Samir of Pakistan heritage, just turned 10 years old last week. He missed his squash lessons at La Fitness in Lake Success, because this past week was a milestone for him to reach double digits in years. I had him on court this past Sunday, didn't recognize him because he had his hair cut short, big boy style, a crew cut, having cut off his long hair that often covered his eyes when he was hitting. For weeks he had been asking me when he would move off the large, bouncy, blue ball for beginners to the regulation double yellow dot ball. I kept telling him you have to show me you can hit the beginner ball first. He is smart, very smart, and at 10 years old still has more of the toddler in him than the strapping teenager he'll someday become. He plays soccer and seems to love squash, but it's a challenge to get him to focus and to get fitter. He has asthma, so I have to be careful not to push him too hard, I do emphasize "no bread, and certainly NO RICE, and no soda." He tells me he doesn't eat or drink that stuff. He probably won't be tournament ready in the junior under 11 and our goal is to get him playing in maybe the under 13's.
I look so forward to my sessions with Samir, not so much for the squash, that's always a challenge to coach someone that young, but for his keen presence in and around the court. I watch him leave the court frequently for water, on his way to the fountain, if he sees someone around the courts, he'll stop and say to that person "you play squash?, I'm Samir, what is your name". I watch how people react to him, he does this with such ease, I tell him he is a natural politician. People respond to him with genuine friendliness and ease as well. He has this ability, that rare ability, to make people feel so comfortable. I call him the future mayor of Great Neck.
During his most recent session, he showed me something on the court as he consistantly hit the beginner ball for nice tight rails and wide cross courts. After a while, I stopped play, and looked at him, and said he was hitting the ball very well. I said that I thought he was ready, "are you ready for the real ball?" "Yes", he shouted out, and pumped his fist. I went and took a yellow double dot and warmed it up a bit. We started hitting, and he was hitting the ball as if a magic wand had touched him. The balls were tight, deep and with decent pace. "Wow", I said, "it must be your haircut, you've never ever hit like this!" "Thanks, Mr. Will" (he always calls me Mr. Will). We worked through the session and he kept looking for his dad, he wanted so much to tell him he was off the beginner ball. When his dad showed up toward the end of the lesson he excused himself and went out to tell his dad, I could see by his face and rapidly moving face, he was so excited about this latest milestone. Whether it's double digits in age or double dot in the ball you hit, accomplishment is accomplishment.
As we finished up I noticed my next lesson, Shyamala, a beautiful Malaysian/Hindu woman, stretching. I pointed to her and asked Samir if he'd ever seen anyone so pretty as her. She smiled at us, I commented how beautiful her smile is. He asked me if I liked her, or "liked" her or was she just a friend? I told him I really "liked" her and asked him if he thought she would like me? He said "sure, Mr. Will, take her to a movie and out to dinner, she will really like you." Great advice from the future mayor, I'll let him know how it goes when I next see him on court. As he left the court he went up to Shyamala and asked her if she hit with the "real ball", to which he quickly added, "I hit with the real one too."
As a follow-up to this posting I wanted to add that Samir's advice was very good indeed. When I saw him next on the court I complimented him for his advice. I told him that Shyamala is now my girlfriend. I added that it had been a while since I took a woman out to movie and a dinner and remarked how expensive it was. In typical Samir fashioned, he paused and said to me, "money doesn't ever equal love..." That is Samir, wise beyond his years.