Squash Grows in New York City


Ammad Zuberi, Staff Writer

What comes to your mind when you hear the word squash? Maybe a vegetable or the verb – both are common meanings of the word and will come up when you search it, but there is also a sport called squash. You may have never heard of it, but squash is played in over 185 countries by millions of people and is a growing sport, especially in the US. 

Squash originated in the 19th century as a new version of the ancient game of “real tennis” also known as court tennis. Today’s game is played usually indoors in a massive cube, as shown in the image above, with similar rules to other racquet sports. The basics of the game are that two players serve and rally similarly to tennis, but instead of hitting the ball over a net, the players hit the ball against the front wall. There are lines marking the limits to where a ball can be played as well as the service boxes on the grounds and walls. 

Squash balls are made of rubber, and the racquets, which are uniquely crafted to deal with the confines of the court, are shaped narrowly to give the player control the ability to hit extremely fast shots. Since it is played indoors squash can be a year-round sport, independent of weather conditions. 

All-time greats of professional squash have come from all over the world; the legendary Jahangir Khan hailed from Pakistan and the current number four male player is Paul Coll from New Zealand. The modern generation of squash champions is dominated by Egyptians: Mostafa Asal sits atop the men’s rankings as one of six Egyptians in the top ten, and the three top female squash players, Nour El Sherbini, Nouran Gouhar, and Hania El Hammammy, are all Egyptian. I visited Egypt recently, and the faces of these successful Egyptian squash players were plastered across Cairo International Airport, showing the pride that the nation takes in the sport. 

But you don’t have to fly to Cairo to play; the sport has been expanding, especially here in New York. Beyond the glitzy university clubs of midtown where squash has long been played, new programs in places such as Harlem and across the city are bringing more communities into the sport. 

Squash is also one of the few sports that you can play throughout your life; some squash players are over 80 years old, and there are many variations of the game such as doubles squash, which is typically played in a larger court with friends, making the game more social. Knowing how to play squash can keep you active as you grow older, as well as providing enjoyment when you step on the court to play a game with a friend. 

One of the major squash tournaments, the annual J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, took place in Grand Central Station this January. Peruvian Deigo Elias won this year’s men’s edition while Egyptian Nour El Sherbini captured the women’s trophy. The Tournament of Champions puts world-class squash talent on display in the heart city, and it will be back next year.

As squash grows in popularity, I hope that the school will create its own squash team, as it is such a great sport to learn, and it will stick with students for life. Maybe we’ll have a Friends Seminary squash team not too soon competing at the nationals.