Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

January 9, 2014

Building kings on and off court

Andover group helps establish local SquashBusters Program

Lawrence has basketball, baseball, soccer and football programs in place to hopefully give boys and girls something to do, teach a little teamwork and possibly inspire them to take that passion to other areas of their lives.

Well, thanks to some prodding from a few Andover residents, there’s a new youth sport in town, one that might surprise most, if not all, of its residents:

Squash.

That’s right, squash, the sport of kings, or at the very least the sport of elite prep schools and colleges in the country.

The same sport Forbes Magazine tabbed as “the healthiest sport” to play a decade ago.

In fact, the “Ivy League” sport is not only here, but after a $250,000 fundraiser a few weeks ago in North Andover for the SquashBusters Program, it appears to be setting roots for a long time coming.

SquashBusters was founded in 1996 as the first after-school program of its kind in the U.S. — combining squash, academics and community service. The organization’s aim was to serve students from Boston and Cambridge public schools through the “most crucial years” of their development, with the goals of building strong personal character, pushing students to matriculate to and graduate from college and improving the overall physical and emotional health of youths.

SquashBusters is under the growing umbrella of the National Urban Squash and Education Association, with similar programs in Harlem, Newark, Bronx, Philadelphia, New Haven, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and in a handful of California cities.

Three summers ago, Phillips Andover squash coach Tom Hodgson was visiting SquashBusters founder Greg Zaff at their alma mater, Williams College in Williamstown, and they began talking about the program.

“We were talking about the need for additional afternoon programming for kids in Lawrence,” Hodgson said. “We talked about the opportunity to put our students (from Andover) and the area squash community in contact with our neighbors in Lawrence. It was exciting.”

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