Article and image courtesy of USA Today.
by Nick Robbe
When it comes to the high school sports scene in Cincinnati, the first sports that come to mind are usually the major ones like football or basketball.
But fringe sports like lacrosse are creeping into the landscape. Neal Tew, T Squash Academy’s founder and executive director, is hopeful squash becomes the next sport to take off in the area.
Much like lacrosse, Tew’s goal is to develop teams and programs that schools can assume control of in the future.
“Our goal is to make the sport accessible, ” he said. “Somebody had to create opportunities for these kids to play.”
This academy, which had been in the making since 2009 and has been operating now for two-plus years, wasn’t created without its share of difficulties.
The way Tew put it, it’s a lot simpler to put lacrosse goals up at the ends of a soccer field than it is to create a center with multiple squash courts.
But now the academy has been established and more have opened their doors, it appears squash is on its way to making a foothold in the Cincinnati area.
“When I was young the area was budding with talented players, then there was this period of quiet, ” Tew said. “When my son started playing, I noticed Cincinnati was lagging behind and knew that with the right type of push it could flourish again.”
To help ensure the growth continues, Tew has stocked the staff with people who both are very passionate about the sport and have enjoyed great success playing the game.
He hired Laura Caty as director. She works with Tew and volunteers to help create clinics and leagues.
“She’s done a heck of a job, ” Tew said. “She’s a great organizer and a caring coach.”
In addition to leading clinics and lessons, Caty is the only female professional squash player in the Midwest. She also played four years of squash at Cornell University.
She picked up the game when she was 12 years old and began to take it more seriously by age 14. She spent a lot of time playing in Canada and really enjoyed the team approach, thinking it was something to be replicated.
“It can be hard for kids to get into a sport that’s so individualized, but a team aspect makes it a little easier, ” Caty said. “I wanted to be part of something that’s creating a community of players, a grassroots movement. When I saw the job opening and read the description of the facility, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to do.”
T Squash has its first camp of the summer going on right now, will have another that runs July 12-25 and will host another in August if the number of people who sign up for it dictates it.
They also will host a junior regional tournament July 17-19 and two of their coaches, Nick Sachvie and Andrew Kriete, will play an exhibition match to close out the weekend.
Also, the center is beginning its “Kickstart Squash” program that runs 11 a.m.-noon every Saturday during the summer. It’s aimed to get children involved and it costs $10 per session.
“Once we get these kids on board, we find that they just don’t want to leave, ” Caty said. “I think we’ll continue to grow until we need more courts.”
What is squash?
Squash is played in a four-walled court by two players with racquets and a small, hollow rubber ball.
The players alternate hitting the ball against the front wall. They can use the other three walls of the court so long as the ball reaches the front wall at some point. Once it hits the front wall, the opposing player must return the ball before it bounces twice. Points are scored when one player cannot retrieve the ball before it bounces twice or when a ball is struck out of bounds. The first player to reach 11 points wins a game; a match consists of three out of five games.