Between October 7 and October 12, Charlotte Toogood ’20 accrued 33 absences while she traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to compete in squash in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Toogood, a member of Andover Girls Squash, was one of 19 girls, and 38 under-18 players total, from around the world who participated in exhibition matches throughout the week in order to bring awareness to the sport.
“I played five different matches all throughout the week. They weren’t actually matches, because we weren’t keeping score or anything, but it was really awesome. The court was in the middle of one of the Village Parks, or Olympic Parks, so people would come, pass by, and watch for a little bit,” said Toogood.
She continued, “It wasn’t an actual tournament. The reason why they had an exhibition for squash in the Youth Olympics is because their goal is to try and make squash an actual Olympic sport, because it’s not yet. They basically invited ‘squash ambassadors’ from all around the world to come showcase the sport and try to raise awareness about it so it can become an Olympic sport. There was a lot of coverage, [and] a lot of off-court interviews [where I talked] about why I’m passionate about squash becoming an Olympic sport.”
Though Toogood is a native Bermudian, she was not permitted to represent her home country at the tournament, as squash was introduced as an exhibition sport.
Toogood said, “There were three other people in total [representing Bermuda] — two swimmers and one runner — but part of the squash exhibition rules is that I wasn’t allowed to represent Bermuda per se… I’m just supposed to be representing squash, since the Youth Olympic Association didn’t want squash to be confused as an actual Olympic sport. We weren’t allowed to wear Bermuda uniforms around the court or anything because we were just supposed to represent squash, not a specific country.”
The Youth Olympics for squash was a forum for players to showcase the sport and make connections with players from around the world. Rather than playing scored matches, players each competed in four six-minute games, according to the Youth Olympics official website.
The courts were interactive, according to Toogood.
Toogood continued, “The front wall had an electric display. It lit up, and there was smoke machines and music… It was really awesome.”
Toogood had the opportunity to play top competitors from Malaysia, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, and England. According to Toogood, playing mostly number-one players was intimidating, but she gained a better knowledge of the sport’s internationality.
Toogood also reconnected with renowned Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai, who visited Andover last winter. Toorpakai is best known for dressing as a boy until the age of 16 in order to be allowed to compete in sports, and for serving as a pioneer for female athlete’s rights in Pakistan, for which she was threatened by the Taliban.
“I actually knew about her before she came to Andover, because she wrote this amazing book that I read… before I even knew she was coming to Andover. [It] was amazing to actually meet her after reading her book. She had dinner with the squash team, [and] she trained with us, which was amazing,” said Toogood.
When Toogood crossed paths with Toorpakai again while at the Youth Olympic Games, Toorpakai invited her to serve as a representative for a new organization that she is founding.
“We chatted for a little bit, and then we walked away. 20 minutes later, she came back to me with a funny look on her face, and she was like ‘Charlotte, I have a question for you. You really piqued my interest now, and I wanted to talk to you about a program I’m starting called the Maria Toorpakai Foundation,’ which is similar to the program SquashBusters that I’m currently doing as a sport,” said Toogood.
SquashBusters is a sports-based youth development program for underserved adolescents.
“She asked me to represent someone from a more privileged squash background, because right now she has kid ambassadors in her foundation from lower-income communities and people with not as much access to nice squash courts and nice training facilities. She said to balance it out, she wants me, because I have such a beautiful place to play squash,” said Toogood. “She used the word ‘privilege’ to talk about that to represent that aspect of her foundation and hopefully get people from Andover involved. I’m not really sure yet… We’re just exchanging emails now, but it’s definitely something I’m super excited for.”
Toogood’s parents both played squash and introduced her to the sport when she was young. Since then, she has been a part of the Bermuda National Squash Team for five years and has participated in many squash tournaments in the Western Hemisphere. Toogood is currently ranked forty-sixth in the Girls Under 17 age division internationally.
“I played when I was younger just casually, and then I started getting more opportunities from Bermuda like to travel abroad to play. I’ve been to now four or five Caribbean tournaments, [which involve] countries from all around the Caribbean. It’s been great meeting people from everywhere. Two of my friends from the CASA, Caribbean Area Squash Association, tournament were at the Youth Olympics, so it was really fun to see them. I’ve played in the Canadian Open a couple times and in CASA tournaments,” said Toogood.
Toogood joined Andover Girls Squash after coming to Andover as a new Lower last year. According to Toogood, she was enticed by the squash opportunities Andover provided.
Toogood said, “A lot of the other [squash] players [in Bermuda] had gone to boarding school or gone to university, so… there’s not many people to train with, and I really wanted to get better. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to go to boarding school: to try and get a better training facility, training program, play more matches. I think I’ve definitely improved even in the last year, being at Andover. I love the squash team here, love the courts, love the coaches. I’m really grateful for Andover because I think they have pushed me in the last year to become way better than I was in Bermuda.”
Toogood hopes having squash as a sport in the Youth Olympics will help spread awareness about the sport.
She said, “I was asked… a couple times on the airplane back [something] like, ‘What even is squash?’ People don’t really know about it, so I hope that this will create more world coverage. I know they were broadcasting it on local Argentinian TV. A lot of Argentinians came to watch the Argentinian girl who I actually played, so that was fun.”
Toogood believes that squash deserves a spot in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Toogood said, “We won’t know for a couple of years [about squash in the Olympics], but Paris 2024 is what we’re aiming for. Fingers [are] crossed for it to happen, because I know the whole squash world will be so disappointed if not because we’ve been trying so long to try and make it an Olympic sport. I think it 1,000 percent deserves to be a sport… Especially for a place like Bermuda, I think if it was an Olympic sport, people would be more drawn to playing squash because they would know what it is. They would see it on TV. It would be more known to them, and that would make more youth become involved and come to the squash club more.”