Monday, August 15, 2011

Farewell , Paul Zummo: The Tasmanian Devil of LA Fitness Squash!

Squash is a small and close-knit community, especially in the far reaches of the squash world like Lake Success, Long Island. The players here have formed a tight community made up of doctors, lawyers, business men and women, housewives, hair stylists, even a jam manufacturer . But a true standout for his squash and sportsmanship in our community is Paul Zummo, one of my most favorite students, and the one whom I derived great pride in watching him develop as a player. He is moving to Connecticut so won’t be a frequent player at our club anymore. I’ve come to know Paul both as a friend and his coach, the bond between is that ever lasting one called squash. The first time I saw him play was a few years back when he was about 45 lbs heavier and I thought for sure he’d have a heart attack as he rushed around the court sweating in buckets and red faced with fatigue. I turned to my son while watching him and said it’s like watching the Tasmanian Devil play squash! I told my son with some coaching he could be a really good player, get him fit and with some technique and he could be really good. That was then and this is now. Paul is fit, in fact very fit. He won this year’s Grand Open regional 3.0 level tournament and placed well in the US Nationals. No doubt if he hadn’t been hampered with chronic strep leading up to the Nationals he would have won. He has come so far and what was once one of the worst backhands I’d ever seen is pretty respectable now. He has a good foundation to progress certainly to the 4.5 level and with a lot of hard work maybe the 5.0 level.
Many times over the past 2 years of coaching him 6 am every Tuesday and Thursday I watched him push through so much impatience and type “A” personality stuff to begin to develop a good understanding of the game. He is the one person I believe will find the essence of the game and become a National champion a couple of times over. I’ve never met anyone with such heart and determination and will to win. It isn’t often pretty to watch him but he wears down better players and we often watch his matches and just shake our heads wondering how he was able to retrieve some of the balls he gets to. The biggest compliment I can pay him is that the club won’t be the same without him. I watched him play his biggest club rival on Saturday, John Gross, in what turned out to be a straight set win for Paul. He often loses to John, another tireless student of mine, but there were some incredible rallies (some quite forgettable ones too). A prospective squash member was watching them and was asking me what level they were at and I said probably a solid C level, to which he remarked , they look more like solid B players. It’s always good when a B player thinks the C’s are playing like the B’s…I wonder if the nickname will stick with him or will his new club come up with another nickname for him? When the dust settles around the Tasmanian Devil he just might now look like a squash player. I have all sorts of advice for him as he leaves for another club, but I stop myself, because I think, to keep it in perspective, it is I who have learned more from him than he from me. I wish this fellow squash dasher and basher all the luck – “racket up and back – move your feet!”…

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