THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – The squash season has officially ended in Northwestern Ontario for another year. Not vegetable squash, mind you. That season has just begun (Look out, Belluz Farms!). No, I’m talking about the sport that is played by over 20 million people in some 50,000 courts across 185 countries. And yet, oddly, a sport so few in our own community have even heard of, let alone tried playing. With a resurgence in the game over the past few years, all signs seem to indicate that this trend is changing fast!
Thunder Bay Squash Association
One of the biggest signs of squash’s growing momentum in the city is the revival of the Thunder Bay Squash Association (TBSA). After a few low key years, former committee members convened with new blood to reignite the board, establishing a full complement of board members intent on building upon the foundation of the sport that had been laid in the city over the past 20-30 years. The TBSA is responsible for a number of squash-related activities throughout the year, including the Balmoral Squash Open in November, the Junior Squash program, sending players to out of town tournaments, and working with the Complex toward ensuring the facilities are up to snuff.
The Junior Squash program has been thriving over the past few years and this year’s been no exception. With over 30 regular youth between 6-18 showing up on Saturday mornings for an hr or two of instruction and play, the future of the game is looking good for the city. Typically, because we have so many passionate coaches, we’re able to provide instruction on a 3-4 kids per coach ratio, allowing more time with each athlete.
Two regional tournaments were held this season with a number of local players also traveling throughout the region to play in Fort Frances and Sioux Lookout. In addition to exceptionally high participation and strong competition, perhaps the most positive sign has been the high enrollment of the Junior players in the tournaments – enough players to have both a Junior A and a Junior B division!
For the spring tourney, the Squash Cancer Charity Tournament joined forces with the Silver Fox Squash Tournament to become the Silver Fox Squash Cancer Charity Tournament. The 25thannual tournament saw 65 players sign up for a weekend of competitive squash, fun socials (both at Sleeping Giant Brewery and Tony Roma’s) and fundraising for two great local charities: The Northern Cancer Care Fund and the Underground Gym. A cheque for $2,800 was presented to each charity just last week. Not only is the squash community passionate about the game, but we’re also passionate about giving back to the city/region we love so much!
The Court Jesters and Tuesday Night Court Time leagues were once again both hugely successful with strong registration for both but the real highlight this year was the development of a Wednesday night Women’s League! During the winter term, an average of 10-15 women came out weekly to play. Most of these were new to the sport and eager to learn how to play. A coach was made available for instruction each week, ensuring that new players started off on the right foot (good pun!).
And there’s more!
More can be said about squash’s resurgence in Thunder Bay. We’re home to the 9thranked U19 Women’s player in Canada, Patricia Ndebele, who trains regularly at the Complex. There are plans currently underway to renovate the 4 courts at the Complex this spring and into the summer – great news! Additionally, this past winter we had elementary schools bring groups of students out for an introduction to the sport, which is hoped will lead to more interest in the game. And finally, it should be noted that the mailing list of local squash enthusiasts continues to grow –150+ subscribers and counting!
We recognize that Thunder Bay is always going to be a hockey and Nordic sports town, and we celebrate that; but it’s important to note that underdog sports like squash are also leaving a humble but influential mark in our city. If you’ve never considered it, we encourage anyone, regardless of age, to give it a try. Not only is squash inexpensive, it offers a great way to stay fit during the winter, a wonderful community, an opportunity to give back to our community through our charity tournaments, and much more! If you’re interested in learning more about the sport, want to register your child for junior squash in the fall, or just have a question, check out thunderbaysquash.ca or connect with us through our Facebook or Instagram pages (@thunderbaysquash).
Thunder Bay squash is starting to make a mark and it’s not just on the court walls!