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Canadian Inclusivity Squash Program helping make squash for all

For the past three years, the Canadian Inclusivity Squash Program (CISP) has been on the cutting edge of making squash as accessible and open as possible.

CISP is an innovative squash programme that teaches squash to people with disabilities (including mental, emotional, or physical) in a fully inclusive and safe environment.

CISP, established in 2019 in the town of Conception Bay South (CBS), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), is the first official inclusive squash programme of its kind globally. Since its creation, it has helped four new CISP programs open in other Canadian cities, three in the province of Ontario, and another one in Alberta. 

CISP programmes are dedicated to delivering squash to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. NL’s programme also recruits coaching assistants who are usually in high school or university and helps them learn how to coach squash and gives them opportunities to interact and become friends with programme participants.

Participating in squash has many benefits including increasing one’s ability to learn; building social skills; improving balance, coordination and fitness; reducing stress; strengthening bones and muscles; improving mental health; and enhancing self-worth. 

The CISP programme in NL has been exploring many ways to make the game more accessible, such as adapting coaching practices to accommodate tendencies associated with certain disabilities, modifying squash rules to make the game/practice an appropriate challenge for each player, and creating coaching aids to help players learn.

It has also received almost $60,000 of federal funding from the Healthy Communities Initiative to widen the doors to the squash courts to allow sports wheelchairs to enter and exit freely; purchase sports wheelchairs and face shields; and replace the solid back walls with tempered glass back walls to make the squash courts more visible and safer for vulnerable populations such as children and persons with disabilities. 

While squash has made great strides to adapt the game for improved accessibility and inclusivity, it’s a significant development to see programs like CISP devoted to taking this one step further. 

Eric Hart, creator, co-founder and head coach of NL CISP, said:  “Opening CISP has been a wonderful experience and yields many examples of the kindness of those involved in the sport.”

“For example, when CISP couldn’t hold an in-person closing ceremony to cap off the year because of COVID, squash icons across Canada contributed to a video to congratulate the CISP players on their accomplishments, encouraged them to stay positive in spite of COVID and, when they can get back on the court, to always make their best effort.”

“Similarly, when a CISP player was experiencing sadness for an extended time because her grandmother had dementia and could no longer remember her granddaughter’s name, a squash player in Ontario who had won the Canadian Championships sent her two pink rackets to lift her spirits.”

“CISP has been good for squash and squash has been good for people with disabilities. We just need more squashers to pick up the baton and give people with disabilities a chance to be more fully engaged in our sport.”

As CISP continues to grow, so too has its footprint. The programme recently partnered with the PSA Foundation, which supports the growth of squash globally through community engagement, providing equal opportunity and player wellbeing.

A spokesperson for the PSA Foundation commented: “The PSA Foundation is thrilled to collaborate with CISP as they develop their programs and advocate for more like-minded squashers across the globe to step up and open programmes for people with disabilities.”

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