Squash requires discipline and commitment to a positive lifestyle that will facilitate the development of those who play it. It offers broad benefits for both body and mind and is the hook to engage students, keeping them motivated to develop academically. Fundamentally it is a means of imparting life lessons about character, a healthy lifestyle and the importance of education.
Developing squash skills has been likened to learning the violin: success depends on developing muscle memory and perfecting technique by practising over and over. However, unlike playing the violin, the beauty of squash is the instant gratification it provides. The game is essentially played in a room, in a four-wall space, where you are permitted to hit the ball off any of the walls, or combination of walls, just as long as it also hits the front wall. Combined with a range of balls to accommodate all abilities and levels, squash is therefore a racket sport with a large margin for error - invaluable when introducing a new physical activity to beginners.
The squash court is a forum for learning skills such as discipline, confidence and leadership. Like all sports, squash can teach core principles such as tolerance, cooperation and respect; it also teaches the value of effort and how to manage success as well as failure. In the context of our specific aims, the sport of squash represents a very powerful tool for accomplishing our mission and realizing our vision.
The nature of squash makes it complementary to other sports whether individual or team-oriented. Physically, intellectually and geometrically demanding, squash requires a high level of technical skill with shots that consist of multiple angles, speeds and all four of the court’s walls; it has a strong claim to being the chess of racket sports. Squash places a high value on sportsmanship, friendship and teamwork and is played throughout the world by university graduates and professionals. Once facilities are readily available, it is in fact a low-cost sport that allows for year-round participation.
Played in 175 countries by an estimated 20 million people on approximately 50,000 courts, it is a sport that travels extremely well and therefore lends itself to intercultural exchange opportunities. The potential value of squash to any individual who commits to it is vast. Given there are no age, size or physical strength limitations, it is a life-long sport.
On the court, practice is a combination of fitness, drills, and playing. Side-by-side instruction is an ideal basis upon which to develop skills and character, in an environment that whole-heartedly embraces the values of honesty, sincerity and integrity. As an individual sport it also assists each child in measuring their own progress. The ability to maintain discipline, control and composure in the face of adversity, not becoming flustered when the body and mind are under pressure, flows from the game of squash. Having a strong presence in universities, it is uniquely suited to our mission and sends a very subtle message of belonging to those children involved.
Sport as a whole
Viewed in its broadest sense, sport encompasses all forms of activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction. It is therefore a highly effective means of achieving social mobilization. We know that the practice of sport is vital to the holistic development of young people, helping to develop their physical and emotional health and building valuable social connections. Like most sports, squash is a recreation as well as an organized casual and competitive game. It offers opportunities for play and self-expression which are of particular importance for young people with very few other opportunities in their lives. Sport as a whole helps young people to avert the lure of harmful anti-social actions. In addition, there is evidence of clear correlations between physical education programmes and improved academic performance.
Sport as a whole offers us practical solutions to barriers that divide societies, promoting social integration and fostering tolerance. By helping to deliver equality of opportunities in schools the Irish Sports & Education Association hopes to reduce socio-economic tension and generate positive dialogue among all stakeholders.
Selection of Squash Link Participants
Owing to the length and intensity of our commitment to selected students, we will work hard to ensure that those chosen will be committed to Squash Link over the long-term. Formal assessment will include an evaluation of the participant's commitment to playing squash on a social and competitive basis, team-building exercises and interviews. Additional selection factors will include parental involvement, effort, attendance rate, teacher references, overall attitude, character and athletic ability.
Enthusiasm and the capacity for hard-work combined with an adventurous spirit are highly desirable traits. Prospective participants must demonstrate a genuine sense of exploration and competitive drive. Motivation is therefore very important. Once programme participants are selected, Squash Link staff will meet individually with those successful, as well as their teachers and where possible, family members, to lay out the programme and explain what is expected of all involved.
Our first group of participants joined us in November 2015 - the commencement of an ongoing selection process. We aim to launch our first Squash Link programme with a boy/girl ratio of 1:1 consisting of 24 fourth, fifth and sixth class primary school and first year secondary school students from inner and south city Dublin, as and when selection has been completed and funding is in place.