About Squash and Urban Squash
Founded in England in the 1860’s, Squash is an indoor racket sport for two people, played by more than 15 million people in 153 countries around the world. It is played inside a four-walled court with light metal rackets and a small hollow rubber ball that, once warmed up to playing temperature, frequently exceeds speeds of 150mph.
Starting with a serve, players are required to play a “rally” taking it in turns to hit the ball onto the front wall. The ball is allowed to rebound off the back and side walls—creating an infinite number of angles and shot possibilities—but is only allowed to bounce on the floor once between shots.
There is a reason Forbes Magazine rated squash No 1 in its survey of the World’s Healthiest Sports. A single rally can last beyond 20 or 30 shots, the dynamic lunging and “multiple sprint” nature of the movement required demands high levels of speed, endurance and plyometric power. The sport is highly taxing on the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems and players can burn in excess of 1000 calories per hour – but they must utilize strategy, skill and mental endurance to outwit their opponent rather than relying on raw strength.
Urban Squash uses the collegiate racket sport of squash as a hook for engaging underserved students in intensive after-school academic tutoring, mentoring, community service, and to provide a platform for accessing unique high school and college placement opportunities through the squash network.
The year-round, 5 days per week programming takes place after school, on the weekends and throughout summer. Following an “inch wide, mile deep” approach to youth development, Urban Squash programs create meaningful and life-long experiences for each individual student from the time they enter the program in 6th Grade through their college graduation.
Nationwide, programs have a 99% graduation rate with over $45m in college scholarships awarded to urban squash alumni.
The urban squash model was first developed 25 years ago by Harvard graduate and professional squash player Greg Zaff, who wrote a thesis called “Bringing Squash Down from the Ivory Tower.” Using the principles from his thesis, Zaff brought Urban Squash to life by founding SquashBusters in Boston, Massachusetts. That first Urban Squash program has since enrolled over 3000 students, and there are now over 25 programs across the United States, as well as international affiliates in Columbia, the UK and India. Mission Squash is the first and only urban squash program in the state of Texas.
Many urban squash programs are affiliates of the Squash and Education Alliance, a national body that helps new programs establish credible programming, governance and fiscal stability, as well as sharing best practices between programs.
Until recently, squash was played almost exclusively at prep schools, elite colleges, and exclusive members clubs in the United States. The game has become more widely played over the past few decades, in part because of urban squash, and is now the fastest growing racket sport in North, Central and South America. Squash therefore provides a unique platform for underserved students to access national networks of opportunity, as well keeping them fit (according to Forbes magazine, squash is the healthiest sport in the world), engaged and mentally disciplined. Additionally, unlike many other popular modern sports, squash places a high value on sportsmanship, with the outcome of a match deemed as important as the “way in which it was played.”
The sport’s ties to top-tier educational institutions, including the Ivy League schools, remains strong, which is one of the main reasons squash is such an effective “hook” for an academically focused after-school program. There are currently 80 Colleges across the United States offering funded four-year degrees for students with strong academic and squash abilities.
Mission Squash is a Houston non-profit that empowers children from underserved communities to activate their true academic, physical and personal potential, and achieve their dream of a college education.
By combining intensive academic tutoring, mentoring, travel and college support with training in the elite sport of squash, we equip students with the tools they need to transcend socio-economic and cultural boundaries, stay in school, graduate and succeed in college.
Mission Squash follows a proven urban youth development model called “urban squash” to provide after school academic support for at-risk youth in Houston. It uses the sport of squash as the addictive “hook” to keep students engaged with the program year after year, offering 100 hours of squash training along with 100 hours of academic tutoring per year. This focus on academics combined with a unique extracurricular program makes participants ideal candidates for sought-after Universities.
The program provides students with a safe, supervised place outside of school hours, keeping them focused on their future. It gives them the skills and confidence to help them achieve great things through hard work.
Yes! About 500, including adults and juniors from a truly international community spanning almost every continent.
Facilities have been historically limited to a small number of private sports clubs which is why the game hasn’t been widely available to the public. As of 2018, there are 15 actively used squash courts in Houston. 3 of these were built by Mission Squash in 2015 – the first squash courts ever built in a US public school.
Squash is the fastest growing racket sport in the US, with over 10 million players. Most of them are concentrated in the North East at present but as squash grows both nationally and at collegiate level, with over 80 Colleges and Universities offering funded places for squash student-athletes, this is rapidly changing.
Squash is currently represented at the Commonwealth Games, The Pan-American Games and the Asian Games. It has a Professional World Tour worth $6.5 million, a World Championship with a prize purse of $1 million, national and continental individual and team championships involving over 150 countries each year, and a compelling TV product in PSASquashTV. Tournaments are staged in spectacular locations like Grand Central Station New York, Hong Kong Harbor and the pyramids at Giza, Egypt. More than 15 million people in 180 countries play the sport across the globe.
Although squash is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, to the consternation of the squash community it has not yet been included in any single Olympic Games as a contested sport, although it has been shortlisted for inclusion several times.
In recent years, efforts have been stepped up to lobby for squash’s inclusion in the games.
Read more here >>.
The major professional events are broadcast in HD via the PSASquashTV platform, live and on demand. While this is a subscription service, there is a large amount of free content available on YouTube.
You can follow the latest tournament results from the Professional Squash Association Tour at www.psaworldtour.com
About The Mission Squash Program
From our dedicated site within Hogg Middle School we serve students grades 6 through 12 who have a clear and articulated need for free-of-charge after-school academic and athletic programming. Students joining the program must meet our socio-economic criteria, which are primarily based on TEA and Federal determinants of economic disadvantage, and pass through a rigorous selection process. Student families are a key part of this process, and all successful applicants are required to sign a detailed Family Contract that defines the parameters and commitments required of families and students. This includes the long term nature of the program, lasting to and through college years, minimum attendance requirements, family engagement and an articulated aspiration that every student will ultimately seek to enroll in a four-year college degree.
We identify and recruit students in 5th grade through a workshop process at three partner feeder schools, from where students are primarily zoned to Hogg Middle School. After the summer selection process, students begin the program full time in 6th grade and attend throughout Middle School. As scholars graduate to 9th grade, the majority attend Heights High School which is approximately 1 mile from Hogg. These students become part of our high school program, and are brought to program via the Mission Squash Shuttle bus. These students will remain in the program through college graduation and beyond.
Mission Squash is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The organization’s Mission is to provide academic and athletic enrichment services to underserved and economically disadvantaged populations.
Our eligibility criteria, along with a rigorous family selection process ensures that we are well positioned to meet our goals, and that the impact of every charitable dollar the organization receives is maximized.
Practice takes place year-round: after school on all full HISD school days, on weekends, and for a minimum of four weeks over summer.
A typical after school practice will be attended by up to 30 scholars, all of whom will participate in both Academics and Squash programming. Our high school students arrive at practice in the Mission Squash Shuttle bus, and our middle school scholars simply walk down the corridor to get to our facility, which is on the school campus.
After student sign-in and team briefing, the group splits into two “elements”, one of which will start Academics in the classroom, the other starting a warm-up for their squash practice. After one hour, the two elements will break for a healthy snack, and then switch activities for the remaining hour. After a session de-brief including important notices and awarding / deduction of Culture Points (the internal currency we use for rewarding positive social-emotional behaviors), class is dismissed and students are picked up by parents or guardians.
During some periods of the year, workshops, field trips, community service, fitness testing or other enrichment activities replace regular programming. All students, however, take part in a minimum of 100 hours of supervised Academics and 100 hours of squash annually, which is tracked closely by staff.
Weekend practice time is used for students requiring additional academic tutoring, for extra squash match practice, and as a way for mentors who are busy during the week to catch up with their Scholars.
All activities are staffed by professional educators and squash coaching staff, and supported by trained volunteers.
Please see the Academics page to learn about our Academics programming.
Please see the Squash page to learn about our Squash and Wellness programming.
Please read our Eligibility Criteria page for more details.
There are lots of ways to get involved!
- Donate – make a financial gift, donate used academic or squash equipment, pledge an auction item or donate in-kind support
- Attend an Event
- Work with students by Volunteering or Mentoring
- Volunteer a Special Skill
- Connect us with your organization for sponsorship or networking opportunities
- Join our Mailing List
- Join a Board, or one of our Advisory Boards
- Join Our Young Professionals Board
- Visit Us
- Contact Us
Mission Squash has been operating since 2012 but has grown significantly since 2015 when it built our Squash and Education facility within Hogg Middle School in the Heights – increasing the total number of students served from 15 to 60 in our Scholarship Program, and over 400 as part of our Cadets Squash PE program.
For more information see The Story So Far.
Our program is funded through a combination of private donations, support from local foundations, and corporate partners.
As we do not receive funding from the school district or federal support, we are at present the only after-school program in the Houston Independent School District which is offered free-of-charge to families.
In 2015, we partnered with the Houston Independent School District to build the first-ever squash and education facility within the campus of a public school in the United States. We converted an 80-year old auxiliary gym space within Hogg Middle School in the Houston Heights into a state-of-the-art facility, housing three international-specification squash courts, a purpose-built academic space and a program office.
Our on-campus location has enabled us to mitigate some of the transportation challenges that other urban squash programs have faced, and helped with student retention, discipline and academic integration.
Please check out our Visit Us page for more information.
Because our organization’s focus is to provide academic and wellness programming to students from underserved communities, at this time Mission Squash does not make its facility available for public use, or provide external squash coaching or programs (with the exception of our Elite Summer Camp.)
If you are a squash player or have experience in another racket sport, a great way to get involved with our program is to Volunteer as a coach or become a Mentor for one of our students. We also offer a rich Events Calendar which provides a number of opportunities to get involved with our program throughout the year, including our awesome ZanziBall multi-racket sport team tournament.