USSRA Announces National Events
Back to the Future: "Age Groups" and "Skill Levels" Separated Again
Kevin Klipstein, Chief Executive Officer of the United States Squash Racquets Association (USSRA), announced today that a revised U.S. Championships structure, including the tournaments commonly known as "nationals," will begin rollout next year (i.e. the 2006-2007 season.)
The changes are to be implemented in two phases, with Phase I happening next season.
In the first phase, The U.S. Championships, Age and Skill Level tournament will be separated. The Skill Level tournament will be renamed the USSRA Championships and include all skill level divisions, with prize money at the highest level. The tournament will take place in the heart of the season, late January. The traditional U.S. Championships, the Age Group tournament, will be played during the same traditional weekend in March and will have the Men's (S.L. Green) and Women's Closed Championships on the same weekend.
Originally, the "US Nationals" comprised the Open and age group divisions. The idea of skill level championships was a newer introduction, begun in the mid 1970's as the "INSILCO Championships" (named after the main sponsor Insilco Corporation), which were a series of district-level skill group tournaments culminating in a national title weekend.
The skill levels and age groups merged in 1999, after light registration for the skill levels brought to light the issue that participants felt more part of a "national" event when the whole thing was held on one weekend. But increasingly, running all the events on one weekend has created a logistical challenge as well as imposing a difficult restriction on which cities might have enough convenient courts to run the whole thing. One thought process reported to SquashTalk has been that separating the events would allow players on the men's side to enter both skill level and age group events on different weekends, bolstering some of the draw categories that were less fully subscribed this winter. On the women's side, play in both skill levels and age groups has been allowed for some years, because of smaller draw sizes on the distaff side.
second phase, preannounced by the USSRA, calls for
merging the U.S. Open pro
Ken Stillman, USSRA past Board Chair, provided the following comments on the changes, "The task force has done incredible work in creating a structure that rationalizes our nationals and provides more opportunities for people to play. We will have several tournaments with distinct objectives and personalities. The Association will now use these events to continue to grow participation at the national, regional and local levels."
The changes to the nationals structure come at a time when the Association is working hard to improve the quality of the tournaments it runs and to build each national championship as an asset for the Association. The USSRA created the task force to address recognized problems with the current structure of the U.S. Championships, which in the current state combines men's and women's closed professional draws, open age group, and skill level draws. Some of the issues with the structure ranged from the dilution of draws, to player confusion by overlapping divisions between the open age groups and the skill levels.
Klipstein praised the process and recommendations by saying, "We need to thank John Musto and all the task force members for being so rigorous in their approach, setting guiding principles at the start of the process, soliciting broad input and allowing the recommendation to truly evolve. We will now work to ensure active participation in these tournaments by communicating extensively with local associations, teaching pros and the players themselves."
Klipstein created a Competition Task Force chaired by John Musto in February of 2006 to review the nationals structure and provide recommendations on how to best align the United States with traditional world standards and innovatively address the diverse needs of all U.S. squash players, be they citizen, non-citizen, age group, or skill level player. Other members of the task force included Bob Burton, Richard Chin, Alec Decker, Eric Godes, Bob Hanscom, Shabana Khan and Kevan Pickins.
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