The History of Squash

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“Squashes are one of the oldest known crops–10,000 years by some estimates of sites in Mexico”.  Wait, what?

Happy April Fool’s Day!  We aren’t really going to write about squash the vegetable!  We are going to write about the early history of squash the sport here at St. Paul’s School! **

You may or may not know that St. Paul’s has two very important claims to fame relating to sports. The first hockey game with rules in the U.S. was played at SPS in November 1883. And the first racquets court in the U.S. was built here at SPS in 1881. Both were thanks to a teacher named James Potter Conover, who took a trip to Montreal and came home to Millville with the idea of introducing both sports to SPS.  About the racquets courts, he said in a letter, “I went up to Montreal and there got the plans for a racket [sic] court. [It was] in 1881 during the fall term and [we] had it built that winter so that it was ready for play in 1882. The outside squash courts were put in the following fall or winter”. This original court was located near Lower School Pond, on what is now the lawn between the Chapel and Ohrstrom Library. In 1915, Maurice Roche, Form of 1905, donated money to build new courts, which are still standing next door to Sheldon today.


For almost 100 years, sports at SPS were focused on club competition, with SPS teams only playing a handful of games outside of Millville, The SPS Squash Racquets Association, founded in 1915, organized club matches, sponsoring an annual Club Championship (Isthmian won the first in 1916), as well as Senior, Junior and Lower School championships. The first SPS Squash Racquets Team appears in the 1922 Record and yearbook. They played three matches that year, ending the season 2-1 with a loss against Harvard Varsity and wins against Union Boat Club of Boston and Harvard Club of Boston.


The first girls squash team debuted in the 1971-1972 school year, playing – and winning- two matches. The following year brought the team’s first full season and its first appearance in the yearbook. It was a tough season. They played against Exeter twice, winning both, but then played five matches against college teams (Radcliffe, Dartmouth, and Smith) with more mixed results. As they said in the yearbook, “…no one on the team is graduating and we are all looking forward to having a stronger team and to rectifying SPS’s losses”.  They did just that, finishing the next season 5-1. A fun fact about squash and girls sports: St. Paul’s very first girl athlete was Elizabeth Munson ’74, who played in a boy’s Third Form squash match against Belmont Hill in February 1971, which she won.

And so began St. Paul’s long tradition of excellence in squash. To see what today’s teams are up to, check out the new SPS Athletics site for all the latest news about the boys squash team and the girls squash team.

Source used: A Proud Tradition: A History of Squash at St. Paul’s School by Rob Dinerman

** While the Ohrstrom librarians found this joke highly amusing, we are still librarians, so if you are curious about squash the vegetable, check THIS out.

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