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1980 U.S. Junior Women’s team honored at 2021 ToC Women’s Leadership Awards

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April 12, 2021
by John Nimick


[Above:1980 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash Team]

In a virtual program on April 7th, the long running J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Squash Championships honored the 1980 U.S. Junior Women’s Team with its Women’s Leadership award. The five-member teenage team, many traveling outside of the USA for the first time, made the journey to Kungalv, Sweden and won the World Junior Team Championships under the coaching tutelage of Carol Weymuller.  Its no. 1 player Alicia McConnell won the World Junior Singles title.  Both achievements are unparalleled in the history of squash in the USA.  In the very same year as the “Miracle on Ice,” these young women raised their own funds, sewed “USA” patches themselves onto their own playing kit, forged a resounding team spirit and beat their international peers using a ball far different than the one with which they grew up playing.

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Women’s Leadership Awards committee, comprised of John Nimick, Ashley Bernhard, Melissa Winstanley and Jess Winstanley, selected the 1980 team as its 8thhonoree. In addition to Alicia McConnell, her sister Patrice and team member Kat Castle Grant were able to attend the program and accept the award. Coach Weymuller, Diana Staley and Karen Kelso completed the original team roster. Previous honorees include Natalie Grainger, Linda Elriani, Demer Holleran, Nicol David, Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Wendy Lawrence and Jenny Duncalf.

Alicia McConnell accepted the 2021 award saying, “What an honor to accept this on behalf of the team…and that’s the word I think we all took away from the experience.  Win or lose, it was how much we supported each other and enjoyed the journey.”

In addition to the honorees, several notables contributed to the celebration of women’s athletics and the impact the team’s achievements had on squash and the increase afterwards of female participation in the USA.  United Nations Women’s Program Specialist Jennifer Cooper gave the keynote speech and Hall of Fame member Ned Edwards presented the induction remarks.  ToC Emcee Will Carlin hosted the program and presented a moving pictorial montage and narration celebrating the team’s roots and achievements amidst several high profile (all male) sporting events of the day.

Co-Chair Ashley Bernhard praised the day’s program and its recipients by saying, “The 1980 Junior Women’s Team and Coach Weymuller’s accomplishments embody the true essence of our mission to support female athletes, women who lead and gender equality on and off the court.  Their incredible story about resilience, grit and teamwork inspires us all and will resonate well beyond our program today.”

ToC Director and Chairman John Nimick concluded the proceedings with the expectation that the ToC would return in strength after a year hiatus due to Covid-19, but included a note of caution, “Squash as an indoor, close contact sport, has suffered a setback during the pandemic while other sports and activities have gained strength, both with youngsters and adults.  I urge stakeholders here and abroad to collaborate further to ensure that squash has a bright future.  We are rededicated to making the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions a powerful leader of the sport.”

For more information, visit www.tocsquash.com or contact John Nimick at john@squashengine.com.