“Hand out” in squash refers to the change of serve from one player to the player who won the prior point. However, in the earliest days of professional squash, players were reliant on “hand outs” of another sort—from accommodations to meals to cover the expenses of international travel.
For Hall of Famer Alicia McConnell, receiving housing “hand outs” in New Zealand and other exotic locales where she played in the mid-1980’s, taught her important life skills such as understanding how to ask for assistance and at the same time how to remain independent.
“So many people believed in me more than I believed in myself,” said McConnell. “I learned to share my experience and that was rewarding.”
On Wednesday, which is “Women In Sports” day at the Delaware Investments U.S. Open at Drexel University, seven-time U.S. National champion McConnell will be honored for her achievements on and off the court in squash and in her career at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
“Alicia is widely recognized as one of the best women players of all time,” said U.S. Squash President and CEO Kevin Klipstein. “However, her contributions to squash off the court are also significant as a teaching professional and promoter, and in giving back to underserved youth.”
Upon her retirement from professional squash in 1993, McConnell became the co-head professional at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn where she had played as a junior.
“I made changes as soon as I joined,” reminisced McConnell. “I changed the name of the tournament to honor Carol Weymuller and invited international players to the USA because I wanted them to have the opportunities I had when I traveled overseas. By coordinating the timing of tournaments in Boston and Philadelphia, I made sure we had tournaments for the players to enter when they got here.”
This experience served McConnell well for her next professional endeavor. She joined the USOC in 1998 as the Manager of Athlete Development—a role tailor made for her skill set-where she could “hand out” assistance to Olympic athletes offering scholarship assistance and career counseling. Today, McConnell is the Director of Training Sites and Community Partnerships coordinating eighteen training sites across Olympic disciplines and overseeing fifteen Olympic development programs.
It has been seventeen years since McConnell found her calling at the USOC “handing out” to aspiring Olympians what she learned through her own experience as an elite athlete.