Women in Sports Day, on Wednesday, October 14, will be a highlight of the U.S. Open fortnight. SquashSmarts, Philadelphia’s after-school youth enrichment program, will host a girls-only practice at Drexel run by the world’s top women professional players and teaching pros. Afterwards, there will be a star-studded reception in the main lobby of the Daskalakis Athletic Center. More than fifty men and women are on the Women in Sports Day committee. They are ensuring that every aspect of women’s squash are present at Drexel on this special evening: high school and collegiate teams and their coaches; teaching pros; juniors and masters players; pro doubles players; squash moms; and a global network of people who support the development and growth of women’s squash. After the reception, everyone will go upstairs to watch quarterfinal action at the U.S. Open
It is fitting, then, that one of the greatest players and supporters of the game, Alicia McConnell, will be honored at Women in Sports Day with US Squash’s highest individual award, the President’s Cup.
McConnell won the 1980 World Juniors in Sweden (this was the first time the tournament had been held and so it was not considered an official World Squash Federation event). In one month in 1981 she won the national juniors, national intercollegiates and U.S. Nationals—a sweep of titles no one else has accomplished before or since in the same year. She won seven straight U.S. national singles titles and eleven straight U.S. national doubles titles. McConnell was the first American woman to make a deep impact on the international pro women’s tour, reaching world No.14. She played for Team USA in six world championships and, in the 1995 Pan American Games, she helped secure a silver medal for the women’s team. After retiring from singles play, she worked as a teaching pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and was the head coach for Team USA’s national junior squad. She also was a member of the U.S. national lacrosse team. In 2000 she was a member of the inaugural class of inductees into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame.
Since 1998 McConnell has worked for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, not only coordinating training sites for thousands of athletes and many governing bodies, but also giving squash a voice at the USOC. Her work at the USOC and her volunteering for non-profit boards mirrors core US Squash values of collaborating with local communities and providing access and opportunity for all athletes.