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Sports

New Hope for an Old Game

Alum lures squash champs to Boston-area contest

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David Palmer.jpg

Joe McManus (left) and David Palmer

No, the game of squash did not make the recent IOC cut of sports to be included in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Nor did it make the list of contenders for the 2016 Olympics. But those rejections have not dissuaded Joe McManus (CFA’95) from pursuing big plans for the small-popularity game.

McManus, founder of the organization U.S. ProSquash, hopes to create a new circuit for championship-level play, the type of play that is currently organized with some success by the Professional Squash Association. The sports impresario, who has worked as a political consultant and served as executive director of the American Diabetes Association, got into squash when he was the director of instrumental music at Groton School. He’s convinced that running a squash tournament is a lot like running a political campaign.

McManus’ first tournament, being played at Cross Courts, a three-year-old squash club in Natick, Mass., on three successive evenings, September 17 to September 19, has lured eight national squash champions from seven countries. The Cross Courts Invitational roster includes David Palmer, once ranked number one in the world (now ranked sixth), John White, another former world number-one, current U.S. champ Julian Illingworth, and five others known to serious squash players around the world.

The event is the first of many that McManus hopes to host.

“In the coming year, we’ll do five or six events in the major Northeastern cities,” he says. “We think 10 to 12 cities is our saturation point, and it will take two or three years to get to that level.”

And McManus has ideas about more than how to promote the game: he’d like to improve the game.

“I’m going to get rid of lets,” he says, referring to the practice of replaying a point if one player prevents another from getting to the ball. “The audience doesn’t like lets, and they don’t really understand what’s going on.”

To learn more about the Cross Courts Invitational, visit the U.S. ProSquash Web site.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

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