Mazen Hesham: “Is US College Squash good for PSA?”

A healthy, interesting, in depth discussion on Twitter at the moment, you might enjoy following… It all started from a tweet from Mazen Hesham….

Mazen Hesham

Been a while since I tweeted something but just wanted to get opinions from people on that matter as I have been asking that question myself !!! What do you think about the US college squash, is it a good thing for the @PSAWorldTour or is it bad for it?!

Update Friday Night

What Mazen actually thinks

Update Thursday Night

Victor Crouin

Danielle Letourneau – Replying to Amanda Sobhy

Completely agree!

The experience created opportunities and opened up the world to me. I learned valuable life skills, new knowledge, and met amazing people. Being away from home and pushing myself in school and squash made me stronger person.

Very grateful for my years at Cornell


First to reply was Amanda Sobhy

Then a question from Mohamed ElShorbagy

What I don’t get is why the Colleges in the States doesn’t support players to play pro while attending college.

They give you a scholarship because you are an amazing squash player but then we will stop you from playing pro for 4 years…

Followed a very very VERY lengthy response in 15 tweets no less from Kristin Barbato

Good question! One examination on this thread to determine if “good or bad” for PSA Tour is number of NCAA players that go pro. Seems % of NCAA (US College) participants going pro is not a new topic. But perhaps not as deeply examined for pro squash. Let’s start there.

First, let’s look at some stats. NCAA puts out this info for 5 popular college sports that have pro circuits: baseball, basketball (M/W), football, hockey. Before anyone says “But those are really popular sports – not a fair comparison” I’ll just say that these sports started after squash was invented. So there has been time for the development of the market – but that’s a different topic I’ll address later…

So, let’s take football. According to NCAA, 1.6% of college players play in the NFL. Not a bad number. Yet, totally eclipsed by baseball which is 9.9%. What is the % for squash? Not sure but here’s some quick and dirty guesstimates… Maybe 200 graduating varsity seniors in NCAA squash every year…with 5-10 going pro. That’s about 2.5-5%, rough guesses. Again, not bad numbers.

For those thinking, “But only a few have ever reached top whatever ranking” – yep! True. How many pro women’s basketball players can you name? But is that the point? I think the point of college sports is… to be a scholar athlete. Not an easy thing to do! And of the 95+% of collegiate players that decide not to go pro on PSA, well – who ever said being a pro was the only career path for an athlete?

More stats: average years as a pro – let’s say 8-12 as a good guess. Assuming that most pro squash players live beyond 30, they may need a career Plan B for the next 30 years or so. But, but, but…you say…

What about being a teaching pro? Or a coaching pro? Well, who are they teaching and coaching? Probably a good percentage of student athletes at various levels. And what about other jobs in squash as a sport? Well, I’d argue that as the sport grows, there will be lots more jobs related to squash that aren’t just teaching and playing pros. When the pro tour grows, the market expands into other jobs like marketing, development, construction, project finance.

The “big” sports have many jobs associated with different facets of that sport as a business! Squash doesn’t have that now so post-pro life would often be in something unrelated to squash. Back to the question…

Is US College Squash good for PSA? Well, in the US, someone needs to buy tickets to see the pros play, others need to coach juniors who may (or may not) aspire to go pro, and there will always be a need to have “the next level” of player.

I’ve also heard others say that without the collegiate level competition, many young players would choose a different sport because they may never want to go pro, but they would like to play in college.

Other countries have other models (meaning little or no college squash programs) which is great and it has worked out well for those local markets. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other models.

Maybe the answer is that there needs to be several avenues to grow squash as a sport, so cutting off any one avenue for such a small market sport on a global level, is probably not a good thing for the sport.

End rant.

Then a discussion between Jon Sharpe and Daily Squash Report

Jon Sharpe
Hey Mazen, From my understanding, there are some really talented juniors in the US system, and from overseas, who have gained scholarships through the sport and just disappear from squash after their studies. To some it’s a means of access, with exceptions (Amanda/Ali etc)

Daily Squash Report 
Many promising players are burned out following their college squash experience and don’t want to grind out the pro tour. College squash needs to convert to a club sport.

Jon Sharpe
Not sure about burn out. I played for the best university team in the UK/world in the late 90’s/00’s and the training and schedule was relentless – but most players I played with carried on to a good level or went pro. So maybe it’s down to the motivations to go to college first?

Daily Squash Report 
Which players that you played with joined the PSA tour? What was your college training and match schedule?

Jon Sharpe
Greg Tippings, Paul Allen, Gareth Webber, Steve Evans, Brian O’Hora, Graeme Williams, Stafford Murray, Mark Allen, Shona Kerr are just a few of the players in the squad. All were in the top 2 or 3 nationally at Junior level and many played top 50 – 100 in PSA. All still involved.

Daily Squash Report 
I know who Shona Kerr and Webber are so I checked their stats. It says Kerr played 6 pro events between 92-2012, implies that she won 1 pro match, ranked 132. It says Gareth Webber played 7 pro events between 1994-2014. Not sure we’re talking about committed pro-level ball here.

Jon Sharpe
glad you’re digging around for data. The point I was making is that this is half of the squad I was involved in and Steve Evans, for example, played at No5 in our team a year or two after being 90 something in the world. Many of those mentioned are national coaches and involved

Daily Squash Report
Sounds like these players went on to balance lower-level competitive squash with a bit of pro squash. That sounds healthy. There’s something wrong in US college squash, since a small percentage of team-graduates appear to play any competitive squash after college.


Another discussion with Daily Squash Report, Andrew Douglas joined by Victor Crouin

Daily Squash Report
No US men in the top 50 speaks for itself. College squash likely hurts.

Andrew Douglas
Third variable problem here: the culture surrounding squash in the U.S influences both the participation in CSA as well as the lack of highly ranked PSA players. Unfortunately I think you have attributed causality wrong here.

Victor Crouin
Classic graduate response! Glad to see Penn gave you some good critical thinking 😉
Give me a few hours to gather my thoughts on the topic and I’ll answer your question with a few key points. I genuinely believe it’s a healthy discussion to have to help our sport grow as well as to help our players choose the path that best corresponds to their preferences.


A positve note from Alistair Gorrie a response from Mike Hegarty


Alistair Gorrie
I can’t see how it could be considered bad for the tour? The quality and depth is there almost regardless – youth who choose not to study combined with the more mature players and everything and everyone in between. This provides a great mix which viewers will love.

Also for the tour, you’ve now got these crazy good facilities in which to host major events. Facilities that likely wouldn’t exist if college squash wasn’t a thing?

Mike Hegarty
The facilities we see springing up are incredible. As you say, positive regardless. Hard to avoid the elephant in the room, that globally the sport is in decline at grassroots level.

While I think it’s fantastic, I just wish that level of investment was available for everyone….


Stay Tuned…