Jonathon Power brings squash to the streets

Canada’s world champ comes home to craft his grand squash plan

BEFORE RETIRING IN 2006, JONATHON POWER was notorious for shouting at refs, throwing fits and playing an unpredictable, vicious brand of squash that earned him world titles and top ranking. Now a somewhat mellowed dad, he is about to open a cavernous, $1.3-million, 10-court squash club in a decommissioned military airplane hangar at Downsview Park, set to launch this fall. The National Squash Academy isn’t just a slick state-of-the-art facility.

A big part of the academy’s mission is to democratize a sport that’s dominated by traders and legal sharks who play in private clubs like the Adelaide and Granite. Specifically, Power wants to outfit fifth-graders from the Jane-Finch area with sweatbands and get them to love the game.

Combining squash and academics, the program will operate out of the slick new Academy and is modelled on similar programs in Chicago and New York that partner with neighbouring schools and are significantly increasing high school graduation rates among inner-city students.

“We had a trial run one weekend,” says Power, “and the kids loved it. I mean, it’s a pretty easy sell” they’re 10 years old, and they don’t care what they’re doing, as long as it’s fun.”