Have you ever noticed that plodding along on an elliptical machine gets you nowhere? I mean, seriously, your feet are locked into position on the footrests and after a couple of minutes, you just end up hanging onto the handrails for dear life, staring at a TV monitor with your eyes glazed over at an insipid rerun of “Judge Judy.”

If you’ve ever paid attention, women usually use most of those types of cardio machines at the gym, while most of the guys are downstairs, lifting weights and checking out how big their guns are this week.

Admittedly, watching those guys can be amusing, but I find that otherwise, being at the gym is generally a boring experience.

One would think that there might be a worthy alternative for those of us who have tired from the monotony of using the cardio machines and running apathetically around the track.

For the athletically die-hard, there exist a number of varsity sports teams. For a small group of UR students, the UR women’s squash club serves as that alternative.

You might ask, “What is squash?” The game is played in an enclosed court, with a little black rubber ball and a racket that is smaller and narrower than a tennis racket. You may remember that on “Frasier,” the endearingly snobbish brothers, Frasier and Niles Crane, loved nothing more than decking themselves out in goofy-looking goggles and tight white shorts before hitting the squash courts at their club. While squash cannot conceivably ever hope to shake its elitist reputation, it can gain a new audience of sports enthusiasts.

In America, one can’t argue that squash is wildly unpopular. Probably fewer than 50 universities have men’s teams, and the most successful teams tend to be members of the Ivy League. Elitist, elitist, elitist.

On the women’s front, there are about 30 college teams or so.

Every member of UR’s women’s squash club began playing as a beginner at Rochester. “Not only have I gained some new friends [playing in the club], but I’ve learned how to play a game I didn’t know how to play and I found it was really fun … and dangerous,” senior Tracy Crompton, the club’s business manager, said.

Proving this last point, Crompton was later pegged in the shoulder by her opponent’s racket. Since squash courts have somewhat small dimensions, it can be easy to crash into the wall or become the unwilling recipient of a welt from a fast-paced ball.

Despite these shortcomings, many believe that squash is indeed a worthwhile game to learn. Like me, a lot of squash players have had experience playing tennis and find that while squash may be a quirky sport, it can prove to be rather entertaining and challenging.

“I think squash is a totally different game [than tennis],” coach Matt Dankner said. “Squash is a more creative game than tennis. It’s much more physically demanding and quicker-paced – squash is like chess on your feet.”

How can such a seemingly engaging sport have such a meager following? I don’t know that anyone really has any answers – but everyone certainly has plenty of gripes.

The club’s players seek to advocate the sport that they have come to regard fondly.

“It’s not a very popular sport at this university and people may not feel comfortable coming as a beginner,” Crompton said. “I would tell people that we really encourage beginners to play with us. We’re not looking for experts, we’re just looking for more people to play on our team.”

So, girls, the next time you’re thinking of going to the gym and dread the thought of pedaling in time to another fascinating rerun of “I Love the Eighties,” don’t be afraid to pick up a racket at the front desk and think about giving squash a whirl.

You might be surprised at how good you look in goofy-looking goggles.

Ogorek can be reached at aogorek@campustimes.org.



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