JAYLIN KIM/THE VARSITY

What is it about the clinically-white, box-like squash court that has made so many students pick the sport up recreationally? The Varsity sat down with some of the most squash-crazed students on campus to finally understand this obsession of nearly pandemic proportion.

Mickey Ainslie-Holmes and Michael Davidson, third-year students at UTSG, are both critically affected by this craze. Coming into the interview, the two set aside backpacks that had squash handles sticking unceremoniously from them; incidentally, they were on their way to the courts right after.   

“We started playing within the first few weeks of second year, mostly on a whim,” explained Ainslie-Holmes. “Neither of us had been very athletic in our first year, and I wanted to learn a new sport,” he continued. “We took a basic squash course together at Hart House, and it was quite good and cheap.”

Both had very different reasons of affinity for the sport. Whereas Ainslie-Holmes had stuck around for how cerebral squash is, Davidson has been using it as a welcome alternative to the monotony of the gym. “I don’t like working out at gyms, I don’t like running, I don’t like physical activity for the most part, but I do like games,” he admitted. And while other games like soccer or volleyball would require him to coordinate with dozens of other people, “If you can find your one squash partner, you’re down at the courts, and in and out in an hour.”

It’s worth mentioning that squash doesn’t exist exclusively as a niche interest for undergraduate men; it’s also a varsity sport at U of T. Rhea Dhar is a squash player in her third year on the team, and is ranked fifth nationally for her age category. Naturally, she has a much more regimented and competitive history with the sport than recreational players.

“I started the way most [players] start when they’re young; my parents played and they put me in lessons… I played in a few tournaments and started getting really into it when I saw myself improving.”

Since starting her U of T squash career in her first year, she has risen to the top position on the team. Needless to say, Dhar has been involved in the squash scene for a while, and has come far within it.

Dhar also confirmed the notion that squash has had a recent recreational boom. “I’ve seen a great increase in the usage of the courts, especially this year, and I think that it’s mostly from recreational players who just love the sport.” She thinks that the reason university students like Ainslie-Holmes and Davidson are especially attracted to squash is because it’s a cheap, fun, and social way to work out. “You can play for an hour, and the time flies by because of how much fun you’re having, and at the same time you’re having a great workout.”

There is also hope, according to Dhar, for students’ fringe interest to become a viable athletic pursuit. “The squash club was created by one of the players on our team, because she wanted a place for beginners to come and learn to play and have fun. I think it brought in a lot of good players who can probably try out for the varsity team in the future!”

The consensus seems to be that for university students looking for a cheap and fun way to get active with friends, squash is the way to go. With the university subsidizing the cost of court fees, and with the sport growing at exponential speed, it may be time to grab a racket and see what all the hype is about.

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