SquashSkills recently held the digital premiere of their documentary ‘A Bronx Tale’ – a heartwarming story which explores CitySquash’s efforts to use the power of sport to enrich the lives of children in one of New York City’s poorest boroughs, the Bronx.
Spearheaded by pioneering coach and former World No.16 Bryan Patterson, CitySquash have helped open up squash to low-income families who previously would never have had the opportunity to take up the sport, which in the United States is a privilege typically reserved for well-educated individuals that come from a high-income environment.
CitySquash, a founding member of the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) urban squash programmes, aims to level that playing field and introduce squash to children from diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The impact of our programme on squash in America is huge, historically the game in the US has been limited to private clubs, prep schools and elite universities,” says SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant.
“I grew up playing the game in the 1980s and the only junior squash players that I ever came across in the tournaments and the clinics had the same backgrounds as I did. They were children of privilege and there was no working class or low-income kids playing the sport in the entire country until SquashBusters [the first urban squash programme] was launched.
“If you go to a junior squash tournament today, you would not be surprised to see people of all different backgrounds and colours playing the game and that’s a really wonderful thing. I take a lot of pride personally in the fact that we’re expanding the boundaries of the sport.
“But I am really excited by the fact that the sport can afford opportunities both educational and career-wise to students that are life-changing. It means a lot to me that the game has been becoming more diverse, but what is more important is that the world is so completely unfair, there is not an equal distribution of opportunities out there, so we can use this awesome game of squash to give kids from certain communities the chance to get a better education, to be healthier, to feel good about themselves and to know that they matter.
“As they think about their education and their prospects in life, they have more of a chance to achieve the things that will make them happy. I’ve been very fortunate since college to be able to see this story unfold and to see how many people have been positively impacted.”
The documentary explores how CitySquash is helping children to reach not only their athletic potential, but their academic potential also, and features first-hand accounts from children participating in the programme as well as Patterson, who has committed his life to helping these children.
Wyant says: “Bryan is one of the best things to ever happen to City Squash. When we started in 2002, we very early on made a commitment that we wanted to ensure that the students who are part of the programme had the opportunity to become the very best squash players that they could be, in addition to becoming the best students they could be.
“In order to do that we recognised that you have to give students the highest quality training and competitive opportunities. You need people on staff who have the experience and passion for the work.
“Bryan was one of the first pros to come from the UK over to the US and work in the club squash world. He was a real pioneer when he did that in the 90’s. We pitched to him that he would be one of the first true squash professionals to come into this network of programmes.
“He is on the road with our students in the greater New York area and far beyond all of the time on the weekends to give them the chance to compete in tournaments. I believe 20 weekends a year he is at junior squash tournaments with our students.
“He’s at hotels, doing family stays and billets and the like, so it’s an extraordinary level of personal commitment that isn’t matched anywhere in our network of programmes. We’re so fortunate as a network and as a programme that he decided to make that leap, he’s one of the best things to happen to the programme.”
As well as shining a light on the work that CitySquash are doing, SquashSkills have committed to donating five memberships to the SEA with every SquashSkills membership purchased on their website, meaning that children unable to compete on court due to the global COVID-19 pandemic will still get access to coaching through their online tools.
SquashSkills Founder and Director, Jethro Binns, believes that highlighting the incredible work organisations such as CitySquash are doing is even more important given the state of the world at present.
“Living in places like the Bronx is particularly challenging right now,” says Binns.
“It’s nice to know that our sport, squash, can be used as a force for good, enhancing the lives of these young people and providing a respite from some of the challenges of every day life.
“Now more than ever, the core messages behind the film couldn’t be more relevant or important. The work that the SEA is doing, not only in the USA but around the world, needs to celebrated along with the hard work of individuals like Bryan Patterson and Tim Wyant.
“The film demonstrates the power of sport and the positive impact it can have on the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The success of the SEA programme is down to the dedication and the hard work of those involved but also the wider community who wrap their arms around the organisation by providing financial support.”
‘A Bronx Tale’ is available to be viewed for free now on SquashSkills’ website.