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Concourse's squash program picking up speed
by Greg Oshust
October 02, 2013 11:53 AM | 1571 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>
Concourse Athletic Club Director of Squash Galen LeCheminant hits the ball around on one of the Sandy Springs facility's four squash courts.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
Concourse Athletic Club Director of Squash Galen LeCheminant hits the ball around on one of the Sandy Springs facility's four squash courts.
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Mention squash to most people in the Southeast and they think of the vegetable, not the sport.

That is what Galen LeCheminant wants to change as the director of squash of Concourse Athletic Club in Sandy Springs looks to boost the popularity of the racket game.

LeCheminant, a 42-year-old native of Great Britain who played professionally in his home country as well as Germany from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, took his current post at Concourse in January 2012.

He oversees a squash program, which was established in 1998, that includes four courts at the club and about 100 active members of all ability levels.

“It’s been good,” LeCheminant said. “We did have the threat of another club opening, which turned out not to be a threat at all. We have more members joining each month, so we’re happy with how it’s going.”

Squash is played in an enclosed, four-walled court and involves hitting the ball onto the playable parts of the four walls.

The sport has long been a mainstay in the sporting scene in Europe and Asia.

It recently waged a campaign for inclusion into the program of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, losing out recently in the final vote to wrestling.

The sport does enjoy a measure of popularity in the Northeastern U.S. and LeCheminant is hoping to help it reach that level in the Southeast.

“Up in the East Coast, up in the North, this is all taking place,” he said. “Tournaments are huge and we are getting to that level down here as well.”

Concourse is among a small number of clubs around metro Atlanta, with the Piedmont Driving Club in Midtown Atlanta, the Midtown Athletic Club in Marietta and Lifetime Fitness branches in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Woodstock and Lawrenceville being the other ones.

Concourse General Manager Suzanne Cypert said squash is a popular part of the club’s offerings.

“It’s been one of the big attractors to our club for years,” Cypert said. “But since Galen’s been here, it’s gotten even better. We have been one of the established squash programs in Atlanta. We get a lot of members [to] come here because we have such a great program and we don’t just have courts, we have a program.”

Among the main selling points that LeCheminant uses in promoting the sport to prospective players are the health and social benefits.

“Everyone can play the game,” he said. “Your respiratory system benefits — lung capacity, your heart, there’s great benefits for it this way. It’s a very social sport to play. We have great camaraderie at the club, sometimes more so than any other sport. It brings people together.”

While LeCheminant is interested in bringing in people of all ages and ability levels to squash, it is the development of the sport on the junior level through the growth of high school and college programs that is his biggest concern.

Toward that end, Concourse hosts four junior tournaments during the year — the Georgia Junior Silver in February and the Georgia Cup in June, with the Atlanta Junior Silver Championships coming up Oct. 25 through 27 and the Atlanta Junior Bronze Championships taking place Dec. 6 through 8.

“My big program was to get juniors involved,” LeCheminant said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had three junior national events, which is the first of their kind down here and they’ve been very successful.

“Last year was the first time a junior national event was held here. Up North, the junior event calendar is packed, absolutely packed. Every weekend, something is happening up there. We need other clubs in the Southeast to do the junior events to help us be ready when we get more high schools and colleges involved. We want to have more people decide to do their schooling down here, to move down here, to do their colleging down here, because the program is more established.

Increasing the number of schools that offer squash is an important step for LeCheminant, with Westminster the lone high school program in the state and Georgia State, Georgia and Emory the only colleges offering the sport statewide.

To that end, LeCheminant is teaming up with the Southeastern Squash Racquets Association on a presentation that will be made to local schools — based on a program offered by the sport’s national governing body, U.S. Squash, which provides a framework for schools to form leagues.

“That’s our goal,” LeCheminant said. “My focus is grass-roots, getting the high schools and middle schools involved and hopefully create more awareness.”

Westminster junior Marshall Weber is one of those younger players LeCheminant is bringing in to the game.

The 17-year-old Dunwoody resident, who has been playing squash for about a year, plays at the club several times a week and takes lessons from LeCheminant.

"It's really great, because I live only 10 to 15 minutes from here," Weber said. "I come here all the time and I hit with Gavin -- he's an awesome coach -- and I also hit with other people. I hope to be able to play it as a sport for life, to make friends and keep in shape and have fun."

LeCheminant said he encourages people to come to Concourse to try out squash for themselves.

“With the program I’m doing here, I always welcome nonmembers,” he said. “I’m hoping to work with non-members to give it a go. That’s one of the big things here. Squash is fairly new and I always like to invite people who always ask me about — is it like racquetball? Is it like tennis? I like to say, give it a go. Let’s get on court and I’ll show you what it’s all about. They only have to do it once to know that they will like it. It’s a very addictive sport once you get started in it.”

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