work, through 20 hours a week of training, through battles on the court, through hours spent trapped in a bus in the middle of rural New York in the midst of a snowstorm, through board games played on the floor in the middle of a Richmond Airport terminal, and so, so much more. And that’s only what I’ve seen as a freshman who joined the roster in January of 2020 as a fresh-faced walk-on, as someone who persevered after being cut after tryouts, as someone who felt that he had found a second family on campus. Together, we would wear that bear patch on our chests with pride, proof that our hard work, our battles, the broken backs, torn knee ligaments, ruptured Achilles, all of that, was worth it. Then, to have it ripped away in a moment, gone to dust, hurt.

    It won’t be the same. It will never be the same. It’s disrespectful to Stu, our beloved coach who has given over 30 years of service to Brown, it’s disrespectful to the close-knit group of Alumni who came before us and who show up to every single match, no matter how near or far, and it’s disrespectful to the students, who are the lifeblood of the University, many of whom have dreamed since childhood, of being a varsity squash player for Brown. And while our family understandably struggles to produce titles in a League which holds 6 of the top 10 teams in the country, we have produced results! We were ranked 14 in the nation, and our best friends on the Women’s team were 12! Both teams have consistently ranked in the top 20, and recently the program was awarded most improved in the nation! All while maintaining some of the best grades of the various varsity teams at Brown, and producing more CSA honored student-athletes than all other Ivy League varsity squash teams. Either way, as Jacob Good, who will be a junior next year said, “it is utterly obscene that a university that prides itself on openness and learning would immediately switch to a results-based approach.” As it stands, this is a crushing blow, and I know that my friends, my brothers, my teammates, can agree that it is truly an utter shame that we will not be able to continue our excellence as a varsity program at Brown.

    Julian Wambach (Brown Squash class of 2023)

  5. Paul Boyce May 30, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    It is a shame and disappointment to see Brown drop their programs. I do agree that as a whole, their explanation for doing so is difficult to follow. As outlined above, I believe squash has much to offer, and I hope for it to grow in the college environment. However, in terms of diversity, I still see that it is genuinely behind other athletic programs in terms of racial diversity and regional diversity in the US. My daughter competes from Georgia, and she is consistently the only Black player to be able to afford to compete. The cost to compete to take it to the other level is prohibitive for the diversity to grow, unlike what you would see for other sports where girls like her can compete easily. Until there are more efforts to expand school programs and expand competition in more diverse communities and regions, it’s growth will remain hindered. We are trying but, by no means, the diversity in the competitive arena and college is nowhere it should be despite the genuine efforts.

  6. Grant Sterman June 2, 2020 at 11:49 pm

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  7. Georgina Sanders June 3, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    There are not hardly enough squash programs serving public schools in The Bronx. As a teacher I can honestly inform you that statistics are very inaccurate. Many come from underprivileged backgrounds where i have worked. They may know squash is a vegetable but that is where you draw the line. If you are really interested in attaining a color balance then you need to go directly to the schools and sell the sport. Kids who live in economically deprived and poverty stricken neighborhoods would jump at the chance to learn a new sport beside basketball or baseball.

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