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Squashing the Competition

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Written by
Lauren Hunsberger

Photography by
Michael Matti

Latasha Khan may be one of the most dominant athletes you’ve never heard of. She’s a seven-time women’s US National singles squash champion (she was the first person ever to reach seven titles, and still holds the record for women). She was also the first United States player to win double gold medals (singles and doubles) at the Pan American Games. She’s held 10 Women’s Squash Association (the world professional tour) titles, and the list goes on. 

The only reason Khan isn’t a household name is because for years her sport of choice—squash—has never been in the limelight in the United States, despite being wildly popular in other parts of the world. She says that’s all changing, though, especially if she has anything to do with it.

Khan, a squash pro at the Bellevue Club, is a Seattle native and comes from a family of squash players. Her father, Yusuf Khan, was a prominent professional player from India who came to Seattle as a tennis pro and squash teacher. Latasha started playing when she was nine years old.

“There were eight of us [children]: four played squash, and three of us became professional players,” Khan explains. “My older sister, she also won a national championship and four junior titles. She made it to 23 in the world, and I practiced a lot with her growing up.”

Khan began her own domination of the sport right away. As a junior player, she was a four-time national champion. “I was the top junior. I was undefeated in the international circuit for squash. I didn’t even lose any games. I won 3-0.”

Wanting to stay local, Khan eventually played for the University of Washington, and at 23 she committed to playing full-time on the professional circuit, winning her first national championship that year. For many years she traveled, playing against top athletes across the world.

But Khan says the game has given her so much more than titles and accolades. She lists lifelong fitness, camaraderie and a means to travel as rewards to playing the sport.

“It’s just fun, too. Squash is fun. You get a good workout, and you’re challenging your mind. Really, it’s very addictive, and it’s constantly changing, evolving strategies,” Khan says. 

It’s good that she feels this way because squash occupies all of Khan’s time. When she isn’t training (approximately five hours a day) for her own professional competition play, she coaches players of all ages and experience levels. 

She says one of the most exciting things happening in the sport is a gaining popularity among the junior division. She explains that right now the sport is on the rise among younger people for many reasons.

“It’s growing a lot. It’s really expanding now at the junior level on the East Coast because it’s so big on the collegiate level. The junior program in the Northeast is huge because they all want to play collegiate-level squash.”

She says squash can often help students gain an extra edge in getting into some of the most competitive schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia—which have the most successful squash programs. But getting into an Ivy League school isn’t the only objective. 

“It’s good for socialization skills; players have to find partners. And you see kids supporting each other, getting a good workout. It’s a lot like puzzles, they’re always working their mind while being physically active at the same time.” 

Khan says this rise for juniors doesn’t mean the sport isn’t accessible to all ages. She teaches 6-year-olds and 60-year-olds alike, and says everyone gains something. “Actually this is a sport where the more you play, the harder it gets,” she says. “But it’s all still fun.”

And while there’s no sign of squash becoming an Olympic sport anytime soon, she says she will continue to advocate on behalf of the sport. “Squash is the only sport that is in everything else but the Olympics. And it should be there.”

 

JUNIOR SQUASH CAMPS

July 11-15, Aug. 15-19

Players will improve performance by focusing on forehand and backhand technique, serving, return of serve, footwork, drills, game strategy and conditioning with BC Squash Pro Latasha Khan. To register, visit members.bellevueclub.com.  

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