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World Class Squash Players Compete at Bates Tournament
09/27/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

Today and tomorrow, some of the top squash players in the world will be at Bates College in Lewiston for a tournament designed to showcase a sport that historically has been played only at elite private schools and clubs. Squash, insist its advocates, is growing beyond the confines of its blue-blood origins, and is finding its way into public schools and inner cities.

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Bates Squash Coach Pat Cosquer and Women's Player Myriam KellyOkay lets see a show of hands. How many of you reading this right now have ever set foot on a squash court? Now, how many of you attended a private prep school, or exclusive college in the Northeast? Twenty years ago, those would have the same hands, but now?

"There still remains a little bit of the prep school, Ivy league mentality in squash, but the game is moving to out to the suburbs and into the cities to public schools and its really exciting for the game of squash," said Pat Cosquer, head men's and women's squash coach at Bates.

Cosquer has embraced this new diversity, and brought in players from all over the world from countries where squash, a game invented at the Harrow School in England, had been firmly established.

"So in many of the places where we find our students squash to them is like soccer or baseball to us so them when they come here, and see that you can only play squash in a handful of places, its pretty surprising pretty shocking to them," he said.

On one of the walls of the 7,500-square-foot Bates squash center, are the flags of nations represented on past teams. Bates has had more than 50 international players since the program started in 1985, and currently has players from 10 different countries.

International Flags at Bates Squash CourtMyriam Kelly is co-caption for women's squash at Bates. When she arrived in the US from Honduras with her family, she was not allowed to stray far from home. So, as an athletically inclined kid, joining a soccer team was out of the question, but then in middle school, she was introduced to squash in an after school program.

"So mainly because of that, I learned English by hanging out with kids who only spoke English not just my neighbors who only spoke Spanish," she said. "I like sports, I loved it, the competitiveness of it."

The game also got a boost by Forbes magazine, which back in the '80s declared squash "the fittest sport." By some estimates, a player can burn up to 1,500 calories an hour. The rules require some study, but the basics, Cosquier explains, are fairly simple.

"It's a four-walled court, a little bit like a racquet ball court," Cosquier said. "21 by 32 feet, the ball must hit the front wall, and much like tennis your opponent has to retrieve the ball before it bounces twice."

As Cosquer and Kelly demonstrate with a sustained series of volleys, it's immediately clear that the potential for one player striking another with a racquet is very high.

"I have a personal experience with that one," Kelly said. "About three years a go I was playing this kid and he swung and hit me below the eye. It swelled up, but for moments like that we have something called 'let' where you stop a point in case you might injure another person.".

Keith Shortall: "Is it etiquiette or is it in the rules about staying out of our opponent's way?"
Pat Cosquer: "It's a gentleman's game. It's self-refereed and there's a general understanding that if the ball bounced twice and your opponent did't see it you're supposed to call it on yourself if you get in his way you're supposed to play a 'let' and and do the point over. So, sportsmanship still remains in squash since the first time it was ever played."

The two-day Bobcat classic pro squash tour event begins today at the Bates squash center in Lewiston. The quarter-finals are scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm.


Photos and video by Keith Shortall.


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