Please read below for a press release written by Squash Canada, in celebration of International Women’s Day. This press release comes at a time when sport organizations across the country have been encouraged to develop policies and practices that result in gender equity, increasing female participation in all areas of sport thanks to federal budget funding. At the provincial level, Squash Ontario has designated two female leaders (Liz McBeth from the Toronto & District Women’s Squash Association and Leah Desbarres from the Headwaters Racquet Club) to receive training on female sport participation, while the organization has gone through an audit and a subsequent consultation, identifying gaps in gender participation. We are excited to get to work on gender equity targets in the next few months!
Ottawa, ON, March 8, 2019 – In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Squash Canada fittingly turned to its most recognizable women on the international PSA (Professional Squash Association) Tour, to talk about their journey in becoming a top female squash player.
Never has Canada been so prominent around the world in the sport of squash with five women in the top 65 PSA World Rankings. As of the March 1st rankings, Hollie Naughton hit a career high #29, Sam Cornett was at #32, Danielle Letourneau at #36 (career high), Nikki Todd at #58 and Nicole Bunyan at #65. And it’s hard not to believe the best is yet to come as our women continue to improve and climb the ladder as they compete in some very prestigious events.
One of the common themes we heard throughout our interviews was that family played an integral role in getting our top women into the sport of squash. Hollie Naughton tells us her family was how she got into the sport as both of her parents play squash, but that they never forced her to play. For Sam Cornett, her parents would play on one court, lock her and her sister Alex into the other court to play with balloons. In the case of Danielle Letourneau, while her parents and grandparents all played squash, she felt her brother Dave was most influential as he would encourage her to work hard and reach her goals (even leading by example).
While squash players sometimes face challenges with squash being a smaller sport, it also has its positives as the community is very inclusive in its practices. As a result, our top women all grew up in environments where they were encouraged to play with the top players in their region, regardless of gender. This created opportunities for Sam, Danielle and Hollie in their younger years as they were able to compete and train alongside the top junior boys as well as adult players.
What impact do you feel you are having on the sport in of Squash in Canada and Worldwide?
Danielle Letourneau: The more women we have playing squash, the more encouraging it is to young girls to pick up a racquet and play. By being involved in the local squash community, watching junior events, and playing leagues, we help show how fun squash can be. It is such a social sport and the women on our National Team are great ambassadors for squash. They are social and play with class. Right now, on the pro tour, the women are climbing up the rankings, with three of us in the top 30. We have a lot of momentum, which is being showcased more on SquashTV and through online streaming. Hopefully this inspires other girls to pursue their dreams of squash.
Sam Cornett: Doing what I love to inspire other girls to do the same, hoping young girls can see how much you can enjoy competing on a high level. Even if you choose not to, just know that you are capable of doing it.
Hollie Naughton: I hope I’m having an impact on someone where I am growing the sport and getting more females involved such as trying to help get juniors involved in the sport. I try to lead by example for young athletes and show them they can compete internationally and take it to the next level.
What advice would you give to a young female squash player?
Sam Cornett: Do what you want and work really hard to achieve what you would like to achieve. Make yourself better on the way.
Danielle Letourneau: While it can be intimidating at first, I strongly encourage young female players to reach out to other people in the squash community regardless of their age or gender. There are so many people who will hit with you and give you great advice. It will both help raise your game, [and develop] great social skills, and a strong network.
Hollie Naughton: Always give it your best, take advantage of the fact that there may not be as many females playing, train with the top players regardless of gender.
Why do you think it is important to have female leaders in squash like coaches, officials, volunteers, etc.?
Danielle Letourneau: Having role models and leaders within sport is essential because it shows others that there are many ways to be involved in the squash community. Having more women in squash attracts others to the sport.
Hollie Naughton: In any sport you need role models and leaders who will step up for equal representation. It’s important in all fields. We have been lucky in the squash world with people like Nicol David who is such a strong role model for young players. Sherbini and Raneem speak highly of the influence she had on them. Having Females in these key roles shows others that it is possible.
Sam Cornett: It is important on a couple of levels. First, so the female perspective is in those situations, as it helps encompass those athletes in decision making. Second, it is also important as when you see someone else doing something, it legitimizes it. It makes it seem more possible and realistic.
Squash Canada reports that much remains to be done towards gender participation balance in squash across the country and in every role. National stats reveal an approximate 25% female participation rate.
“We are thankful for so many terrific female role models in our sport, like Hollie, Sam and Danielle and many others,” remarked Dan Wolfenden, Squash Canada Executive Director. “But collectively, we need to do more, to create a more inclusive and welcoming sport environment for females. We will be a stronger sport for it, a stronger group of squash organizations, and indeed, more Canadian.”
For more information on International Women’s Day 2019:
International Women’s Day Website: Click Here
Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity Website – Click Here