On July 15, Mission Squash—an urban squash program founded in 2011—in partnership with James S. Hogg Middle School, plans to unveil three new squash courts in Houston, TX.
“The concept with our new facility is to introduce “Squash as P.E.” to Hogg students. We’re aiming to provide up to seventy kids each day with the fun, physical challenge that squash provides,” Alistair Barnes, Mission Squash founder, said. “The students with the most desire will be considered for extended tryouts for the core Mission Squash program, which includes specialist academic tuition, community service, well-being and nutrition and of course, extra squash. Over time we’ll closely track our “Mission Squash Cadets” vitals including BMI, agility, speed and, in close conjunction with the school, their academics.”
Mission Squash is modeled after similar urban squash programs of its kind—coupling academic tutoring and support with the sport of squash. This model has been proven successful time and time again, a project first envisioned by Greg Zaff in 1995 with SquashBusters. The National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) is responsible for the umbrella organization of twenty like-minded programs—an organization Mission Squash hopes to join in the coming years.
“Once the program is running like clockwork, we’ll be be knocking on NUSEA’s door,” Barnes said. “That being said, we are already following their model closely.”
Mission Squash became operational in 2013, partnering with Gregory Lincoln Education Center. In 2014 Mission Squash expanded its program to include James S. Hogg Middle School, where the new courts are being built. The projected program will serve at least seventy-two students (in its initial year), with squash offered as a P.E. credit for all Hogg Middle School students, and classes held six times a day, five times a week. Those who are enrolled in the Mission Squash program will experience the three-pronged approach, or “Three Pillars of Success,” the program takes, focusing on: academic enrichment, athletics and health, as well community outreach and service.
“Our goal is to give the students in Mission Squash the opportunity to succeed both in the classroom and on the court,” Barnes shared. “We hope to have up to 8% of the school participating in Mission Squash; if we can help to lift these students, we can help to lift the whole school. The aim for our core Mission Squash students is for them to reach new heights in their academic and squash careers with the ultimate intention of helping them achieve a place in college.”
As Mission Squash looks to the future, the potential for community-based expansion of the game is definitely on the horizon: opportunities for squash summer camps and extended play outside of Mission Squash hours for locals.