Away from the stunning glass court inside the University Club Of Chicago this past week the stars of the PSA World Tour were given the chance to dip their toes into the business world as the PSA Foundation held its very first edition of Squash University.
Designed to help players plan and prepare for life after squash as well as enabling them to maximise the opportunities that come up during their playing years, Squash University brought together a panel of influential Chicago-based business leaders – including marketeers, investment bankers, corporate CEOs and more – alongside players to enable them to openly explore the business world, learn from the experience of leaders in the industry and gather experience that will help them make the transition from the professional athlete back into the normal working world once their squash career comes to an end.
Squash University session one saw players – ranging in age and experience from newcomers to the Tour like Declan James to seasoned campaigners like Nafiizwan Adnan and the likes of Camille Serme and James Willstrop – gain an understanding into the workings of major business entities, discussing topics such as financial planning, business brand building, sourcing investment and more.
“The panellists were fantastic and had a lot to share with us throughout the session – it was great to hear their stories and gain an understanding of what happens at corporate level,” said James.
“There's a lot of opportunities out there for players that I think we maybe didn't realise before.
“This type of thing that the PSA Foundation are doing is a great initiative. The last thing you want is to get to the end of your career and wonder what you're going to do next – so I feel fortunate that this kind of thing is happening now because you can never start planning to early.”
Former professional squash player Beau River – now a consultant psychologist in the Chicago area – was one of the panellists with a particularly close connection to the sport.
He said: “Having a post career plan is crucial.
“I've told the players that I wish this kind of thing was around when I was playing!
“There's so many transferrable skills that squash players have – they've picked up so many skills – things that can be applied in academics, business world, you name it – there's a world of possibilities.
“And this programme hopefully has lit that spark for players to realise there are some great things out there and that they do have marketable skills that can be transferred outside to the business world later on.”
Australian World No.52 Sarah Cardwell was amongst the players to attend, saying: “There were some very established people in the room and I took a lot of comfort out of seeing that things change and people go through career changes.
“Planning for the future is crucial, and this kind of thing is really helping us get a full understanding of that.
“A lot of people just take the approach that 'I'l do it later' – but that's not sufficient, its necessary to plan and things like this make it seem like far less of an effort and give us the tools to understand what we need to do.”