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Midwestern squash teams unite

Nicole Michels | Monday, April 23, 2012

Notre Dame hosted representatives from various Midwest squash organizations Saturday afternoon to collaboratively address organizational needs that will define the future of their sport.  


The “2012 Mid-America Squash Summit,” designed by Irish squash club coach Geoff McCuen, aimed to connect squash teams to help the sport continue expanding in the region.  


McCuen, volunteer coach for the Notre Dame men’s and women’s club squash teams, said he organized the event because of the need for greater communication between squash programs in the area.


“I reached out to people and said, ‘If you don’t know everyone on this list, there are probably other people that you know that I don’t know,'” McCuen said. “Basically the question is that [squash programs] are all in our own areas, so how do we connect?”


This question became all the more pressing when squash’s governing body, the College Squash Association (CSA) requested that McCuen, the Midwest club representative, chastise two Midwest club teams for dropping out soon before a tournament at the Naval Academy.


“With varsity sports, there are contracts that are entered into that they’ll provide a certain number of games,” McCuen said.  “The Naval Academy had been contractually obligated to provide a certain number of games for the leagues, and because these two teams dropped out, technically there was a [breach] of contract.”


McCuen said he organized the summit to improve the piecemeal knowledge of CSA rules, but it has since moved beyond that initial goal.


“The summit started out to just be college coaches, so that we could get everyone on the same page and educated about the things we didn’t know about,” McCuen said. “Then it moved towards an event where we got everyone together… to build a way to create a central repository for information.”

Attendees drew two primary conclusions, McCuen said. The group decided regional inter-team communication must be improved and the number of available courts must be increased.


McCuen said the group is also planning on forming a Facebook group, a Twitter handle and a group-Google calendar. He said the latter will be particularly key to increasing awareness of regional squash activity.


“By having a regional calendar, if I go on there I might not even be looking for events for my particular team,” McCuen said.  “[For example], a lot of junior programs don’t know that college events are happening, but this calendar would let them see [those events] and become aware of them.”


This increased communication would also lessen frustrations driven by the lack of available court space, McCuen said.


“U.S. Squash oversees squash at the individual level outside of the CSA, and has a list of courts online that is horribly outdated,” he said.  “An updated list would help people find courts to play.”


This lack of available squash courts limits the number of participants on his Notre Dame teams, McCuen said.  


“We get this big group that literally packs the room during the first week of school,” McCuen said. “But [eventually] interest wanes and then falls off.”

Sophomore Paul Mickan said he signed up because he played tennis in high school and wanted to be part of a team at Notre Dame.


“There’s a pretty quick learning curve, especially for tennis players,” Mickan said.  “Once you pick it up it’s great… You’re learning, and every time you get on the court, you’re getting better.”


Senior Dennis Grabowski, president of the squash club, said the sport is a perfect activity for people who want to stay in shape.


“I think college is the time where people like to branch out and explore things that they didn’t have access to beforehand,” Grabowski said. “People who want to stay in shape, and do that in a fun way, end up playing squash.”


Mickan said he sees a lot of potential for the sport’s expansion in the Midwest, particularly with Notre Dame leading the effort.


“I like feel like Notre Dame’s a major player in the Midwest,” Mickan said.  “There’s a ton of opportunity… a lot of energy in the region, it would be great to focus it and channel it through here.”