Note: Originally posted on http://ispsquash.com/
There is a new sport resurging in India- it is safe to say that squash is certainly making a comeback in the nation. Junior squash players in India are doing well internationally and are looking for exit options after the junior circuit. With bleak professional opportunities available, the most viable and rewarding exit seems to be “Universities in the US.” Interestingly, US is one of the only countries that allows a player to represent their university team and at the same time get a prestigious degree at top notch universities such as Harvard, Cornell, Princeton etc.
There are approximately 33 Men’s and 30 Women’s universities who actively scout for athletes around the world to join their team. Every squash team has 12-15 players (out of which 9 players qualify into the competition lineup in matches against other universities). Each year, coaches recruit 3-4 players to maintain a competitive team – giving 300-350 squash players from around the world the opportunity to study and compete in the US! Indian squash players have huge potential and are considered valuable recruits for the US university squash circuit. In the last 10 years, India has sent more than 60 students, both men and women, to US universities.
What makes Indian squash players so attractive to American coaches is that we have a lot more to offer in addition to our superb squash skills. Firstly, we come with the huge advantage of being educated in the English language, which makes it easier to transition into the American university system. Secondly, Indian students do considerably well in the SAT/ACT exams due to a high proficiency in Math and data interpretation.
So, a fair question is – what does it take to become a US university squash player? A student with a top 25-30 squash ranking in India and high grades in Class 9 and up (B+ to A- average) should consider leveraging their sport for better opportunities beyond high school. Few things to keep in mind are that each student should create a list of approximately 15 prospective universities and contact all the respective squash coaches. It is also advisable to identify one’s financial needs (if any) to a coach early in the conversation so that they can evaluate if they have the resources to admit you into the team and university.
In addition, potential students should select universities not just purely based on squash rankings, but also by looking at course of study, campus environment, community engagement etc. For example, I chose Cornell as it had a campus away from a big city, which gave me a feel of being close to my university friends without the fast-paced city life. At the same time, it offered me a competitive degree in Economics, where I had the privilege to attend classes under professors who were Economic Advisors to the Finance Ministry- and even the Prime Minister of India! The immense research opportunities at Cornell caught my fancy and the camaraderie among the squash team made it my dream university. I cannot fathom having attended any other institution. As I did, I believe everyone must make a list of all their priorities in order to better identify their “dream” university.
Lately, many athletes across India are recognizing the value in using a professional service to guide them through the complications that arise during their US university athletics recruitment process. I work at AddedSport – a sports management company that specializes in helping athletes across Asia leverage their sport to gain admission into top academic and athletic US universities. We help with applications, scholarship negotiations and identifying the “best-fit” universities for our athletes – on both fronts, academically and athletically. We are in constant communication with all US university squash coaches and they constantly express their eagerness to recruit squash players from India through us.
I believe that AddedSport is the much needed bridge between sports in Asia and US Universities. The door is wide open, and it is about time for our squashers to grab this opportunity with both hands!
– Rishi Jalan