A Harlem-based high school squash team has cemented itself in the sports history books. A collective of student-athletes from Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change will become the first all-Black squad to compete in the national championships, CBS News reported.
Historically, the nearly 200-year-old sport has lacked diversity. Within the United States, squash is often categorized as an “elitist” sport with courts harbored within private members-only clubs. Socioeconomic barriers have contributed to the lack of accessibility and exposure.
Aiming to change the narrative, the community-driven nonprofit StreetSquash empowers youth in Harlem through squash; leading programs that sit at the intersection of sports and education. “StreetSquash’s mission is to provide consistent, long-term, and reliable support to the children, families, and schools in Harlem,” read a statement on the nonprofit’s website. “By exposing students to a broad range of experiences and by maintaining the highest standards, StreetSquash helps all participants realize their academic, athletic, and personal potential.”
After playing the sport recreationally through the organization’s initiatives, students at Thurgood Marshall Academy petitioned to have the school create an official team so they’d be able to compete on a national level. Their passion for the game has taken them across the country and the world as they’ve competed in places like England.
The young scholars say their presence in the sport speaks volumes about the importance of representation. “We’re breaking barriers that haven’t been broken before,” student Diene Drame told 1010 WINS. “We’re really striving to do great, especially for our underserved communities in New York—especially Harlem. We really do want to bring awareness and bring exposure to some of the places that really do need it most.”
The team is led by Zimbabwe native Simba Muhwati who immigrated to the U.S. in 2005 to compete at the collegiate level. “If I don’t shed a tear, I’ll be shocked,” Muhwati told CBS News. “It’ll be probably the most proud moment of my career in squash. To walk into that facility with these young men is going to be super special.” The Thurgood Marshall Academy panthers currently have an 8-2 record within their league. They’re slated to compete in the U.S. High School Squash Championships in Philadelphia from February 24 through February 26.
Squash programs have been cultivated in inner-city communities throughout the country. In Philadelphia, the nonprofit SquashSmarts is on a mission to increase representation in the sport through exposure and education.
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