Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Coaches We've Had Over the Years

Over 30 years of squash learning and playing, I wanted to list all those coaches and pros my son and I have had and briefly evaluate each one and what we learned and at what level. I am so grateful to all of them, probably because I do some coaching now and realize just what a difficult job coaching is at any level. Here goes:

Anders Wahlstadt -- Out of Park Place Squash nearly 20 years ago, I was fortunate to see this great pro play as well as have his coaching. I was at the D level, but he taught me a shot or two I still remember and use. My favorite is off a loose ball to the forehand in the front court showed me how to step up, hit down on the ball and end it skidding cross court.

Richard Chin -- Probably not the best coach to have when learning technique, but a lot of things stuck with me when he coached me at the C level. Fitness was one, it was when he was coaching me that I become supremely fit to play. But I in a way blamed him for not fixing this hitch in my backhand that was a liability in my play and tormented me for 3 years Not his fault, he wanted to fix it but I don't think had the right technical knowledge and it just made me frustrated. He is incredible to watch and get on the court with and just a really smart player. My son recently got on the court with him and walked a way affirming Richard's great court knowledge. My son immediately picked up this off paced forehand cross out of the front that is between a lob and a hard cross. First few times he used it againt me, I felt the pressure. I asked my son about it and he said he picked it up from Richard.

Jim Masland -- The best coach ever, an absolute genius where this game is concerned. Simply wonderful to watch play. Not everyone's type of coach, but Jim really taught me a higher technique and taught me to accept the nuances in my technique, like the backhand hitch. I worked with Jim when I lived in North Carolina many years ago and when my son was little. He took me to the higher B level. He couldn't get me to forego my dasher/basher ways and often said I clubbed the ball to death. I loved his "pretzel" game when he slowed the ball down and redirected it all over the court twisting me about as if I were a pretzel. I spent endless hours with him on the court -- it was a tough time when he left to go to graduate school. I saw Jim about a year ago and he made an adjustment in my backhand that really changed it, a small adjustment with relaxing the shoulders and turning my shoulder more. I hope Jim someday writes a book about squash, he is the best kind of teacher because he is always learning new things and passing them along.

Farid Kahn -- Really a smart player and excellent coach. I didn't appreciate his style until I lived and played in India. A real competitor, we used to play for money, if I took games from him we deducted the lesson price. It was a way to get him to really play hard. I played him at the low A level, the points were great, he had shots and I often was awed by the nicks he hit.

Josh Easdon -- After not playing for 3 years and 40 lbs later, I showed up at Lincoln where Josh was the pro. 5 minutes playing water break 5 more minutes on court and another water break. I liked Josh a lot and learned quite a bit from him. It was a humbling experience. I thought I could play better with much less fitness. I was wrong. It took six years to get the weight off. But my hat off to Josh for his patience with me. I stopped keeping track of my level at this point.

Edy Kapur -- One of my favorite coaches for both me and my son. He was my son's first coach when he was at 86th Street before Edy moved over to Sports Club LA. A great player, real gentleman, we worked really hard with Edy for awhile, I only wish both my son and I were fitter at the time. I learned so much about playing from Edy, and I don't hold it against him for some really bad calls he made over the years. Can't say enough about his game, his technique, and the vast array of drills he has as well as his professionalism as a coach.

Sean Gibbons -- Sean's a really interesting and smart guy. We spent about a year with Sean and probably could have accomplished much more if we had been fitter. I loved the clinics he did with the top 10 pros. His emphasis on fitness especially for juniors is great. He's super fit himself and has a nice game. Smart coach and a bit out of the USSRA squash mainstream which is great. He studies the game and turned us on to some interesting techniques.

Raj Nanda -- A touring pro who is also a coach, especially good with serious junior players. He was brought in to really push my son and show him how to train at a high level. He put up with coaching me as well just because I wanted to learn from him. He has a backhand to rival Stuart Boswell's -- they both came out of the Australian Sports Institute. He had the right plan for my son and really turned my son into a player and taught him how to train hard. His impact was huge. He showed me how to cover the court and especially the front and really improved my backhand. This is a serious coach for serious juniors. Looking back we always felt there was a lot more we could have done.

My Son -- Absolutely the best coach. Unfortunately, I don't alwayw listen to him and it's a mistake. I still think I'm his equal on the court (not true) so I often just don't want to hear what he has to say. He is a brutal critic and doesn't mix words but his squash IQ is through the roof. I have learned so much from him, more than anyone else. He absorbed everything on the court from those who have coached him but more importantly he learns by observing and studying all the pros. He believes in Mike Way's approach to squash. Mike really perfected his technique which is textbook now. He's super fit and pushes others, including me to get squash fit. We play and train so much together and recently I played a game with him where everything I was working on for the past two years just clicked. It was amazing for me because it was all the things he kept pushing me to do. But when I told him abouthow it just came together, his response was ok but you have this and that to still do. I love it.

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