Squished, Squashed, Sport

Squash team members Ria Parekh, Mehak Dey-Kohli, and Daniel Braun with Coach Sanchez.

Carmen Pastrana

Squash team members Ria Parekh, Mehak Dey-Kohli, and Daniel Braun with Coach Sanchez.

The Latin squash program was established in 2014, but despite its adoring players, increased numbers, and national travel, squash has not yet received the title of an official sport. Latin squash Coach Luis Sanchez created the program eight years ago in tandem with the Latin Athletics Department to allow students the opportunities and resources to play the game they love, or to discover a game they may never have heard of before.

In recent years, Latin squash has accumulated dozens of players, and participation levels have come to rival established sports such as boys swimming and ice hockey. This season, more than 50 students are signed up to play, and at least a quarter have never played before. And yet talk surrounding squash’s viability as a sport has continued. However, participation is not the only deciding factor in what becomes a sport. Budgetary concerns, transportation responsibilities, intensity, and city-wide participation all factor into which activities are considered a club versus a sport at Latin.

“Being a club and not a varsity sport may have kept some players from being more serious about the need to get to matches on weekends,” Coach Sanchez said. And at times, matches are even canceled.

In the past, Latin squash players have had several issues obtaining a safe and reliable form of transportation to and from their practices and matches. In the 2019-20 season, students were required to take the train, bike, or Uber around town, or to catch a ride from a player with a driver’s license. After recalling incidents where students were in danger on the train on their way to practice, senior squash co-captain Daniel Braun said, “I think [transportation] really affected our numbers, because, especially at Latin, I think a lot of parents don’t want their kids on public transportation in the middle of the day or when it’s dark without a guardian.”

Transportation improvements came with the 2021-22 season in the form of a bus that student-athletes could take from school to their practice venue, Lakeshore Sport and Fitness. This bus was funded by a student’s family, who then coordinated with the Athletics Department and Coach Sanchez.

However, problems arose with the squash bus. An adult was legally required on the bus at all times, given that there were minors, but Latin could not require or hire a Latin faculty member to chaperone the bus. This meant a parent had to volunteer to ride the bus along with the players.

Senior squash co-captain Ria Parekh said, “It’s not really feasible to expect the parents to come every single day, because they have things to do, and so that wasn’t really a good system, because parents weren’t available every single day or got the times mixed up or sometimes just wouldn’t show up.” This would result in kids being left without a chaperone, meaning no one could ride the already provided bus.

Additionally, chaperones needed to find their own transportation back to school. Likewise, there was no bus back to the school after practice, meaning students also had to find their own transportation back with no assistance from the school or an adult. Junior Ellie O’Shea said, “The transportation wasn’t extremely reliable and would often be more than 30 minutes late, which cut down our playing time by a lot.”

Although Daniel and Ria, along with previous captains, have advocated for squash to be elevated to a sport status, the conversion from a club team—or as the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) refers to clubs, an “emerging sport”—to a varsity sport, is not entirely up to Latin. According to its handbook, the IHSA considers any sport “for which IHSA does not conduct a state tournament series” to be an emerging sport or club. Though the IHSA does not hold a squash tournament, United States squash, an Olympic-affiliated program, holds frequent tournaments and even squash Nationals. Latin squash travels every year to this East Coast tournament with a group of players to represent Latin and the greater Chicagoland area.

Ellie said, “On a happy note, squash is a great way to work out and have fun with your friends, and I would recommend anyone to play.”