2020 Team Nationals Winners

High School

A Division
Boys – CitySquash Bronx
Girls – SquashBusters

B Division
Boys  – CitySquash Bronx
Girls – CitySquash Bronx

C Division
Boys  – Racquet Up Detroit
Girls – Squash Haven

Middle School

A Division
Boys  – CitySquash Brooklyn
Girls  – Capitol Squash

B Division
Boys  – CitySquash Bronx
Girls  – SquashSmarts

C Division
Boys  – SquashWise
Girls  – SquashWise

Elementary School

CitySquash Bronx

Academic Contest

Prompt A
Pick a Squash phrase or type of shot, and describe how it is a metaphor for the way you approach your life.

Prompt B
In 2018, StreetSquash alumnus Danny Cabrera gave a speech at Team Nationals where he spoke about failure. Please read the excerpt from Danny’s speech, then share a time where you were able to “fail forward and keep going.


High School
Julissa Mota
Capitol Squash

Life back home in Hartford compared to life here at Taft, a New England prep school, are two completely different worlds. I never imagined that my transition to boarding school would have been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. The experience was challenging, however, it pushed me to grow in aspects of my life outside of squash and academics. Capitol Squash has prepared me for the varsity level of squash and for tough classes at school, but it did not prepare me for the cultural and social aspect of going from a place like Hartford to one like Taft.

Let’s introduce my home, the south end of Hartford, CT. Minorities reside in the inner-city while predominantly White people surround them in the suburbs. I had spent my elementary and middle school years attending a school that was predominantly Black, Asian, and Latinx. I had never been to a place like Taft or a place where I noticed that I was the minority quite frequently. At Taft, everywhere I go, it is painfully obvious. On my way to classes, I see blonde girls wearing flimsy miniskirts and carrying expensive leather backpacks. At the welcoming ceremony on the first day of school, I counted the number of teachers of color on one hand. On the squash court, I saw no one like me. No one who looked like me and no one who came from a place like me. I felt alone and began to lack the feeling of belonging. I got in my head, and I had convinced myself that squash was not supposed to be a part of my life.

The sport of squash is unknown to my people back home. It was introduced to me by Capitol Squash when I was in the fifth grade. At that time, I did not feel weird about calling myself a squash player but now, I realize that a squash team consisting of Hispanic and Black kids, like Capitol Squash, is not normal. I had not realized how much of a White and preppy sport it was until I played for the Taft’s squash team. I remember being excited and in a competitive mindset the first week of varsity tryouts. I was on a streak beating all of the other girls trying out. I knew I was better than them and knew that it was all thanks to my love for the sport and the support I have received along the way.

I love squash with all my heart. Squash has provided me with many opportunities and it has opened doors for me. I am thankful for the sport and am passionate about it. My love for squash came to be because of the little things: taking the city bus with my friends after school, the long bus rides to and from squash tournaments, manhunt at Deerfield, and cracking jokes while doing homework at Trinity College. All those memories come to life once I set foot on the squash court. However, this passion and love for squash disappeared after the first few weeks of Taft’s squash season. I was discouraged because I did not have Capitol Squash with me, and because I had nothing in common with the rest of the girls on my new team. I began to believe that I did not belong on the squash court, and this pessimistic mindset affected me so much that my game began reflecting it. I placed 9 on the varsity ladder after being in a three-way tie, although I knew I was capable of playing between 3 and 5. Playing at the bottom of the line-up hurt me and led to a loss of self-confidence. I did not believe in my ability to play squash and certainly did not feel as if the sport was mine anymore. I felt as if I was nothing more than the token on the bottom of the squash team ladder and nothing more than a reason to claim that the Taft’s squash team was diverse.

I vowed to reclaim squash and my identity which had been lost as the season went by. Before games and practices, I repeatedly told myself that I had to prove myself to everyone on the team, which by the way never happened. I lost one challenge match and then two and then three, all the way up to the point where I had lost count. I did not have the strength to recover from the feeling of being unworthy and displaced. I dreaded every single squash match afterward because I felt weak and out of control. Because my emotions and doubts took over, I was never able to prove myself to my team. I had failed. I had failed my family, Capitol Squash, and myself.

Throughout the last few days of the squash season, I pointed out that my squash had not improved. This slack was a product from all the times on court in which I did not run for the ball and in which I had lost hope and convinced myself that squash was not for me. The season ended and I avoided any sort of self-reflection. I avoided it for the rest of the school year up until mid-May, specifically Taft’s Community Service Day. I had been assigned to clean the squash courts along with other squash players and my coach Mrs. Chandler. When I got to the courts, Mrs. Chandler assigned partners. I remember hearing the names come so swiftly out of her mouth, it was as if she had planned to make me her partner. It was so nerve-wracking knowing that she might bring up the whole squash situation. I did not want to address it because I was not ready to.

Mrs. Chandler found a way to bring it up. First, she asked about my squash plans for the summer, and then brought up S.E.A. and all the work its programs have done. She mentioned a prime example of a successful urban squash player, Raheem Logan. Mrs. Chandler explained that she had coached him at Canterbury and that he had a similar experience as me with squash and boarding school. Mrs. Chandler seemed to be well aware that I love the sport and that I was just struggling with it here at Taft. Her caring and encouraging words made me question my thoughts on her. There were many times in which she would watch me play and see that I was obviously upset, but would not say anything about it to me. This pushed me to believe that she did not care about me or my feelings. She then told me that she just wanted to give me space to reflect on my own, and most of all to find my voice and place here at Taft. After our conversation, I instantly felt connected to her and for the first time ever at Taft, I felt as if my love for squash was supported. Throughout the whole season, I felt as if nobody believed in me or my game, but in reality, Mrs. Chandler was cheering for me in silence. She chose to not push me athletically when I was not well mentally or emotionally. She cared more about me as a person than as a squash player and for this, I am so thankful to her.

Fast-forwarding to a few weeks ago, the beginning of my sophomore year, Taft was holding its first people of color affinity meeting. I went to affinity meetings hoping to find someone who was like me, and although the people I met were usually people of color, none of them were squash players. The squash component was important to me because the reason that I was struggling with my identity at Taft was my sudden disconnect from the sport that I was once so in love with. This time was different, I went and was surprised to see Raheem there. When I saw his face, my heart dropped and I instantly felt relieved. I was so happy to finally be with someone who had gone through the same experience as me. I immediately went to say hi and waited for the right time to start venting about everything. Raheem and I talked, and he gave me words of advice: he told me that I should be proud to be a squash player, and that I should stay strong and believe in myself. I knew Raheem before Taft. At tournaments, he would call me the best referee because when I made a decision, I would not seem phased or unsure of myself. He told me that I should have the same mindset on court. That when I played, I should not let my surroundings phase me or make me doubt myself. He told me that I had to believe in my ability to play squash even if I was the odd one out there, and most importantly to believe in my ability to represent Capitol Squash and S.E.A. as a whole.

Representing S.E.A. is difficult and I failed to do so during my freshman year at boarding school. I have come to accept that and promise myself that I will continue to try. I admire all the people who have represented our programs such as Raheem, and I think that it is important to note that his journey was not perfect – nothing is. Raheem’s journey consisted of him losing his identity, and then finding it to later on embrace it, just like I am trying to do now. I am excited to see how the squash season goes for me now that I feel mentally prepared for it. Just today, the Girls’ Varsity Squash team had a meeting. Last year, I remember that every time I saw my teammates, I would feel inferior and discouraged, but today, I noticed that I did not feel this way. Rather, I felt as if I was equal to them and just as good as them at squash. Hopefully, I will not fail as much as I did last year, but if I do, I am completely fine with it because from failure comes a lesson. I am no longer afraid of failure and am willing to play and lose a thousand challenge matches because as long as I keep trying and failing forward, I know I might win the match one after that.

Middle School
Jasmine Rodriguez

“Check your grip”. Those words haunt my life to this day. My squash grip would vary depending on which side of the court I was on. It wasn’t good, especially when I was playing a match. Due to my grip my wrist would “break”. Although it was irritating hearing those words, it has helped me both in squash and in life, by giving me something simple to focus on that can make a big difference.

This phrase can be used in life as a check up. For example, in math class when I’m solving an equation and don’t know how I got my answer, sometimes I have to back track. I “check my grip” by going back to the beginning and checking each step. By doing this I usually find what I did wrong. Another time this phrase has been helpful was in the loss of a family member. Last year, I lost my aunt during childbirth. Luckily, my baby cousin was ok. But at first, when I noticed something was wrong, no one wanted to tell me how she was even though I insisted. I knew they eventually had to tell me one way or another, but I was confused for a long time. Finally, my mom just came out and told me straight to my face. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. Even though I knew she wasn’t doing well at that hospital, I never expected her to die. This impacted me so much and my mind was running all over the place. But in that moment, I realized I needed to recollect my thoughts, to “check my grip”. My aunt and I were very close. Losing her was like losing a part of me. I am still processing it, but taking a moment to check my grip, really helped. Although this was obviously a difficult thing, I’ve actually had to deal with other difficult things personally. A couple months ago I was diagnosed as prediabetic. It was especially tough because my dad has Diabetes and my grandpa had died from it. My doctor said it was because I had gained a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I was very scared. I had to stop and think about what I was going to do. What were the simple things that could make a big difference? I came up with a plan to eat less per day and exercise more. Thanks to this I am proud to say I am no longer prediabetic. Checking my grip this time helped me change my life and maybe even save it. 

Just like how checking my grip has helped so many of my squash problems it has also applied directly to my life. The coaches used to have to tell me all the time to check my grip, but not anymore.

Elementary School
India Evans
Urban Squash Cleveland

The squash shot that I chose to describe how I approach my life is a back hand straight drive. I chose this shot because I think when you give somebody something nice or kind it will come back to you, just like a backhand straight drive. For example, when I was helping my friend on her work and I didn’t know how to do mine, she helped me out because I was kind enough to her previously. When you do something nice for somebody you, you get something back. 

Additionally, this squash shot can help you think about how you should treat people. It helps you think about how you want to be treated because if you don’t help people, you won’t be helped. 

I think people should help other people in need because they might be going through things that you might not know. One thing that was hard in life was when I was lost at the mall and then I could not find my mom. So I was looking everywhere until I found her. Eventually, I found her by going to security. I was really scared, but I was so glad to find her. This showed me that just like a back hand straight drive, good things can come back. 

The first time I did a back hand straight drive was when I was playing with me friend on the court. It was by mistake because when I was hitting the shot I was playing around and hit the left side of the court. It was surprising that I did it. I actually won the game with this shot and I was happy. My friend was surprised that I did it too. This was really special for me. 

In conclusion, the backhand straight drive is a lot like life. My life has shown me that good things can come back to you with strong effort. Additionally, my experiences have proven that the best things in life aren’t easy. Finally, if you are kind and respect people they will respect you, which is a lot like the game of squash.

Runners Up

High School
Crystal Pareja
StreetSquash Harlem

Every night I look over to see if my mom is still there because I am aware that these months might be my last with her.  I wake up scared, thinking that immigration agents might have taken her away overnight, but then I realize she is still here, so my day goes on. 

My mother was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when she was nineteen years old.  I am one of four siblings ranging in age from nine to twenty-five. We were all born and raised in the U.S and have citizenship.My mother started the process of applying for permanent residency eleven years ago.  The first lawyer she consulted with was after her money and did not do his job well. He filed for asylum instead of permanent residency. Every day we’d check the mailbox hoping that her green card had arrived, instead, we received her deportation order. My mother would wait for me to come home from school with a letter in her hand so I could translate. I grabbed the ripped-open envelope with the United States Immigration Services logo in the left-hand corner. I knew the day had come, and I did not want to be the one to confirm my mom’s biggest fear. I thought of the struggles my family would face without her presence.

The original lawyer took our money and disappeared. After searching for another lawyer for nearly a year, a neighbor recommended we contact the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem which provides free legal services. The lawyer they provided, Stephanie, mentioned that my oldest brother’s membership in the National Guard would make the judge view my mom’s application more favorably so we were hopeful.  In September 2017, her application for permanent residency was declined because the asylum case was never closed and a hearing was set for February of 2018. My mom nervously attended the hearing during which her lawyer asked for an extension to gather more information to prepare a stronger case. The judge agreed to set a final court date for April 2020 and the waiting game began. 

To prepare for the final hearing, I met with my mom’s attorney. The first day I met her, she warned me that this process would be challenging, especially because of President Trump’s policies. Stephanie was straightforward and said that she was not sure of how things would end up. We reviewed some common questions I would likely be asked during the hearing:

“Why do you want your mom to stay in America?”

“What impact would this decision make on you?”

“In what way has your mom shaped your life?”

“How would your life be different if your mom had to return to Mexico?”

They all felt like the same questions but with different wording and all created the same fearful feelings within me. The attorney told me that on the court day I would have to be very careful with my responses; the judge could potentially turn them against me. 

When I returned home from the meeting; my sister, my mother, and I came up with a plan. If my mom were to be deported then she would take my youngest brother with her to Mexico to raise him because my sister and I are, and will remain, in school full-time, and our father, who now has a new family, would not take responsibility for him. My mom promised she would either try to re-enter the U.S legally with my brother or let him come back on his own and be raised by my sister and me once we are done with our schooling. 

It is not easy to think that my mom’s court date is approaching and that from one day to another my life might change for the worst.  The anxieties and challenges I have faced through my mom’s deportation case have made me realize that things like these only happen for a reason and you can not let this keep you off track instead consume this and take it for motivation. This is how I failed forward and kept going. 

Middle School
Juelz Montas
Capitol Squash

I have always wondered what a day in the life of a surgeon is like. I want to go to college and medical school so I can become a surgeon and help save lives. I have done research on the profession and learned that if I want to become a surgeon, I need to start doing things now to prepare for my future.  I have learned that it will take hard work and dedication to become a surgeon, which is why I connect with the phrase “racquet up.” Racquet up means that I need to position myself to be prepared in order to become what I want to be, successful.

I have continuously been preparing for my future as a surgeon. Over the summer, I took a class where we had to research a career profession along with a college that offers the major.  I realized that I needed to prepare for my future now even though I am only in 8th grade. I need to start focusing on my grades and continue to take as many challenging math and science classes as I can. The math classes that I will need to take are Algebra 1 and 2 which I will eventually take in high school. The next courses above those levels are precalculus and trigonometry. These kinds of classes would create the base of my knowledge of different equations needed for pharmaceuticals. Right now, there are things that I have been doing to better prepare me in high school. I have perfect attendance at school now because it’s important for me to learn a lot everyday. I also have an A+ for all of my classes which is good because a lot of students don’t really put in the effort and have horrible grades. 

I was inspired by my aunt to become a doctor because she is a physical therapist.  My aunt brings me to her job so I can observe her working with her patients. She even tries some of her physical therapy techniques on me, like the time she had me take an EEG brain test.  It was really cool to try and I enjoyed it a lot. She tells me what it’s like to work in the medical field and about other duties besides seeing patients.  One of the most important obligations about being a surgeon is that they often have to give bad news to people. Surgeons have to be brave and show compassion in order to relay any bad news to their patients’ families. The way a surgeon handles the situation can impact their career.  They have to feel calm under pressure in order to perform surgery because there is always the possibility that something may go wrong. In that case, it would affect the patient’s health or even end his or her life. Like physical therapists, surgeons can work in different settings which interests me.

This relates to me because I am constantly under pressure. The last silver squash tournament I went to, I played a match and it was the quarter round. I was not warmed up and the referee decided to start the match. I lost the first game 11-0. This made me feel angry and frustrated because I felt like I was trying my best and he was putting me under pressure by not allowing me to first be physically prepared by warming up. I sat down afterwards and thought about what I could’ve done to overcome what I did wrong instead of getting mad. I have noticed that when I feel calm and don’t allow my emotions to control me, I do better even though I might lose. Once I become a surgeon I can think about the past and think about the times I felt under pressure and reflect on strategies to help me with surgeries. 

If I prepare for my future, I can become anything I want to be.  To become a surgeon, I will have to go through college and medical school which I know will be very challenging. It is possible for me to become a surgeon if I start preparing for it now. So, I have to remember to keep my racquet up and never give up! 

Elementary School
Clarke Harrison

The squash phrase I chose is a straight shot. A straight drive is when I hit the squash ball, or someone else feeds it to me, and I swing my racket underneath it. The ball then hits the wall and goes straight to the back of the court. The ball has to go straight back and it cannot go across the court or diagonal. The player should be facing the forehand wall. If you hit the ball in the wrong position, the shot could be out. A straight drive is a maneuver where if you hit the ball right it feels like a bunch of air is taking the ball straight behind me.

I picked straight drive because I like to move forward in life. I like to think of a straight drive as an opportunity going in front of me and taking advantage of it. Just like the squash ball, when chances appear, I always take it. I don’t focus on what I miss. If I keep a fixed mindset, I miss out on opportunities. I feel that if I get worked up on making horrible decisions, it doesn’t keep me going in life. But if I have a growth mindset, I have more confidence and it gives me better chances and opportunities in life. If I am tested in life, instead of giving up, I’m more likely to move forward and try to do better. 

In order to play well in squash, I have to stay focused. In my life I have been trying to focus on me. If I pay attention to others, I can get distracted and it prevents me from doing a good job. By politely asking my friends and peers around me to let me focus on my priorities and necessities, I can get better in my schoolwork and playing squash. In order to succeed, I need to keep a habit of focusing on my work and important after school activities instead of being on my phone and talking with my friends. 

This is a type of shot where if I missed the shot or it was out I don’t get mad because I know I can do better next time. To me, squash is an activity where I can let go of all my school work and be me and relax.