The Philadelphia Public League marked the end of its inaugural squash season with its culminating individual and team championships, February 21-23, at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center.
US Squash, SquashSmarts and the Philadelphia School District partnered to introduce squash into the Philadelphia Public League’s roster of sports with the Specter Center and SquashSmarts Lenfest Center serving as the homes for practice and and match play over the last two months.
The PPL created six new squash teams drawing from seven schools, including the Masterman School, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Esperanza Academy, Science and Leadership Academy Center City and Beeber, George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science and Parkway West High School.
The inaugural PPL championships featured boys and girls individual and team finals.
The girls individual final was an all-SLA Beeber affair with Destine McCleary edging her teammate Kaylin Johnson in four games. Carver No. 1 Zachery Greene earned the boys individual title without dropping a game, defeating Masterman’s Ajay Sheth in the final.
Masterman swept the team competitions with the girls team defeating Girls’ High 7-0, and the Masterman boys claiming a narrow 4-3 victory over Carver.
“I didn’t expect for this to happen, it’s really amazing,” said Tracey Tooke, Masterman Head Coach. “The boys and the girls soaked up all of their squash instruction like a sponge this season. Most of them had never stepped on a squash court and now they have legit squash games. The progress has been fantastic over the last eight weeks, going from not knowing what a squash racquet is to being part of a squash team. Sakora Miller from US Squash did a fantastic job making that happen. The kids and I are all thrilled. Now that we’re a part of this amazing facility and squash community that has been so welcoming, there’s so much opportunity here and we’re building an army of squash players and new programs. We’re looking forward to defending our titles next year already.”
The PPL aims to add more schools and teams next season, as well as welcoming the introduction of a middle school league. The PPL players will be able to hone their squash games over the off season with community memberships and opportunity to take part in free clinics twice a week.
“It was incredible first season of the Philadelphia Public League and we’re so grateful to the school district and every single player, parent, coach and school administrator who made our inaugural season a reality,” said Sakora Miller, Senior Manager of Community Squash Programming at the Specter Center. “These kids were able to learn the values of sportsmanship and respect, and what it means to represent their schools as a part of a team while learning a new sport. It was so special to watch them fall in love with the sport and to see how far they’ve come from picking up a racquet on day one to supporting each other as a team at the championships this week. There is so much potential for the youth of Philadelphia here and we can’t wait for next season.”
“Middle and high school squash is perhaps the single most impactful program we have now, and will likely be for decades to come,” said Kevin Klipstein, US Squash President & CEO. “It’s really gratifying to be able to model the start up of a public school league at the Specter Center. We really appreciate the Philadelphia School District’s support and trust, SquashSmarts’ early role in this, and Sakora’s hard work in making it happen. This initiative helps us fulfill our vision and that of the Specter Center in serving as an example of what’s possible all across the country.”
View photography from the PPL championships on the US Squash Smugmug page.