More than 30 West Hartford Public Schools middle school students had a chance to play squash this winter through a club sport.
By Ronni Newton
Squash is becoming increasingly popular in West Hartford Public Schools.
The racquet sport – not the vegetable – has been a club sport in West Hartford’s middle schools for two years now, and this season just concluded with a very successful jamboree Saturday at Trinity College in Hartford. The West Hartford students had a chance to play middle school teams from around the state, including Darien, New Canaan, and Capitol Squash, club organizer Nicole Moleti said.
Squash has a reputation of being only for the “country club” set, and so many families and kids don’t know anything about it, said Moleti.
While many public schools in Fairfield County have squash teams, in the Hartford area the sport has mainly remained in the purview of the private schools. That’s despite the fact that Trinity College, which has one of the top squash teams in the country, is right down the road.
“It’s great for the kids to do in the winter, and a great option for middle school kids through the public school system,” she said. West Hartford residents Amy and Jay Sarzen, along with several other parents, have been instrumental in getting the program up and running and administering it, said Moleti.
While Moleti graduated from Kingswood Oxford and knew something about the sport, she never personally played squash. She still doesn’t play – but the rest of her family members, including her husband, are now avid devotees.
Moleti’s oldest son, who attends King Philip Middle School, developed an interest in the sport through some friends from Kingswood, so he started taking lessons and has been part of the West Hartford Middle School Squash Club for the past two years. When he goes to Hall High School this fall, she’s hoping that he and the other club members who will be heading to high school will start a combined Hall/Conard team. Avon High School has already organized a club program.
In its first year, the middle school club was based out of Kingswood Oxford’s Wyvern Squash Club in West Hartford. This year the club outgrew that facility, Moleti said, and when the season began in October 2018, they began using Avon Old Farms as home court.
“We were thrilled when Avon Old Farms invited us to use their court,” said Moleti.
The cost per participant was $200, for a program that ran from October through early March. “We’ve worked really hard to negotiate and keep the price down,” said Moleti. It works out to less than $40 per month.
Participation included one session of instruction per week with Avon Old Farms coach Josh Cardwell, one session of open play per week, five matches, and open membership which allows them to use the Avon Old Farms facility whenever its available.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” she said. Cardwell has done a great job with the kids.
The participants, most of whom had never picked up a squash racquet, have had great success. “We won our first match [a few weeks ago] against Renbrook. It was so exciting that we won,” Moleti said.
She said that one team member did have extensive prior experience, and is nationally-ranked. He will be going to Hall next year.
“The whole point is to invite the community to participate, learn more, and try a sport that’s traditionally seen only at country clubs and prep schools – to provide open access and show that it’s not just a rich kid’s sport,” said Moleti. Although there are dozens of different sports leagues in town, there aren’t many team sports sponsored by the middle schools. “This is one great option,” she said.
Avon Old Farms will host the West Hartford Middle School Squash Club again next year, which is open to boys and girls in grades 6-8. As some of the original participants, and parent, age out of the club, she’s hoping to build momentum to continue to grow the program.
A “Discover Squash” program will be held in early October, before the season begins, inviting potential participants to come try the sport for free.
Anyone interested in getting on the mailing list for information about the West Hartford Middle School Squash Club should contact Moleti at [email protected]
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