Education 2012: Squash brings Buffalo together at Buff Sem
Squash doesn’t necessarily come across as a sport that would bring together communities. It’s not a grand spectator sport like basketball or football, and, in the US at least, it lacks the following that it has on the world stage. However, at Buffalo Seminary, the all-girl college preparatory school nestled in between Elmwood Avenue and Lincoln Parkway, an innovative squash program has indeed had a unifying effect.
It has now been three years since Buff Sem began its collaboration with King Center Charter School, and the two couldn’t be more pleased with how their joint mentorship program has progressed. The girls from Sem’s squash team help teach the girls from King Center the basics of squash and also work to refine their technique. But as Sem’s assistant head of school Helen Marlette notes, it’s the consistency of the meetings and the bonds that these girls form that allow for the success of the program. “I think our girls benefit just as much as the girls from King Center in the sense of understanding how important it is to be a good friend and good role model,” Marlette says. “It’s a great program that I’d love to see grow.”
The main area where Marlette would like to see growth, beyond financial support for the program, is in its academic component. Other city squash programs tend to operate on a one-to-one system: one hour of fitness matched with an hour of academia. Sem’s academic side tends to be informal, but that’s where bonding really comes in.
Elon University sophomore and Buff Sem alumnus Elizabeth Bassett was instrumental to the program’s success since she was initially the only student who was there every Saturday. Bassett was team captain for Sem when the program began and took away much from the experience. “Coming into it I was obviously excited, but I had no idea that these kids would be so much different than I was,” Bassett says. “It was very interesting seeing what they brought every day.”
Beyond the bonds that Bassett and the others from Sem formed with the girls from King Center, both Bassett and Marlette believe that the sport of squash itself helped to make this a successful initiative. “I think squash is a very respectable sport especially because there are only two people on the court and it’s a sport, where you govern yourself,” Bassett says. “That’s what makes this program successful. It’s very much geared towards being respectful to the players, to your coach, to your team.”
“Usually, the people who are excelling are kids who are thoughtful and respectful,” Marlette adds.
And while Buff Sem is quite proud of its relationship with King Center, it’s also built relationships with Canisius High School and Tapestry Charter School, the latter of which allows Sem to use its basketball courts in exchange for use of Sem’s squash courts. “You don’t need fifty gyms in the city if you use them efficiently,” Marlette says.
For Buff Sem, this is just the beginning. It would like to encourage more connectivity to other schools and the community at large through the use of their courts. “We would love to see [the program] outgrow us,” Marlette says, “but Buffalo Seminary will always be home to city squash.”
For more information about Buffalo Seminary and its squash program, visit buffaloseminary.org or visit its Facebook page.
Will Robinson-Smith is a current Spree editorial intern. He attends Northwestern University.