Wednesday, November 3, 2010

David and Goliath -- A Lesson in Humility

Humility is healthy, it is good, it has a great purpose in life, especially in squash. Afterall, squash often imitates life, which is one of the many reasons this game is so great, and why on court I often begrudgingly accept some of those humbling squash ("life") lessons in humility.

Last night, my best student, Haadi Khan, whom I've written about before came to play squash. He had been frustrated by me for months in our match play often times venting his frustrations with broken rackets and childish sulking after defeat. He has talked so much trash in recent weeks and I've just gone out and played becoming comfortable in frustrating him with that brand of twisting and turning squash, Jim Masland (LA Lifetime Fitness Club Pro and great friend), termed the pretzel game.

The last two weeks has also seen another David and Goliath battle, the PST taking on the PSA (rivalling professional squash organizations). There's a parallell here of course, which I'll connect wutg my own defeat of last night.

What made last night different for Haadi and me in our match? I'm his coach, I know everything about his game, was always comfortable that I could turn it on when need be and take the games from him. Most of all I could frustrate him and wait for him to mentally break down and start his yelling and anger -- which spelled certain defeat for him. However, last night was different, was a poised young man, a player, a good player who didn't get rattled, who watched the ball, who had decided that he was going to win each eand every point. He attacked our game with discipline and quiet confidence. No bravado or trash, just business.

Sound familiar? If you've been following the David-like PST (Professional Squash Tour) and it's recent battles and lawsuit with the bigger and badder Goliath-like PSA (Professional Squash Association) there are so many similarities. The PST is young and purposeful in wanting to bring squash to a wider US audience. It has some former number 1 players, but most of the top 30 players are all ranked under the richer PSA tour. Joe McManus, commissioner of the PST, is gracious, humble and devoted to his purpose of bringing squash to the people. He and his PST are like David, going up against and challenging the dominance of the PSA. The biblical accounts of Goliath and his boastful arrogance in stating he will destroy David seems to be the same tactic the PSA has employed with it's mandate to it's players banning them from PST events. While David was all about what was good for his people and Goliath about what was good for his own image of invincibility, Mr. McManus is all about what's good for squash, especially here in the US. The PSA seems to be doing what's good for it's image of controlling and ruling the professional squash world and not what's good for squash. Enough said, the parallel is there, squash does really imitate life and it seems the bible as well.

...Haadi easily took the first game from me taking me a bit off guard as he was doing things we'd been working on for weeks, stepping up, cutting the ball off, not worrying about some loose shots, not fretting over the imperfections. At one point I hit a nice rail off his loose shot and was poised to return a week comeback from him when within a split second he rifled a cross court past me and had me scurrying. He cut the ball off and atttacked my shot with his quickness and early ppreperation. It may have been the stone from his slingshot right between my eyes; like Goliath, it brought me to my knees. While I recovered enough to take the third game and was up in the fourth, Haadi took the fourth game and match in a tie breaker when I mounted a ferocious comeback to tie the deciding game only to see him push through and close out the match.

Like David and Haadi, let's hope that the PST lawsuit is just the stone between the eyes of the PSA to bring it to its knees and loosen ts stronghold on professfional squash. It might mean the likes of Nick Mathew and Rany Ashour play on both tours. I for one, learned a lesson, never get too comfortable with the game and your hold on it or on a particular opponent and always do what is fair and right; expect and welcome change and grow with it, don't resist it. The game speaks for itself, as it did when Haadi beat me. It will again speak for itself when all the legal stuff is untangled with the lawsuit against the PSA's ban on PST participlation for its players. Haadi didn't behead me nor did the PST lawsuit close down the PSA, if the PSA learns anything, it should be to respect your opponent, do what is right for the game and not for your organization. Learn David's, Haadi's and McManus's lessons in defeat and look at yourself but get back out there, do battle where it counts -- in an arena of fair competition and rewarding games and make sure that battle promotes goodgreat battle, squash battles that is.

When our match ended, Haadi shook my hand, no bravado, no trash, just an indication that this is just the beginning of our future competition. He no doubt will push me to stretch, to be prepared, and come out to win in these match and most of all don't become comfortable and assume victory. Take nothing for granted and no matter make each other's games better.