New Club Going Off the Walls

Concordia Is Picking Up Racquets and Squash-ing Stereotypes

The Concordia Squash team practice their serves and hits at Club Atwater.  Sam Slotnick

Upon entering Club Atwater, with its mahogany staircases, carpeted floors and leather chairs, you would not expect to find one of Concordia’s newest and most laid-back athletic clubs.

But this country club is opening its doors to the eager and curious players who have formed the Concordia Squash Club.

“People are surprised to find out how many people play and are interested in playing at universities,” said Bernard Reid, a fourth year philosophy student and competitive squash player. Reid, who played for the Professional Squash Association and ranked 199th in the world in 2009, has thought about forming a club for the past few years.

It was not until he came together with Louis Marien, a long-time player, and John Fiset, who is new to the game but very enthusiastic about learning, that the club really came together.

For those who don’t know what squash is, it’s somewhat comparable to racquetball, with many principals similar to tennis. Two players with rackets are in an enclosed court; one serves to the other and the ball can bounce off the walls, but if it bounces more than once, the other player gets a point. Games are up to 11 points, and sets are the best three out of five.

The club, which is technically not yet a club, has submitted a constitution and mandate to the CSU and is hoping to be approved within the next few months. That has not stopped them from playing though, as they already hold practices every Friday evening at Club Atwater from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The team has already competed in the Eastern Sectionals at McGill in late October in a tournament against Queens, Université de Montreal, and McGill.

The squad placed third, but had an exciting encounter with UdeM. Tied 3-3 on sets, Concordia edged 158-157 on points.

The Squash squad has definitely been boosted by the arrival of Hussein Barakat—an international business student who was ranked in the top 10 at the under-19 level in Egypt, a country where squash is very popular.

Sadly, squash is no longer considered a varsity sport in Quebec, which is what has kept the club from obtaining the Stingers name. But this won’t keep them from competing, with a crossover tournament in Toronto planned later this month and another tournament in January.

Despite squash’s definite university following, the club’s founders are still frustrated with the lack of awareness surrounding the sport. Even though the World Squash Federation reported that a whopping 20 million people in 142 countries play squash, people are still clueless.

“It’s a great game and doesn’t get enough exposure,” said Marien. “You tell people you play squash and they’re like, ‘Is that that game with the walls?’ It’s somewhat frustrating but it’s good. Everyone we’ve introduced it to so far loves it.”

The club members are also fighting against misconceptions surrounding squash’s preppy image. Reid said he grew up playing squash at his local YMCA, and that the sport is pretty relaxed. “The university scene itself is pretty indicative of it being a much more casual sport than people think it is.”

For the club’s founders, it’s all about spreading awareness of a sport that they grew up with, and giving Concordia students a great opportunity to play squash. “We’re really interested in anyone who wants to take it up and play,” Reid said.

With over 15 people already showing interest, “hopefully that’s indicative of people wanting to get involved with it.”

Anyone is welcome to stop by the club’s practices on Friday evenings, regardless of their squash experience, as the clubs founders offer squash instructions at any level.

“We want to be able to offer some instruction and a way to meet other players and basically have more access to playing with more guys and more girls,” said Reid.

Prospective members can come to two practices before deciding to officially join the club. Once a member joins, he or she will pay a highly reduced Club Atwater rate, special to the Concordia Squash Club. Members get full access to Club Atwater’s facilities, in addition to discounts on food and drink.

And newcomers seem to enjoy squash pretty quickly. “I was told about [the club] and wanted to try something new and never played squash before,” said Mackenzie Remington, a JMSB student attending his first practice. “I gave it a try, and had a blast. It’s something really different. It’s going to take a little while to get used to it but it’s good.”

Practice is every Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 at Club Atwater