By Sarah Odell
Published Jan 10, 2011 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Jan 9, 2011 at 7:42 PM ET

Sarah Odell is a Wellesley alum and a board member of New York’s Metropolitan Squash Racquet Association.  She is helping to organize the Intercollegiate Squash Doubles Championships, which will be held March 11th – 13th at the University Club of New York. This will be the first year that there will be a doubles championship for women!  Please visit the Ketcham Cup (men’s Intercollegiate Doubles Championships) page for a history of the event.  For information about this year’s event, please see the Intercollegiate Squash Doubles Championship flier.

New York, NY — I was first exposed to doubles squash as a sophomore in college. The US Mixed Doubles Nationals were being hosted by the University Club in Boston, just down the road from where I was in college. I went to watch Narelle Krizek and Dave Rosen play Doug Lifford and Mary McKee in the finals. I was absolutely mesmerized by the frenetic movement of four people on a court, as well as the reverse corners and spinning cross courts that the four players batted back and forth to one another. I made it my mission at that point to learn doubles.

The biggest obstacle was that my college did not have a doubles court, and I was not a member of a club with a doubles court in Boston. However, I was fortunate enough to run into Jeanne Blasberg at an alumnae event, and she invited me to the University Club to learn doubles. If Jeanne had not invited me to learn doubles, I may never have picked up the sport. Now I want to do for other college squash players what Jeanne did for me.

On March 11th-13th, the University Club of New York will be hosting the Intercollegiate Doubles Championships for both men and women. The men’s event has been an important event on the national doubles calendar for several years, but this is the first time in several years that we are having a women’s event. I urge both male and female collegiate squash players to mark this event on their calendar, but particularly want to emphasize the importance of this new event for the women.

During my time with Jeanne, she served as the Chair of US Squash. One of the trends that Jeanne had studied was that while women made up 40% of US Squash membership through their college years, that percentage dwindled to 20% once women graduated. There are several factors for this: athletes are burnt out after junior and college squash, family obligations, career pressure, the expense of squash clubs. I’ve participated in several tournaments where it has been a struggle to put together a women’s draw. It is incredibly frustrating, but the only way for us to change this trend is to recognize it, and get younger players to change that trend. Doubles is the perfect way to do this, because it was built for women.

One of the things I desperately missed when I started playing squash was the camaraderie of playing a team sport like field hockey or softball. But you get that with doubles, which makes it a far more social sport. And for anyone who tells you it isn’t as good of a workout as singles, I assure you they haven’t played a competitive doubles match.

A very passionate group of volunteers are working to make sure that this year’s intercollegiate doubles is the best ever. With both a men’s and a women’s event, it will be a great weekend of squash and socializing. The University Club is offering rooms at an excellent rate, and the tournament will include a dinner on Saturday night. If this sounds like something you want to find out more about, grab a partner and sign up!