Friday, February 12, 2010

Broken Racquets

The broken racquets are beginning to pile up for my student, Haadi. He broke another Feather racquet this weekend out of frustration. Pretty durable racquet because he slammed it hard throughout the round robin before he really slammed it. He's 14, good, more a practice player right now, when he gets on the court with players who are older and not as good, he looses and becomes so frustrated. For some, the early lessons are how to win, for others, the early lessons are how to loose. Either extremes can mean so much and so many different things for a developing squash player, the junior who seems to win early on eventually will have to learn to loose,however, the early looser once tasting vicotry will have to keep winning in some kind of perspective. To me, the true test of one's character and heart is always how they respond after a loss as well as a victory. I remember years ago when I won my first tournament, it didn't mean much to me because I didn't like how I played in the finals, I dropped a game that I shouldn't have...I was out early Monday morning practicing the things I didn't do well in the final, but that's more about my odyssey through the squash realms. For Haadi, he wants a measure of success for his hard work, but squash is funny like that, sometimes you try so hard and it just doesn't come to you. You sort of have to let squash come to you, you can't force it, it is greater than you, it's a fickle god in some ways. Paul Zummo is another of my students, an investment banker, very tightly wound, very demanding of himself and supremely fit. At the 3.5 level he will get to everything or at least have a racquet on everything. He reminds me of myself at that level, supremely fit, and if I didn't have some kind of catharsis out on the court every time I played, it wasn't a good match. I was so fit, that in tournaments, if I faced a player that wasn't going to push me I was deeply disappointed, to the point of even letting myself get down in the game to feel the pressure of coming back and working really hard to out play my opponent. Sometimes this backfired and I found myself in really trouble and maybe spent by the fifth game. Paul wants to work, his body is conditioned that way, but not his head. He is easily frustrated and distracted if he cannot will the ball to do exactly what he wants it to do. Little does he realize, that it is only until you reach that pinnacle of squash Olympia, that you really master the ball, the four walls, the very air within. Watch Cameron Pilley in his recent Swedish Open quarterfinal match with Greg Gaultier set up and with supreme confidence hit a feather lite cross court backhand volley nick, he doesn't even move towards the T as he hits it so assured is he that he's hit a winner, and at a very tense moment in the match. Back to Haadi, at 14, life requires rewards and little successes to counter the insecurity associated with the rites of passage for a young teen. But the failures are equally as important as the successes, the fact that you can loose to a lesser player, break your racquet, and sulk in the corner, but then the next day be back on court says more to me than beating some older club players. As a coach I look for other things...will it matter 6 months from now that he lost to a wily 55 year old club player, no. Once he beats that wily player he will move on and the wily old player will still be doing what he's been doing for the last 10 years. But I look for things we do in practice taking form in these matches, I look for that better length on the cross courts -- because that's what we did in practice. Someone seemed to castigate me for allowing Haadi's behavior on the court, I shot back, I'm not his father, I'm his coach. As his father, I wouldn't allow him back on court for a month, as his coach, I have to work within the boundaries of that and bring him to a point where he measures his success by his play and poise. I admired Cameron Pilley's match with Gaultier, a contrast in two temperments. Gaultier, edgy, tempermental, angry, like Haadi slamming his racquet and then Pilley, poised, calm, playing in the biggest match of his career, he seemed a true champion, while Gaultier looked more like my student Haadi. When Haadi, finds his measure of success in how he meets the challenge of squash pressure, whether winning or loosing, he will find that Pilley kind of poise. Until then, he'll break racquets, flail at the squash court demons, but in all liklihood will succeed, as his coach, I tell him it's a hard game, it takes time to become good...Paul Zummo came back after a few days off this week in our club round robin and played his best squash ever, I could see the winning mattered, but what he was really happy about was his level of his own way he was saying thanks for the help and support -- the best for a coach is seeing a player improve and be really happy about that improvement. I have to wait a bit for Haadi, no doubt he will have lots of squash success, the kind of success that comes in ways hard to measure, not always in the score, but in knowing you played simply a heck of a good game.

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