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Urban Squash in the Elm City
June 28, 2007, By Ron Beck, SquashTalk correspondent, Squashtalk Independent News; © 2007 SquashTalk LLC       


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The First Year SquashHaven Team. (Photo Annick Winokur © 2007)

An enthusiast group of participants, parents, siblings and friends, numbering over 80 on a warm New Haven evening, gathered at the Bradey Squash Center at Yale last evening to inaugurated the newest Urban Squash program, Squash Haven.

In a low-key but high energy gathering, new SquashHaven Executive Director, Julie Greenwood, most recently Tennis Coach at Williams College, seemed totally at home and in charge.

Thirty students, hailing from two New Haven schools, have been selected to participate in the first year of the program, which similarly to other Urban Squash programs already established in several US cities, will combine squash instruction and competition with a focus on educational growth for the students.

Julie Greenwood and Dave Talbott address the crowd. (Photo Annick Winokur © 2007)

Julie Greenwood was surrounded by a core group of volunteers which included Julia Webber and Board Members Ann Vinci, a Yale squash parent and SquashHaven supporter, Rebecca Martin, Annick Winokur, Dave Talbott, David Barrett and Eric Berger.

Squash Haven has been a dream of Dave Talbott and his Skilman support group for many years, as they watched the early success of the Boston and New York programs.  Annick Winokur approached Dave Talbott in the spring of 2006 with an offer to help get the program launched.  Brainstorming by a core group of Dave, Sam Chauncey, Annick and Pug Winokur led to the forming of a Board of Directors and to obtaining funding.  The Board selected the program’s Executive Director earlier this spring. 

The new Executive Director, Julie Greenwood, who is taking on the challenging role of building this brand new program, has both the ideal background and ideal personality for the program. She shepherded the selected students and their parents through introductions, a brief overview of the program expectations, some on-court squash play, climaxed by an exciting Pinata session on the Yale exhibition courts. In fact, the level of focus and involvement of the students and parents gave the feeling that the program was ongoing, not just starting up.

Board member Dave Barrett pointed out that starting up this program was made easy by those that came before. "The model given to us by Greg Zaff and Tim Wyant, among others, helped us immensely in knowing about the dos and don'ts and how to avoid trying approaches that don't work."

Parents and friends show their commitment to the new SquashHaven program. (Photo Annick Winokur © 2007)

As a record-breaking heat wave gripped New England, warm squash courts and warm squash balls couldn't dent the enthusiasm of the excited and clearly committed group of youngsters who have been accepted after spring information sessions and tryouts to join the inaugural class of the newest Urban Squash Program. They surged on court, and though complete beginners at the sport, only ended their squash drill sessions with great reluctance under the urging of Master-of-Ceremonies Greenwood.

The parents were similarly enthusiastic. One parent told me, "Oh boy, there won't be any sleep tonight. Too much energy, too much excitement, not to mention the candy from the Pinata." She was beaming.

Dave Talbott was quick to emphasize the key role of Yale Athletics in supporting the creation of the program. Present on behalf of Yale Athletics was Tim Ford, Senior Associate Athletics Director.

Talbott said, "SquashHaven gets going with one major advantage that makes it much easier for this program than for the other urban programs --- the access to the world-class Yale squash facility, which means that this program will not have to focus on the same sort of Capital fund raising campaign that the other programs have required. All their fund raising can go to operating funds and operating endowment."

Talbott committed, on behalf of his intercollegiate teams, the role of the Yale players in providing volunteer squash instruction.

In related news this week, MetroSquash, the Chicago-based urban squash program, announced this week the hiring of Denison squash graduate, Max Laverty, as a full time squash director; and SurfCity Squash, the San Diego based urban program is in the midst of its first major benefit activity this weekend, as the WISPA Tour stop in San Diego has named SurfCity Squash as its beneficiary.

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