After a COVID-19-enforced break of nearly two years, the Rwanda Squash Federation (RSF) has recently been able to relaunch a free coaching programme that aims to bring squash to communities that would otherwise be excluded from the game.
In Rwanda, squash is largely perceived to be a sport for the wealthy elite, something RSF Secretary General and Squash Federation of Africa Vice President (East & Islands) Ida-Alexandra Humuza De Cordier says she and her colleagues are determined to address.
She explains: “Here, squash is known for high-level people, senior managers, CEOs, etc. It’s like golf. We’d like to start it from the roots and give that opportunity to every child.”
The programme, which provides free coaching, transport, equipment and water for boys and girls aged between 8-14, will see aspiring young squash players connect with four qualified coaches.
“This is a community social community service. Usually those young ones have no access to sports,” De Cordier says.
While initially the programme is limited to groups of 16 children, there are plans to expand and De Cordier is optimistic that it is the beginning of a long-term plan to make Rwanda a known power in the squash world: “The future of the sport is in youth, but currently a lot of African countries have no pool of young athletes.
“We don’t have a large number of young players that we can send to tournaments so they can experience international encounters. The goal is to build up a strong squash team, starting from the grassroots, and hoping that in the near future, we’ll have a pool of players that can that can play in the continent and internationally.”
Initially, though, focus is on ensuring the young participants learn to love squash. “They enjoy it, because they have access to sport as individuals,” De Cordier says. She adds that the collective sports of volleyball and football tend to dominate, and that playing a solo sport like squash allow them to express themselves as individuals and learn to perform for themselves.