Fitness and Fun for Life
Forbes Magazine ranks squash first for
fitness among 10 leading sports.
Players of all ages can attest to the fun.
Originating as 'racquets' in the early 1700s in London's Fleet prison for debtors, where a
ball made of tightly wound cloth was hit against a stone courtyard wall with crude wooden
racquets, today squash is played in 153 countries on over 50,000 precisely designed
four-wall courts by an estimated 15 million people using highly engineered racquets and a
soft composition ball. Because of its growing popularity worldwide, squash is scheduled to
make its debut as a medal sport at the 2012 Olympic Games.
A Century of Dayton Squash
The heart of the local squash program is the Dayton Squash
Center, which was built in 1999 by dermatologist Dr. Tom Olsen. Initially housing three
international courts, the Center added two courts in late 2000, making it one of the
finest community squash facilities in the nation. The Center is site of many events-the
local Dayton City, inter-city matches with Cincinnati and Columbus, the Midwestern Junior
Championships, the national Revenge of the Baby Boomers, and the EBS Dayton Open featuring
leading men and women professionals from around the world. Playoffs to select the U.S.
team for the Men's World Team Championships to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan in December
will take place at the Center on October 7-9.
Until construction of the Center, Dayton players used
narrower courts designed for the hardball game, which began giving way to the
international game in the early 1990s. Hardball courts were located principally at the
YMCA (two courts), the Dayton Racquet Club (two courts, one of which was widened), and
Wright State University (four courts). Perhaps as many as 300 players used these courts,
which were also location for an active league and many tournaments. Because the
international game, with its softer and slower ball, couldn't be played satisfactorily on
hardball courts, the number of local players declined to around 50 over approximately a
The Center quickly revived interest while introducing the
'new game' to scores of players. In addition to the dedicated men who continued to play
during the transition period, there are men who hadn't played before, women, and boys and
girls. Whole families play now. The number of players is once again approaching 300. While
most members of the Center come from Dayton, many come from outlying communities,
including Troy, Springfield and Cincinnati. Squash has been played in Dayton for
approximately 100 years. Its roots can be traced to "The Playhouse", a private
recreational facility on the grounds of the original Talbott home on Runnymede Road, which
had two courts until it was razed after World War II due to contamination caused by
research performed on the atomic bomb.
The home built by Nelson Talbott Sr. on Runnymede in 1927
was designed with a court in the basement that could only be accessed by a removable
ladder. After the war, he formed a fanciful group, the Runnymede Athletic Club, which had
no fees and a membership consisting only of a dozen or so close friends who reveled in the
game of squash and the hospitable and fun-filled environment. The club's motto,
"Semper Skunkus", was also Nelson's creation, and it was emblazoned on a
striking patch adorning the green blazer required of each member. No one ever said whether
the motto meant that members always ':skunked' - that is, shut out - their opponents, who
consisted of like-minded players in cities throughout the Midwest, or were always skunked
by them. The 'club' didn't long survive Nelson's death in the early 1950s. Squash has
always been known for the pleasure it offers and the friendships it engenders. And because
it requires quick decision-making as well as fast movement and abundant stamina, it is
often described as 'the thinking man's game.'
The international court, how to play and keep score, and
The standard international court is 32 feet long and 21
feet wide for singles play, in which two compete, whereas the doubles court is the same
length but 25 feet wide to accommodate four players.The tin is 19 inches high except for
men's professional play, when it is lowered to 17 inches. The front-wall line is 15 feet
high and the back-wall line 7 feet high. The top of the service line is 6 feet high.
Play begins when a player serves from either service box,
although usually it is the right box, and hits the ball against the front wall in the
space between the service line and the front-wall line so that it lands in the opposite
quarter court. The receiver may take the ball on one bounce or on the fly and must return
it in the air to above the "tin" along the bottom of the front wall.
A ball may be struck directly against the front wall or
against a side wall or even the back wall so long as it reaches the front wall above the
tin without touching the floor or ceiling. Play continues in this manner until one player
loses the point by striking the tin with the ball, hitting the ball above a wall line,
failing to return the ball before it bounces twice, or simply hitting a shot that dies or
missing the ball altogether.
A server who continues to win points alternates between the
The nine-point scoring system, which is the most common,
allows points to be won only by the server. If there is a tie at 8 points, the winner is
the first to reach 10 points.
Matches are based on five games, with victory going to the
first person to win three games.
The ball used most today is 11/2 inches in diameter and
black while the racquet is 27 inches long and comes in many head shapes.
Squash derives its name from the sound that the ball makes
when struck hard against the front wall. A ball can reach a speed of over 100 miles per
Leading the way over 50 memorable years
After completing his medical studies in the mid-1950s, Dr.
Doug Talbott returned to Dayton and won the Dayton City tournament many times. He was on
the board of the U.S. Squash Racquets Association, the first Daytonian so to serve, and
organized play between Dayton teams and those in other cities. 'Doc', as he is known among
friends, started the modern era of Dayton squash and in recent years has become a fixture
in the Atlanta squash program.
In 2002 he was the first recipient of the Dayton Squash
Racquets Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He received a similar award from the
USSRA in the same year.
Phil Skardon won five titles in three divisions in the
All-Ohio Tournament, which he founded in 1965, and was runner-up to Tom Shulman in local
tournaments numerous times in the 1970s. He was on the USSRA board, is a long-time officer
of the Dayton Squash Racquets Association, and has often captained or co-captained the
Dayton team in its annual match against Cincinnati, known as the Collopy Cup, which he
helped start. More recent wins are in the 60+ and 70+ divisions in the national Revenge of
the Baby Boomers Tournament, held annually at the Dayton Squash Center. Phil received the
DSRA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Tom Shulman has won more titles over more years than any
other Dayton player, beginning in the early 1960s and continuing to the present. He won
the Dayton Racquet Club A-Division title 18 years in a row and was a regular city champion
from the 1960s through the 1980s. He also held six titles in the All-Ohio under-40
division and won the Jacobs Invitational in New York in both of its divisions, the 40+ and
50+. Tom has been nationally ranked every year for more than 40 years. He has also been a
Baby Boomers titleholder in the 60+ division. He was the third recipient of the DSRA
Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2004.
Chuck Spear has been ranked nationally in several
divisions. He consistently competed in the finals against Tom Shulman in the Dayton City
and Racquet Club tournaments in the 1980s and '90s and has won titles in several All-Ohio
and more recent Ohio Open divisions. Chuck is also the winner of several divisions in the
Baby Boomers Tournament. He has been a member of the USSRA board and the DSRA board. He
often organized the Dayton City tournament and has served as captain of the Dayton team in
the Collopy Cup. Chuck has been chosen to receive the DSRA Lifetime Achievement Award for
Pat Rini played initially in Dayton but became a nationally
ranked player only after moving to Atlanta. Upon his return in the mid-1990s, he laid
claim to best Ohio player for a half dozen years while leading Dayton players. Besides
winning the Ohio Open in several divisions, he has captured the City and Dayton Racquet
Club titles. He also represented Dayton in city-to-city matches in the No. 1 slot but now
plays a strong No. 2 behind Mark Brady.
Currently Dayton's leading player, Mark Brady has made
quickness pay off. He has won divisional titles in the Baby Boomers tournament as well as
in many Ohio tournaments. Besides winning consistently at the local level, he has been a
strong contender in the U.S. Nationals and has been nationally ranked in several age
groups. Mark is a partner in EBS Asset Management, which is the principal sponsor of the
professional Dayton Open.
A world-class professional tournament: The EBS Dayton Open
For a week each January at the Dayton Squash Center, many
of the world's leading squash players take part in the EBS Dayton Open.
Beginning in 2001 with a purse of $10,000, and for men
only, the event offered $50,000 in 2005, $40,000 for the men, and $10,000 for the women,
who were playing for the first time. The men's field consisted of 27 players, including
six of the world's top 10 players, three of whom have held the world No. 1 ranking. World
No. 3 and tournament No. 1 seed Peter Nicol, of England, defeated world No.10 and No. 2
seed Amr Shabana of Egypt, three games to none in the finals. Among the 22 women were two
of the world's top 10 players. The women's final was also 3-0, with Linda Elriani of
England, the No. 1 seed and world No. 6, defeating world No. 10 and No. 2 seed Omneya
Abdel Kawy of Egypt.
A thriving juniors program: The Dayton Challenge
During the 2004-05 season, 127 middle-school students took
part in the Dayton Challenge juniors program sponsored by the Miami Valley Squash
Foundation at the Dayton Squash Center and directed by professionals Charlie Johnson and
Julian Wellings. Challenge members travel each year to the Ohio State Junior Invitational
in Cincinnati and the Deroy Junior Invitational in Birmingham, MI and play in the
Midwestern Juniors Championships at the Center.
Two Dayton juniors, Brad Spiegel and Andy North, have been
the strongest players in this division. Brad defeated Andy in the finals in Cincinnati (he
also won in Birmingham against another player). Andy turned the tables in the Midwestern
Juniors, winning 3-0 over Brad. In the 2005 Baby Boomers tournament, Brad was a finalist
in the 3.5 skills-level division, while Dayton junior Herbie Gross won the 3.0
skills-level division final over another Dayton junior, Simon Carr. The Dayton Challenge
began in 2002 with 86 participants. Another 30 or so elementary and high school students
play at the Center.
The Dayton Squash Racquets Association
The Dayton Squash Racquets Association oversees the local
It has recently organized an on-going members-only
tournament in cooperation with the U.S. Squash Racquets Association. It also organizes the
Dayton City Tournament and inter-city matches, both of which are of many years' standing,
and arranges an annual awards banquet and other social events. It sponsored this exhibit.
Randy Honaker is the president, Steve Russ the treasurer and Phil Skardon the secretary.
Two Dayton Brothers' Proud Squash Saga
Mark and Dave Talbott began playing squash as youngsters on
the court in the their home on Runnymede Road, with their father, Dr. Doug Talbott, as
their first coach.
Mark was later coached by Bo Burbank at Mercersburg
Academy, where he graduated in 1978. He spent a year at Trinity College in Hartford, CT
before beginning his remarkable squash odyssey. In 1980 at age 20, Mark joined the newly
established World Professional Squash Association hardball tour and a year later reached
the top 10. In 1983 he climbed to No. 1 and held that ranking for 11 of the next 12
seasons. From 1981 through 1985, he reached the semi-finals or finals in 95% of the
tournaments he entered and won over 70% of them, including 23 in a row. 'He was the
greatest player in the history of American squash not because he occasionally touched
greatness but because in an era of unprecedented competition, pressure and challenge, he
was greatness', wrote James Zug about Mark in a 2003 book, Squash: A History of the Game.
In 1998 Mark was named coach of the Yale women's team, which, in 2003-04, went 14-0 and
won the national, Ivy League, and Howe Cup championships, the triple crown of women's
collegiate squash. He has since become director of the squash program at Stanford and
coach of both the men's and women's teams. He is a member of the Squash Hall of Fame.
Older brother Dave Talbott compiled a 269-62 won-lost
record as head coach of the Yale men's team from the 1983-84 season, his first, through
the 2003-04 season, his 21st, a winning percentage of .810. The men won 102 matches and
lost just 18 from the 1996-97 season through last season, an .850 winning percentage. Yale
consistently battles Harvard for Ivy League honors and Harvard and Trinity for national
honors. Dave spent his early career as a club and touring professional, reaching No. 12 in
the WPSA North American rankings. In 1989 and 1990 he won the WPSA Legends Championship
for players over 35.