Bonsor to host women's squash night event

It isn't a glass ceiling that's limiting the growth of women playing squash; Burnaby rec centre serves up intro experience as part of province-wide initiative

Behind a glass wall, the intensity and speed of squash is contagious.

It’s getting people to take that step and to realize that Burnaby’s Bonsor Recreation Complex has a fine array of courts that is often the biggest hurdle.

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That’s why Bonsor is taking a bite out of the boundaries that block people, particularly females, from the sport by offering a free session Sept. 18 as part of Women’s Squash Week.

Kelli Tibbles, program coordinator at Bonsor, said the event will provide a variety of opportunities for those looking to learn more or improve their skills.

“We have two coaches who will be doing introductory sessions for squash for women who attend, from how to hold the racquet, rally points and tips and tricks,” said Tibbles.

Bonsor, which has three women’s teams that compete in the Vancouver Squash League, is one of the few public facilities east of Vancouver with squash courts. The recreation complex boasts three courts and is fairly busy.

Getting females to try the sport, and retain those who do, is a challenge that Squash BC is hoping to conquer, said Sue Griffin.

The chair of Women’s Squash Week, Griffin said the game has so many great elements that it’s biggest obstacles are exposure and court space.

“It’s an incredible social sport,” said Griffin. “You could ask anyone who plays, it’s very similar to rugby in that you can travel anywhere, call the local club, set up a game and then find yourself sitting and socializing with new friends afterwards.”

B.C. has approximately 33 registered clubs, with a majority of them in Greater Vancouver and Victoria. But many newer squash courts are privately built and thus off Squash BC’s radar. At the same time, other facilities, like the old Blue Mountain Racquet Club in Coquitlam, which was razed years ago, were lost to the high price of real estate. Still others, like Simon Fraser University’s squash courts, saw a reduction in courts.

Getting people, the young and old alike, to give it a try is the best way to grow the game.

“Squash isn’t any different than any other sport,” Griffin said. “If they start playing at a young age, they fall in love with it. The next challenge is retaining them.”

The benefits of the game are many, so Squash BC business development coordinator Joanne Veltri feels events like the one Bonsor is hosting as part of Women’s Squash Week (Sept. 16 to 23), can only help spread the word.

“This particular campaign really is absolutely vital for an amateur sport (organization) like Squash BC. We really work hard to encourage the clubs to create their own programs, and I support the efforts that places like Bonsor are making,” said Veltri.

Some clubs in other parts of the province are trying ways to reach out to middle and high schools by forming junior leagues and offering introduction sessions.

The Burnaby rec centre already offers lessons for youth ages eight to 12, and men and women, noted Tibbles. She feels the sport provides a great balance for women who are looking for camaraderie and exercise.

Veltri concurs.

“I’ve never seen people sweat so much, burn more calories,” said Veltri. “For Women’s Squash Week, we sort of spin the angle that this is one of the most time-efficient sports. If you want to lose weight, want to be more fit and don’t have a lot of time, you can put two games a week and it’s going to give you more fitness value than if you went to the gym three to five times.”

The Bonsor program runs Sept. 18, 6 to 8 p.m.

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