It has been said that a true builder is “one who builds bridges and the way they do that is through friendships and relationships, and through authentic character”. In his life and in his profession, Rob Brooks has built many bridges and squash has been the recipient. He has done it all in his more than 40 years in squash – squash professional, coach, board member, committee member, tournament organizer, administrator, squash club owner and volunteer.
Rob was born in Philadelphia but moved first to Montreal and then fortunately, to Toronto where he has remained for the past 33 years. Rob was a squash professional and coach at several clubs in the greater metropolitan area and in each, built strong and vibrant junior programs. Recognizing that young people needed a gentle introduction into the competitive side of squash, he helped create the Toronto & District Junior Mixed League and was adamant that participation had to be open to both boys and girls.
Rob trained and coached many Ontario, Canadian and U.S. squash champions over the years, some of whom have gone on to represent Canada at international and world championships.
He stretched his passion for the game to the business end and became a part owner of Pine Valley Racquets Club and in almost no time at all the name Pine Valley became synonymous with junior squash – not just in Ontario but right across the country.
But to Rob “champion” is a hollow title unless it is coupled with respect and integrity – unless the holder understands that with success comes humility. Fair play is not just a phrase to Rob – he lives it and he teaches it, every day.
He hosted scores of events in his career including one of the most successful Canadian Junior championships ever held. His house leagues are the envy of many squash professionals as they are burgeoning each season. The secret to his success – every person, no matter their skill level, deserves his undivided attention. He was the first squash professional to include juniors in adult house league play, believing that young people grow and develop by being exposed to better players. The Men’s and Women’s Toronto & District leagues were always important parts of his teaching in getting players competitive experience.
With his colleague and long-time friend Mark Sachvie along with the Squash Ontario Junior Advisory Committee, he helped create the Battle of the Border program, an Ontario vs US junior competition. So successful was the program that it became a national elite player program. Again, with Mark, Rob created the Ontario Squash Hall of Fame and served as chair of the Board of Governors for the Hall for 10 years. Rob and Mark were also responsible for creating the highly successful annual Charity Golf Classic which raises monies for Ontario junior squash.
He has been recognized by Squash Ontario with its Coaching Achievement Award and through its highest honour, the Special Achievement Award. Rob is also a Syl Apps recipient, an award presented by the Government of Ontario to outstanding volunteers and is also a member of a very exclusive club as a recipient of the Rolf Lund award – an award presented by the Ontario sport community to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to sport (not squash) but sport in Ontario in various capacities.
So many things make Rob Brooks an exceptional individual. He recognizes that to make change, one cannot stay on the outside forever criticizing. Rob gave unstintingly of his personal time. He served on Squash Ontario’s Competitions Committee and its Junior Advisory Committee. And he served as chair of the Squash Ontario Quest for Gold Selection Committee for 8 years.
He came onto the Squash Ontario Board of Directors as Vice President Finance and then served 3 years as one of the association’s most successful and respected presidents. He brought his thoughtful and considerate approach to challenges which faced the association and he did so, not with a heavy hand, but by engaging everyone in the process. He led Squash Ontario through arguably its most successful years.
Rob has profoundly changed squash in Ontario and in Canada and along his journey, he has earned the respect and admiration of an entire squash community.