Our LA Fitness Squash Round Robin in Great Neck is great. Players of all levels -- upwards of 20 -- come to the Saturday 2-5 pm round robin. I run this round robin not unlike the Seinfeld Soup Nazi, hey, I need to get a lot of people playing and not siting out getting stiff and cold. Last weekend we had a smaller than usual crowd, but some good players showed up. there was a bit of electricity in the air as Margaret returned from a 10 day vacation to yet some other island, a number of players remarked on her striped turquoise colored coordinated skirt and top and how she always adds something really elegant to the Saturday RR. Inimitable Mets was on court 7 taking all comers. He is so much fun to watch because he gets the lower level players running endlessly all over the place. He rules the center of the court, dominating these players with a real presence...it gives the 3.0 players a glimpse of high B and low A level play. But then Michael Squillanted steps in former Queens College tennis standout and who happens to take up a lot of space with his 6'4" inch frame and his ability to cut everything off...He and Mets go at it. I think Mike is close to narrowing if not closing the slight gap between him and Mets. I've been coaching Mike a bit and have encouraged him to play up on the "T", use his incredibly soft hands to cut off everything and dump stuff to the front. Mets is a great athlete but doesn't play the extreme corners, front and back, as well as he should. Mike has an emerging frontcourt game the is showing some signs of being punishing.
Anyways, this very same Mike was on the court with Josh Epstein on Saturday. Josh is a former high level racket ball player who is lightening fast, agressive, pint size, and has this intensity that is just amazing to watch as in he will do anything to get a racket on the ball. I've seen him get to shots that leave you wondering is there anything this guy can't get to? It isn't always squash and not always pretty, but the shear determination overshadows that. Sometimes that quality crosses the boundary of safety -- that style can get someone hurt.. I once saw a player dive across the length of the court to get to a ball he was severley fooled on only to slam into his opponent, not such a wise move, because the opponent doesn't always expect such a move, and ended up with a severely sprained knee -- he was lucky, it could have been worse. I don't like the way Josh plays, but I admire his on court attitude.
Last Saturday I was casually telling him he needs to change how he plays, he has great hands and is lightening fast, but it works against him. I told him to start playing up and cutting the ball off, especially against the gym's A level players. He hangs back in returning the serve and when the pace picks up he plays such a low T that the court becomes cavernous, which is countered by this hurling and dervish type play of his.
But back to Mike Squillante, I match him and Josh up for a match in the Round Robin. The points are long, Mike is running Josh all over the place, Mike is so good at that. I'm watching Josh sprint tirelessly around the court and then Mike hits a shot first to the front court which Josh dives to cover, okay, we've seen John White do this many times, and then Mike pokes the ball back towards the glass back wall. Josh sprinting back in an attempt to retrieve it slides into the glass door, "boom" and the entire glass door explodes in this cascading flow of glass. Josh is cut on the arm and legs and is covered in glass, visibly shaken, we call for the paramedics.
I was talking to Josh while waiting for the ambulance, by the way some stitches but he checked out okay, and I was saying to him I guess like a father to a son, "you've got to change how you play, what were you thinking?" He just shook his head and said "I can't help myself." No one likes to see anyone hurt or hurt anyone else in this game, but more experienced players have an obligation to either help a player like Josh play safely or simply refuse to play him until he changes his game. Just as you wouldn't get on the court with a player who has an excessive backswing or follow through or who would rather nail the ball into your bakc than call a let, this kind of play can be applauded for a lot of its good qualities, athleticism, agressiveness, but ultimately it has to be channeled and controlled into structured points. I know Josh felt bad about taking the court out for however long it takes to repair, but I can't imagine how he might feel if he should hurl himself to a ball and catch his opponent at the knee, perhaps ending his opponents squash play for months.
Time to change how Josh plays squash, most of the better players at the Club are there to help, translate his style into a squash game that is first and foremost safe for him and any of his future opponents.