Canadian Inclusivity Squash Program debuts in Newfoundland


OTTAWA, ON, January 7, 2019 – Squash debuted its first-ever inclusivity program on Monday January 7, 2019 at the CBS Swimming Pool & Recreation Complex in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland.  Spearheaded by Squash Newfoundland’s Past President and squash pioneer Eric Hart in less than 8 months, the program has a long-term goal of taking this initiative across Canada in the future.

Squash Canada Past President Lolly Gillen, who also helped launch the grand opening said, “at the time Eric and I first discussed the idea of an inclusive squash program in May of 2018, there were a number of ways to go about it. There was always the option of Eric, as he originally intended, just running his own personal boutique "good will" program within his region of Newfoundland or, to consider how it could be a sustainable program with the potential of taking it national. This option would require it to have the ability to attract financial support, gain credibility and become a larger success. By the Fall we both saw a much bigger picture.”

Eric Hart has had years of experience working with disadvantaged athletes as the head coach of the Conception Bay South special Olympics softball team and assistant coach of their Special Olympics Table Tennis Program. Initially to help Hart, Gillen reached out to several countries around the world from Australia, Belgium, Norway to US Squash to learn about their inclusive squash programs only to come up empty handed. Only a few countries had active wheelchair squash programs. The goal now is for Eric and his assistant coaches to work with a group of mentally and physically challenged individuals in a flexible hands-on pilot program. It will be the concerted efforts of Eric, the assistant coaches, facility manager, participants, participants’ parents/guardians to record all their personal hurdles, successes, failures, experiences and suggestions.  This invaluable data will further help develop the recommended framework for a Canadian Inclusivity Squash Program (CISP).

From Squash Canada’s perspective, inclusivity was identified in 2017 as a national need by the Board of Directors, sparked by Shaun Thorson and Steve Wren. “Squash Canada applauds Eric Hart on undertaking this monumental initiative. We are extremely hopeful as a result of his pilot program to be able to provide and promote a recommended template to our Provincial/Territorial members so they too will start their own inclusivity program,” said Squash Canada’s President Steve Wren.

On behalf of Squash Canada, Gillen will collect all the data in order to develop a template outlining what Eric’s program experienced in financial needs, stakeholders’ expectations and requirements, equipment needs, court usage requirements to risk management steps. It will also include the collection of data from heart rate, flexibility, balance, range of motion, level of concentration, changes in concentration times to physical conditioning with the array of viable teaching techniques used depending on the participant’s specific physical and mental limitations. Some individuals may progress in their ability on the squash court while some may regress; however, players in the program will be not only be evaluated by their advancement in performance but more heavily by their advancement in enjoying our sport. 

“For now, the inclusivity program is still very much at a seedling stage, a dream, but through the hard work and dedication of Eric Hart and Lolly Gillen this much needed diversity for the sport of squash certainly has the chance to become a huge reality,” congratulated Dan Wolfenden, Squash Canada Executive Director.

To watch the CBC video segments of the program’s debut – Click Here

  • 1st Segment (06:31 – 6:49):
    • An early ‘teaser’ on the upcoming squash inclusivity program story
  • 2nd Segment (10:47 – 15:22):
    • Providing intro, player footage, interviews with Lolly and Eric
  • 3rd Segment (35:00 – 36:35):
    • Parent of a participant and what he’s getting out of the squash experience

Media Article via CBC News - Click Here

Media Article via Shoreline Newspaper – Click Here