Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great Squash Has No Winners or Losers

If there is a Heaven above, chances are those in Heaven are there because of the quality and integrity of the lives they've lead. But, since no one has ever really reported back from heaven, it's just speculation -- but thousands of years of religion and philosphy seem to say that the good go to heaven and the bad to Hell. It's pretty cut and dry, you are either good or you are bad. You can be really good or sort of good, but in Heaven, continuing the speculation, Heaven is Heaven , you've arrived, you've lived your life in a way that allowed you to reach Heaven.

In the squash sphere, it's not much different. There's good squash, great squash, bad squash and abyssmal squash. Good squash, great squash releagtes its players to "heaven", bad squash its players to hell. Often at the club I coach at, LA Fitness in Lake Success, New York, I'll ask my students who are playing in a match, "how did the match go?" Invariably their answers surrounds winning and losing, one player in particular boasts, "I won so many games, I have been winning all the games this week!" I always respond with "great, but was the squash good?" This question is followed by a lengthy silence as the player tries to remember the squash he played, "not really." he says, "there weren't many good rallies and lots of tins."
Does scoring or winning really matter all that much when you aren't trying to win for food money or your family's survival. I don't think so. But good squash is worth its weight in gold or any other precious commodity and great squash is worth a place in heaven. Those who say "winning isn't everything..." might have been thinking of a great squash game.

I play so many games and players in the course of a week coaching, I don't even score the games, I don't want to score them, I want to play each point as an exercise in good squash and occassionally great squash. Of course it's all relative. Good squash to world ranked players is winning a hard fought 80 minute match in the Saudi final. Bad squash might be the same good squash of the winning player, but being on the loosing end of that 80 minute match. But to those not quite the high priests of squash, good squash is much simpler when you take out the money and ranking equation.

Good squash is playing up to your potential, playing the game in its simplest form, hitting the ball straight and tight moving your opponent, always moving your opponent and taking that coveted position on the "T". Do you reall need to keep score when playing good squash? And what about great squash? What exactly is great squash? At any level you ask a player did you play some great squash, watch them light up like a lamp, they'll describe a match where they played so beyond themselves, they pushed themselves to their outer limits skillwise or fitness wise, they might have finally lived up to their squash potential. Hardly does the outcome include who won and what the score was.

I've been beset with injury after injury lately, annoying injuries that always come after I start playing really well. I pray to the squash gods and swear I'll stretch more and focus on good squash rather than winning or loosing. The last time I played well was against my son. We played an amazing match, something seemed to click, I was moving effortlessly, balanced, with a great eye for the ball. It seemed there wasn't anything he could do that would trick me or fake me out. I was hitting the ball straight was actually moving him, forcing him to retrieve, which is huge for me because he usually just runs me all over the court while completely controlling the "T", sort of like just target practicing.

I played my heart out and knew I was playing at a different level. I remarked at one point after a long rally which he won, that this was the best squash we've played (going back to when he was 4 years old), for me at least, it might have been the best point ever. I had the opportunity to set up and volley drop his forehand cross court but was a tad late with my feet and tinned it. Great squash point over. I was exhilerated by the point and while the match never lived up to that one point, it was my own version great squash. When we completed the best match we've played together, I realized that I was thanking him for a well played match which I just lost 11-1, 11-0, 11-1. To which my son, in his inimitable way, responded, "yeah, it was ok..."

It's been over a month since that match, what I miss most is that squash feeling when you just play squash win or lose and play great squash and never look back. In heaven, I'm sure there's no scoring, no rating, and no winners or loosers. Being in heaven itself makes you a winner as it is and playing great squash is the winningest squash of all.

No comments: