The concept of building outdoor squash courts, putting them in plain view of the wider public and improving the sport’s accessibility is something that has been talked about a lot recently. With the current varying global restrictions for organised sport due to COVID-19, moving squash outdoors has become a hot topic.
However, El Salvador based community squash programme Squash Para Todos, along with global non-profit organisations Glasswing International & Latin America’s Sports Reimagined, were ahead of the trend and were already making plans for their new outdoors squash complex with construction under way for their four courts in El Salvador.
Collectively, these organisations seek to address the root causes and consequences of violence and poverty through education and health programmes that empower youth and communities, with Squash Para Todos spearheading these efforts for squash in El Salvador.
With these objectives in mind, the new community court complex will be used collaboratively with Squash Para Todos and the local community to strengthen the lives of local underserved children through squash and education.
Squash Para Todos also intends for the new complex to serve as a platform for researching and developing new ways to upgrade the court materials in an affordable way. This is important towards competing with the affordability of other sports facilities.
We asked Squash Para Todos Founder & Executive Director, Carlos Schonenberg, how he views the future for outdoor squash.
Schonenberg: “To begin with, I believe it is very important to understand that it is not only about building random outdoor courts. Squash isn’t popular enough, yet, to have random unattended courts sitting down on community parks or outdoor sports facilities. Also as important, this concept is not for the existing players that will want their private club court replicated outdoors, this will make them as expensive and participation levels will stay the same.
“I also believe that the opportunity to play in a glass back, wood floor on world class courts, should be earned. That is why, for us, these new outdoor courts are for those who don’t even know squash exists, a complete new population. It is from these centres that we will later recruit and award our program scholarships to eventually train on the regular WSF sanctioned courts. To sustain the programme general costs, we will also provide a low cost open public paid service where you will learn to play the game with no competition attached.
We need Social and Competitive Squash to work hand in hand. Unfortunately, with the amount of courts available worldwide, there is no space for both. With this concept, competitions can continue to do what they are doing great and we can at the same time grow the social base of players and enthusiasts, those who will fill the current empty seats seen constantly during the major squash events worldwide.
“Our campaign so far has supporters from France, Tahiti, USA, Colombia, El Salvador and our concept has already inspired and mobilised programmes in other countries to follow the outdoor idea. Programs in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Zimbabwe and Spain are also intrigued with the possibility. Along with other outdoor courts like the ones in New York by Public Squash and Maspeth Welding Arts, I am certain we will be seeing squash emerge as an outdoor sport in upcoming years.”
We also got in touch with some of the key stakeholders of the complex to get their thoughts on the importance of this installation.
Glasswing International Co-Founder, Celina de Sola, said: “I support Squash para Todos because I believe that it uses sport and play to prepare kids for life, infusing critical social and emotional skills into sports education.”
Gambeta CEO (Owner of the Sports Complex) Francisco Yepez said: ““Squash Para Todos is an amazing project dedicated to kids that need to do all kinds of sports in order to avoid getting into illegal activities. Supporting an emerging sport as outdoor squash is also a great incentive.”
El Salvador national team player and Squash Para Todos Supporter, Alejandro Cristiani, said: “The court is essential in providing a setting where underprivileged kids can open up to new things, learn about themselves and receive the time and attention they so desperately need. Taking the sport outdoors, and specifically the way Squash Para Todos has designed the court, allows the program and the sport to have a much greater impact and reach.”
Squash Para Todos’ attempts to bring squash outside could see them reach a new generation of squash players and could snowball into similar projects worldwide. For more information on Squash Para Todos, check out our community spotlight here.