Beyond Walls Urban Squash: Minneapolis and St. Paul city kids raise a racket

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The first time I heard about squash I was in sixth grade, and I immediately signed up for it. I signed up because it’s different from other sports at school. Learning squash was not easy. At first, I didn’t know how to hit the ball, I didn’t know how to play against other squash players, and I didn’t know how to serve—but I had to understand that certain things don’t come to your brain instantly. Practice makes perfect!

Let me tell you all about Beyond Walls Urban Squash. This is the name of our team and the motto we go by: we strive for success even beyond the walls of the squash court. In total there are 25 kids in this program. 15 of us are from KIPP Stand Academy in Minneapolis, and the rest are from Washington Technology Magnet in St. Paul. KIPP plays on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and Washington plays on Mondays and Wednesdays. We all play on Saturdays. After squash practice, we have academics, where we have literacy lessons and try to get our homework done. We have University of Minnesota student tutors to help us, and we always have a healthy snack such as fruit, granola bars, or Goldfish crackers (it’s GOOD!).

We don’t only play squash—we also do community service. The most recent project that we did was through Kids Against Hunger. Kids Against Hunger is an organization that packs food for the earthquake victims in Haiti. I think helping others out is refreshing, and it doesn’t only help them, it helps you to become a better, wiser person. Another activity that we did was tree planting at an open space in Minnesota. It’s vital to help out the environment because it’s everyone’s home. It’s great to take a break from squash to do something for the community.

This past weekend, we had a tournament and special dinner at the Commodore Squash Club in St. Paul. This was different from a normal tournament, because there were professional players from around the country that we got to watch. We played in the novice division, and got to attend a formal dinner on Saturday night. Tournaments are the best part of squash because you get to show off what you’ve been working on in practice. They can put a lot of pressure on you because people tell you “You can do it!,” and “Don’t lose!,” and “Try harder!” All that can get to you, but you have to learn to take the pressure and turn it into a positive thing.

India Smith is a seventh grader and an honor student at KIPP Stand Academy. This is her second year with Beyond Walls.