My two most favorite students, young 14 year old Afghani warlord descendant Haadi and ex-Princeton Captain, Margaret (aka Grace Kelly/Pitbull) reached some incredible milestones this week. For weeks, or what seemed like an eternity, Haadi, struggled in the rotating rails drill. He hung back, missed shots, and spent 99% of his time up against the backwall. I kept telling him over and over again to step up, cut the ball off and take the T. He would hit his shot, stop and watch, and then move towards the T as I struck the ball he'd have to scurry to the back, after awhile, the mind and body kept telling him, just stay back, why bother, your pinned back there. But his coach is telling him no, step up, move up, cut the ball off, hit a better shot and take the T! We'd repeat this over and over again...maybe it was because I told him that if he broke another racquet in anger, threw a tantrum when he was loosing, yell in frustration, I wouldn't coach him for a month. I meant it. I gave him my Hotmelt Pro last night, we drilled a bit, played the short game, did ghosting, he was moving well. We went into rotating rails, and just like that, it clicked, he stepped up, cut the ball off and moved me off the T. I could see by the expression on his face, he knew what I knew, he took another step towards becoming a squash player.
Prior to Haadi's lesson, I had a session with Margaret. We'd recently had some difficult sessions, but tonight, when we were doing these ghosting drills with Haadi, I observed a woman who really just is smooth, who can really glide on the court. We did some drills, mostly getting her to cut the ball off in the back by vollying of the side walls or stepping up and cutting the ball off -- I play cross courts out of the front court, she retrieves, volleys, to herself and boasts back to me. She struggled a bit, but then started to pick it up, lunging towards the ball, cutting it off or taking it early off the side wall. But what so impressed me is that while she lacks strength in the quads and whatever that muscle in the achilles that makes you explode on your first step, she moves beautifully. We talked about what she needs to do to strengthen those quads and calves/achilles like lunges and skipping rope. She has three children, her life is incredbily demanding, so it's hard to train and devote that kind of time, she said. I showed no sympathy, and reminded her I was a single parent with two small kids and a demanding job and trained relentlessly. I hope she took it in the vein I meant it, encouragement. I do believe she can be a national champion, and it is for me to push her and if she wants that to get her prepared for that level of competition.
What was most rewarding to me was the next day receiving an email from her telling me she didn't know how I trained her, got on the court with Haadi, all in a day where I trained my son at 530 am and worked on my tech project --my answer was simple, it's so darn easy when I watch Haadi step up and strike that ball early and see Margaret run her star drills, move around the court so smoothly, and above all, to know and recognize that it is those two who raise the bar, not me.