Every revolution needs a leader and the squash revolution in Ontario began with a man by the name of Frank Baillie. He began playing squash at an early age and competed on several Lapham Grant teams but his real love, his passion was not so much in playing the game but in growing it.
His introduction to the executive side of squash was as President of Quebec Squash Racquets Association (Squash Quebec) (1966-67). He became Treasurer of the Canadian Squash Racquets Association (1968-70) just before moving back to Ontario
Squash Ontario was only born in 1976 but its lineages were impressive. Before that time, there were three very active squash organizations in Ontario – the Men’s Soft Ball Association, the Ontario Women’s Squash Association and the Ontario Hardball Association. The chair of that organization was one Frank Baillie. Each of these associations approached the Ontario Government for funding and the bureaucrats of the time were very amenable with one condition – that all 3 associations must amalgamate into one organization – one voice for squash in the province. The Men’s Hardball Association had been around for a very long time – softball was only a glimmer on the squash horizon. It was a difficult decision for Frank, as president to make – to dissolve a long-standing and respected entity and dip his toes into unknown waters. But Frank did what he felt was in the best interests of the game and agreed, along with his 2 colleagues, Michael Johnston and Susan Swift, to create Squash Ontario.
Frank served as Treasurer of the new association for two years, a personal commitment he made to ensure that the fledgling association set down solid and firm roots in the Ontario squash community.
In 1977 Ontario hosted the Men’s World Teams Championship and part of Frank’s commitment to nurturing the newly formed Squash Ontario, hosted a dinner at his home, at his own expense, for 330 people. Attendees included players from all participating teams, coaches, managers, and international squash delegates.
Frank had another dream – one which he worked hard to make a reality and that was to build a squash club which would be second to none. That dream became a reality in 1978 when The Club in Oakville opened its famous orange and purple doors. From that grand opening, The Club grew in stature and reputation. Frank and his wife, Lib, put the interests of their members first and nothing, nothing was too good for The Club members.
In 1981, The Club played host to the Women’s World Teams Championship – the first time a women’s world event had ever been hosted in Canada let alone in Ontario. Teams from around the world travelled to Oakville and The Club and put Canada as a squash-playing country on the world map.
Frank was also responsible for initiating the wave of English squash players and coaches who came across the pond to Canada – the first being Tony Swift. Frank had the vision to recognize that in order for squash to flourish in Ontario, it needed firm coaching foundations and because Squash Canada (Canadian Squash Racquets Association) was in its early years, it needed an injection of expertise from the mother country.
In 1984, Frank along with Ian C. Stewart and Bill Richards, led the International Squash Rackets Federation (later known as the World Squash Federation) as Vice President. Frank and his colleagues steered the ship of state through some very controversial and rocky shoals but clearly left the association on a very firm financial foundation. The ISRF, under the Canadian influence, became a well respected international sport association.
Back at home, Frank continued to promote the game of squash through his sponsorship of singular and prestigious events – one in particular, the Judy Traviss North American Open. International players grew to know The Club as well as any squash facility in the world and Frank and Lib always made sure they were welcomed with open arms.
He was singularly important in growing the women’s game – he not only supported it through tournaments but also financially.
Frank sold The Club in the early ‘90s – retirement beckoned. He was a significant presence on the squash scene and as a builder, contributed immeasurably to those formative years of growth.
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