My squash-playing friends will cringe when I say this, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between squash or racquetball. It’s like tennis, but with a wall, right? Or handball, but with a racquet?

I admit this to make it totally clear: I know nothing about squash.

Scratch that. I know a few things now, thanks to a free beginner squash clinic at Portland Community Squash.

Portland Community Squash began in 2013 – they originally used nonregulation courts at the YMCA in Portland. But last winter, the organization celebrated the official opening of it’s new dedicated space on Noyes Street in Portland, in a building formerly occupied by a synagogue.

A view of the four courts at the recently opened Portland Community Squash. Shannon Bryan photo

The building houses four regulation squash courts, gym, and locker rooms and membership includes access to the leagues and all fitness classes, too. Portland Community Squash also offers youth programs, and you can help grow and sustain the community squash effort by donating (and becoming a member, of course)!

And for those of us who don’t know a darn thing about the sport, there are free clinics on Tuesday nights for women and on Thursday nights for men.

No racket? No problem. Portland Community Squash has racquets, protective glass, and even sneakers on hand to borrow. Shannon Bryan photo

If you don’t have gear, no worries. There are plenty of racquets, protective eyewear, and even sneakers available to borrow.

Marilu gives our group pointers on form during our beginner clinic at Portland Community Squash. Shannon Bryan photo

The Tuesday night beginner clinic for women starts at 6:30 p.m.. I arrived with a big group (the Ladies Adventure Club, which I’ve written about before) and we were divvied up among the courts based on our level of experience (most of us falling into the “never played ever” category).

Practicing our skills during a beginner clinic at Portland Community Squash. Shannon Bryan photo

Our friendly and experienced instructor, Marilu, started by showing us proper racquet form – how to hold the racquet, how to swing it, how to stay light on our feet, how to hold the racquet up in the ready position. She also went over the basics of the court – the boundary lines, the “T,” where the players stand.

And then we practiced swinging, then serving (I whiffed the ball A LOT), and then volleying (that ball doesn’t bounce much. It takes some getting used to)!

By the end of the hour, we’d each had a chance to experience game play and practice our new-found skills (admittedly, I got excited every time I actually made contact with the ball).

Gretchen practices again the side wall during the beginner clinic. Shannon Bryan photo

It’s just the start of what could grow into real squash-playing skill – whether we want to get competitive or play just for fun. (Side note, I’ve heard squash is a good workout, and I got a hint of that during our short play. Watching more-experienced players later that evening, it was clear that they were sweating their noggins off.)

Socializing by the squash courts. Shannon Bryan photo

Once you have some basic skills down, you’re welcome to start dropping in to games or become a full member. Barrett Takesian, executive director of Portland Community Squash, said they’d already had a few dozen new members sign up since opening the Noyes Street location – and many of those folks are beginners. So whether you’re an experience player or just learning the basics, you’ll be in good company.

Portland Community Squash

66 Noyes St, Portland
207-221-6454 and
Want to give squash a try? Beginner and intermediate clinics are offered every week at PCS. Racquet and safety glasses are on hand to borrow, as are sneakers if you need them. The clinics are FREE.
Beginner clinics: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for women, 6:30 p.m. Thursday for men

Membership: Membership will be capped at 200 members. Membership is $73/month for an individual and $113/month for a family. First visit is free.

*This post was originally published on March 19, 2017*