On the eve of the September 8 International Olympic Committee vote to decide which sport will be added to the 2020 Olympic Programme, data recently released by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (formerly the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association) indicates that participation in squash in the US has increased another 8% to an estimated 1.3 million players in 2012 alone. The same third party research organization had documented that between 2007 and 2011, the United States saw the fastest growing squash participation level of any country worldwide with remarkable growth of 82% in that period to an estimated 1.2 million players nationally.
US Squash also reported some of its own growth statistics, including in just the last year, US Squash experienced an increase in overall participation in junior tournaments of 20%, consistent with the 20-30% we’ve seen over the last 6-7 years. The number of Bronze tournaments increased 32% in the same period and the west coast saw a 375% increase in the number of tournaments along with a 55% increase in the average number of players per tournament.
In less than a decade, the number of junior squash tournament players has increased 154% and there are 86% more tournaments hosted (207 in 2012), and the tournaments are on average 37% larger.
Continued Olympic Aspirations
Over the last year, US Squash has supported the World Squash Federation’s Olympic bid campaign with the campaign among the top five most reported items in the organization’s news and announcements. This support across all communications, along with its Olympic Fund campaign has made US Squash the top contributing organization to the WSF campaign, providing nearly a third of the estimated $1 million required to fully fund the campaign.
Support has come from every corner of the country, and a range of constituents from individuals to clubs, and the recently publicized District campaign initiated by National Capital Squash’s $10, 000 matching gift.
As the top WSF Olympic campaign financial supporter, the US has punched far above its weight as the tenth-ranked courts per capita country worldwide. With several high profile Hollywood endorsements for the campaign including actor and writer Mike White, director Tarsem Singh, and Elysium‘s director and co-star Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley, it’s clear that the profile for the sport has been raised.
Regardless of the outcome of the IOC vote, CEO Kevin Klipstein anticipates continued momentum for the sport in the US, “Clearly we wish to be part of the Olympic Programme, it would enhance the Olympic Games, provide our athletes the biggest and brightest stage on which to perform, and the sport would benefit a tremendous amount.
“Of course, should the vote not go our way, we will continue to push the initiatives which have yielded such positive results in less than a decade, and expect the growth trends to continue. We still have huge opportunities to increase squash’s profile through broadcasts, to reach more women and juniors, and to expand middle and high school programs in new markets.”