England Squash has launched two national programmes, Squash from the Mosque and Mixed Ability Squash, to help clubs introduce more people to the many benefits of playing squash.
Sport England research highlights that two in five people from ethnically diverse communities feel they have fewer opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity than people from a white background.
Similarly, adults with a disability are almost twice as likely to be inactive compared to adults without a disability.
Squash from the Mosque and Mixed Ability Squash will help overcome these challenges by taking the game into the heart of local communities and connecting clubs with community groups and faith centres to co-create and deliver relevant and regular activity.
In a bid to drive meaningful change across the sport, England Squash has collaborated with Calder Community Squash and International Mixed Ability Sport (IMAS) to design the programmes and provide educational resources, best practice and promotional assets to support clubs nationwide to deliver them.
Through the programmes, clubs will be supported to engage their local community and deliver welcoming and inclusive sessions which meet the needs of people who face barriers to playing, including people with disabilities and those from ethnically diverse communities.
The programmes are available nationwide with additional support in areas that have high proportions of people from the relevant groups. Clubs in areas including London, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the Midlands will have the opportunity to apply for funding from England Squash, plus receive dedicated on-the-ground support from Calder Community Squash and IMAS to enhance their sessions.
Jo Rowbottom, Head of Partnerships and Communities at England Squash said: “People with disabilities and people from ethnically diverse communities face some of the biggest barriers to participating in sport. Our new programmes are designed to tackle these inequalities by supporting clubs to develop local relationships and co-create opportunities so that many more people can enjoy our great game.
“The resources and support we have created will provide clubs with the knowhow and confidence to engage these groups and provide regular and sustainable opportunities for people to play in a supportive and welcoming space.
“These programmes are a great opportunity for clubs to reach new audiences and become more representative of their local community whilst also getting more people on court.”
Aron Harper-Robinson from Calder Community Squash, who spearheaded the Squash from the Mosque pilot programme, said: “By opening the doors to a wider and more diverse audience, our club Old Crossleyans has become more connected with the local community, which has helped it flourish and grow.
“Around 75 people have come to the club through our Squash from the Mosque programme with at least half going on to acquire both individual and family memberships.
“By working with England Squash, we’re now able to support clubs to emulate this success on a national scale through these two amazing programmes. It’s exciting times and we can’t wait to get going!”
Mark Goodwin, CEO at IMAS said, “We are so enthused by this fantastic opportunity to partner with England Squash – a governing body that is taking a progressive approach and developing truly inclusive squash activities for disabled people.
“Following the Mixed Ability Squash pilot, the Mixed Ability approach has already begun to gain traction across a number of squash clubs, with many seeing a more diverse and inclusive playing community.
“We’re thrilled to work alongside England Squash to develop the national programme and provide support and knowledge to the participating clubs to enable more disabled people to step on court.
“It’s so important to invest in the people in your communities. The clubs who’ve already begun this journey have not just expanded their membership, they have diversified the offer, attracting players who otherwise would never have crossed the threshold.”