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Open Squash

Mar 5th 2024

How Playing Squash Can Make All Juniors Succeed

Josh Easdon Featured Image Patch

Open Squash Coach Josh Easdon Draws on His Own Journey Into The Sport To Inspire All Juniors To Benefit From Playing The Game

Josh Easdon runs the Green Team for beginning Juniors at Open Squash, a nonprofit squash club in New York City. Having taught the game to young people for more than 35 years, he strives to make it accessible to everyone. His own journey into the game shows how squash can be good for any youngster. His JoshSQUASH programs are now famous all over New York. He jokes, "I'm only lucky my parents didn't name me something that rhymes with another sport!"’s Tennis, Winton’s Badminton?

Josh's sense of humor also makes him an engaging teacher, even for those who find squash a challenge.

"My favorite kid to teach is the kid who swings at the ball and falls down on the first time," Josh said. "But the same kid stays with it for a couple of months until they feel like it can be their sport."

Josh and his team coach youngsters on sliding-scale rates to encourage low-income families. In Josh's own case, playing squash gave him more self-confidence. It also took him on an incredible journey all over the world, making a film about Hashim Khan, a great player. He was gracious enough to take some time to tell us his story recently.

Josh Easdon congratulating tournament winner (Patch)

Josh congratulating a junior tournament winner at Open Squash recently

Growing up in Brooklyn, Josh started playing the game to spend some time with his father, Don. Josh's dad worked in advertising but wasn't quite of the Don Draper vintage, from T.V.'s Mad Men. That said, he did share the famous ad character's first name. His colleagues also called him a "stellar creative presence." In 1989 Josh's dad created a series of ads for Infiniti cars that didn't show the cars, for the Hill Holiday agency. One focused on looking at the ocean. Another at a flock of geese. Don even talked to the newspapers about them in a way that sounds straight out of the television show.

“Good ads are uncomfortable to be around," he told the Los Angeles Times. "The fear is the fun. If you’re not scared, you’re not doing your job.”

One can almost picture the actor Jon Hamm mouthing the words. Still, the ads worked. Thousands of people across the country showed up at Infiniti showrooms, curious. His father Don's creativity shows up today in Josh's approach to teaching squash.

12 years before that L.A. Times interview, in 1977, Josh begged his father to take him to play squash, as a seven-year-old. He couldn't hit a ball, at first, but one day, he went into his father's room, where Don kept all his squash stuff.

"He had a bunch of headbands and wristbands. So I put them all together, and I made a ball, and I took one of his rackets out," Josh said. "I started hitting this ball of sweatbands against the wall. And when my dad got home from work, I was like, 'I can hit it now! I want to play squash!' And so, he started taking me."

Don and Josh would play squash every Saturday morning in Brooklyn Heights. After they played, Josh's father would take him to a diner across the street. Josh got to eat pancakes, homefries, and drink tomato juice, which was a big deal. Four years after he started playing, Josh's father offered him a wager.

"My dad always used to beat me, but he said 'the first time you can beat me in a three-out-of-five game match, I'll give you $100'."

For an 11-year-old, $100 was a huge amount of money in 1981. It appeared to have the appropriate motivating effect.

"Three weeks later, I beat him five games to zero, and he never beat me again," Josh said.

Josh Easdon on court in his teenage years (Patch)

Josh (center) on court in his teenage years, playing against his friend Nico in the finals of the Men’s E Division

More than 30 years later, Josh found an old wallet with the check that his dad had given him, still inside. He never cashed it. But winning it gave him the spur he needed to deepen his passion and interest in the game. A passion for squash helped Josh hold his own at St. Ann's High School in Brooklyn, where he went undefeated on court for three years. Later it would give him the confidence to go to Vassar for his undergraduate degree, too.

Josh grew up with dyslexia. He first attended the Churchill School outside his Brooklyn neighborhood. On East 95th Street in Manhattan at the time (it later moved to East 29th Street), it's named after Winston Churchill. Britain's wartime prime minister was also dyslexic. The school has one of Churchill's “failing” school reports displayed on the wall.

"Being dyslexic plays a big role in the way I teach," Josh said. "I knew what it was like to always feel a little uncomfortable in school. And even though I worked hard at it, it didn't come easily to me. I think my strength as a teacher is to look at those who maybe squash doesn't come easy to and try to put them in their comfort zone. I work with a lot of beginners. And I try to get them past that hurdle."

"The parts of geometry that I did best in at school were the visual parts with the compass, and drawing things," he said. "That's how it is on the squash court. I mark the court in ways so that players can have a simple visualization. I'll say, 'you can point your hip this way, and it will help with five other things that I could tell you how to do.'"

Josh rose to number two in the country as a junior and played on the U.S. Junior Men's Team. He loved the intensity of the game.

Josh Easdon winning trophy (Patch)

Josh (second from left) winning a trophy in his teens

"One day I weighed myself before and after playing squash and found I'd lost seven pounds in sweat," he said. "Squash became the thing that leveled the playing field for me as a kid. I always had to go to special schools, and, if I could do well on the squash court, or even do better than well? And be funny? It was my way of letting myself know that 'I'm okay'."

Josh's passion for the game also led him into coaching. He played at the Heights Casino and was very keen. He would get up and play in the morning before school. On Saturdays, he would get to the Casino and wait on the doorstep before the club opened. If there were adults playing squash, he would jump on court to help them warm up before a partner showed. He took a lesson once a week, but coaches also asked him to help feed the ball to their students. He listened and learned how to coach and become a better player. By the time he was 17, Josh was coaching people for money, and he went from there.

Josh majored in art history with a minor in filmmaking. He then went on to New York's New School to learn how to make documentaries. A film called Inside Dyslexia was the first result, taking nine years to complete. Then, Josh wanted to make a film about the history of the game of squash as seen through the wake of the British Empire. Following the collapse of British colonialism many countries have made squash their own. Egypt, for example, now dominates the game. Pakistan did, too, for many years. In the end, Josh realized that many players have had fascinating individual lives. Hashim Khan emerged as a frontrunner to focus the lens of the film. Josh tracked him down to the Denver Athletic Club.

"I called the pro at the Denver Athletic Club, asking if there was any way they could get me in touch with Mr. Khan. And he was like, 'yeah, one second', and gave me his home number," he said. "I dialed it and there he was. I said, 'I want to make a movie about you', and it started from there."

Josh went to Pakistan, raising money through friends, family and the squash community, and acquiring fiscal sponsorship for the documentary through the New York Foundation for the Arts. Seven years and a quarter of a million dollars later, the film is available to watch. Anyone can stream Keep Eye on Ballon Squash TV. It charts Khan's remarkable journey from a mountain village in Pakistan through squash. It includes fascinating insights about the game of squash through Mr. Khan's story, and was written up by Squash Magazine on its release.

Josh Easdon on the border (Patch)

Josh (center) on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with his colleagues and crew, shooting the Hashim Khan documentary in 2005

Josh's wife is a journalist and their two children, 12 and 14, also play squash. Josh also coaches all adults but enjoys coaching women and juniors the most. In the old days, before squash courts had glass backs, you would enter through a small door. Two men playing together in such a confined environment could bring up some gladiatorial instincts and bad behavior. Josh makes sure to bring "some silliness and humor" into his teaching to diffuse any risk of such things. He also makes sure to impart positive values to young people.

"I've had the conversation this week with classes about it," he said. "I've said 'you're here to play squash, but you're also part of the community.' 'You can make this community better. You can make that choice. You could make fun of the person next to you because you can do something they can't do. Or you can help them and give them advice. You can change it. You can tilt it. I have zero tolerance for people putting other people down, making them feel not as good. This game is about making people feel better. That's really important to me."

Josh Easdon with student (Patch)

Josh reunited with Macaleer Coleman, a junior, at the club recently. Josh first trained Macaleer when he was eight years old at a JoshSQUASH training, but teacher and student had lost touch, then Macaleer placed 3rd in a recent boys’ under 17 tournament.

Josh also had to re-learn squash after graduating college as he grew up playing “hardball” squash with a rock hard ball like a rubber golf ball. He did play “softball” squash—the kind we all play today—during the summer, and when he competed on the National Junior Team in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the Junior Team Nationals. But it wasn’t until he graduated from Vassar that he dropped “hardball” squash for good.

“It was really good for me to learn the sport again,” he said. “The strokes are different, the tactics are different, and so is the tempo. To this day I am still a student of the game, learning from others at Open Squash.”

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Josh!