Sunday, December 27, 2009

Simply for the Love of Squash

I really need to stop reading Squash News. It really makes me feel sorry for all of those who listen to its CEO and his knee-jerk reaction in response to what ails US squash. His latest is a column on the positive signs of Women's Squash in the US. said CEO is a great marketer, his columns read like a quarterly corporate report. I grant him that, but all you need to do is play in tournaments and realize that he is, maybe like George Bush did when telling the American public we weren't in a recession, just telling his board and shareholders what will get them through the moment. Adult women's squash is an abysmal failure, just look at the turnout for the major tournaments. Women consistently play in men's draws, which is troublesome to me because if women are allowed in those draws, then it's not a man's draw but a mixed draw.

I have complained when I have had to pay a 95.00 dollar entry fee to play a young female junior player old enough to be my daughter. Sorry, I don't like playing teenage girls or for that matter an ocassional adult woman in tournaments. But that really isn't what this is about.

I have a student I coach, Margaret, who is an ex collegiate player and now mother of three. She is coming back to the game after about 15 years. She played since she was 9 years old and was coached by a legend in women's squash who recently passed away. Margaret hasn't kept up with how the game has evolved. She is probably typical of most women players, compete in the juniors, get into college, play in college and then launch a career and family and stop playing squash. She is really good and works so hard in our sessions, I push her very hard, because squash is hard it demands a lot from any who play it.

I question the premise for anyone who thinks squash is a vehicle to something better that isn't about squash. Squash to me is like Ancient Greek Poetry, which I studied throughout college and still do. It takes a lot of work and study and dedication to read it, in the end few will care that you read it except me, the reader, who has reaped the most amazing benefits of reading a language and literature that is the penultimate of our Western Civilization . Squash is the same to me as that Greek Poetry -- it's the penultimate sport, there is no fanfare, no exposure, it is so hard and difficult to do, but if you play it and get good at it is the most amazing experience. I can only equate it with reciting lines of Homer's Odyssey in Ancient Greek with striking continuously tight rail after tight rail. Both took so much dedication and hard work, but ultimately who cares, some might ask where did it get me? a college scholarship, a better job? No they just fueled this incredible passion for this game as well as for that poetry.

I would like to say I do either of these callings for simply the love of doing them, I spent 12 years studying Greek and Latin and 30 years playing squash and I have never derived anything from them other than the love of doing them and trying to do them better with the passing of time.

I have sat through enough junior tournaments and listened to parents talk incessantly about their children playing squash and being recruited and playing in college. I am sure Klipstein ecstatically is rolling his eyes in his corporate head and thinking all sorts of success, but in reality, it is a quick reward for what is ultimately a pathetic failure.

Do those players who option for playing college squash and spend their entire junior careers working towards that ever think about or dream of playing this game professionally? I doubt it. When I was 13 I didn't dream of playing college baseball I dreamed of sharing the field with all the great players of the day. How many women squash players dream of playing like David, the Grihnam sisters, or ever understand the most amazing accomplishments of squash's greatest woman player, Heather Mckay? But they do, I'm sure, dream of knowing what getting into an Ivy League school seems to mean.

You can probably meet this dilemma at a crossroads of men's collegiate squash as it no wonder that we have never placed a US born squash player in the upper echelons of squash, woman's or man's?

I once sat with a gentleman who had a highly ranked girl's junior player and he was talking to me about the potential for her receiving a scholarship, I watched her play, and just thought a perfect college squash player, basic tactics, will play the boring game of college squash and probably never pick up a racquet after turning 24. He watched my son play and said wow who is recruiting him for college and I responded by saying he doesn't want to play collegiate squash he wants to play professionally. He looked at me like I just said something really nasty and said, why would my son want to do that there's no money in it, he should use it for college. I responded there are just some things you simply do for the love of it. Enough said, he never spoke to me again.

So I am so happy that my student, Margaret, started playing again, not because she aspires to great things in squash, playing professionally, but simply because squash rekindled something in her -- I'm glad to support her, maybe make her a better player and to once again play this game simply for the love of it -- I might encourage her to join the USSRA to play in some women's tournaments and play her best squash. She won't be some percentage statistic for squash CEOs to present to squash board members or shareholders -- not yet at least.

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