Monday, June 13, 2011

Squash Gods Sometimes Smile On Us

Jay Arkin is a 65 year old racketballer at Lake Success' LA Fitness who converted to squash about 6 months ago. Around that time he became my student and a real student of the game. He has consistantly shown up eager for his twice a week lessons and with the exception of a few minor injuries has been on a steady course to eventually become a solid B level squash player. While many men his age are overweight and sedantry or simply go through the fitness motions at the gym, Jay is fit, lean, and as I remarked to one of my 15 year old students the other day when Jay was changing his shirt, "you should be so lucky to be that fit!" And other players at the club have made comments about why someone that age would take up such a demanding sport like squash or there have been comments like how good can he really be at his age (implying lessons are a waste of money). I dismiss all of that, the great thing about our sport is that it truanscends time, space, distance and that if you are willing to adapt your game and play within yourself you're capable at any age and at any level doing this game justice. When I have sessions with Jay, there's an hour glass, an element of time, I'm aware of the clock ticking and I want to put as much as I can into his game, I know he's not 22 years old and has near unlimited time to develop into good player, he's on a timeline and we need to make this happen. I've had my doubts, he has had some nagging injuries, the kind due to age, that has hindered his development as a squash player; but he didn't push it and took a bit of time off, but like most who would play if they had to crawl onto court he couldn't stay away and practiced a bit with himself. A certified Yoga instructor, I've marvelled at how hard I can push him and he's never out of breath. I mistake that sometimes for not being pushed by the drills, but as he told me one day, when I asked him about it he said that he does get tired! But the best part of what we are doing is the other day he was hitting rails off the feeds, and these were feeds designed to move and hit, like a real squash player. I do get very excited when a student of mine hits a milestone, and this was a big milestone the other day. He began getting the racquet behind the ball and stepping into his shot and driving it for good , tight length. They were solid B level shots. We had been working on hitting and moving and moving and hitting the ball for weeks -- and I admit it, it was sort of stagnant and I more than once thought we wouldn't get through this point in his game -- sudenly, lo and behold he comes out and it finally clicks. I stopped and remarked how he was hitting real squash shots for the first time, they were beautiful shots tight to the rail, and as I watched this 65 year old specimen move to and from the ball, I felt this rush of pride at being part of this. Not to be overly dramatic, but the human condition is fraught with failure and frustration and near misses...as you get older those elements become more evident. There are days I am so tired of this game and how my body feels and how frustrating it can be, but then I go out and hit some really good shots and the ball begins to sound like music again -- any my body somehow has a spring and lightness to it...I watched Jay and as cool and collected as he is, I could see in his eyes and demeanour he knew the squash gods were smiling kindly -- for the day at least. He'll continue coming back no matter what to try and defy the dificulties of this game, the immense frustratioins, if for no other reason than to have that feeling like no other that those squash gods occassionally smile on you, perhaps less so as you get older, but they will eventually smile on you no matter how old you are when you step onto their court. Like those ancient Greek gods, they do toy with us a bit and might even derive some perverse pleasure at seeing what we do to gain their favor -- learning to play squash at 65 included.