Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What If...The PST (Professional Squash Tour) Set to Announce a Major New Signing

Mr. McManus of the Pro Squash Tour (PST) may have found the marketing touch for his emerging US squash pro tour of up and coming professional squash players and some great near legends. He's announced that he will add another major top squash professional to the PST this week. This is on the heels of signing Australian great and former number 1, David Palmer to the tour a couple of weeks back. Ok, it's Wednesday, he's announcing it tomorrow. But I'm supposed to be running through some software tests but I can't concentrate. I keep thinking about all the possibilities. My mind starts to wander, I start thinking what if...

Here are some of the names I'm hearing and I've included a bit of my own wish list. This sure beats testing software. I hope the Commissioner has some deep pockets, if some wishes come true he'll need them.

Number 1: Wish list item -- I am imagining my most favorite player, Nick Mathew, joining the PST. That would be something. It would probably open up the flood gates...we'd no doubt have a signing a week. But if Mathew signs, then tied here would be Nicholas Mueller from Switzerland, the next generation number 1.

Number 2: Linceu -- Somewhat of a wish, he's still formidable. I always thought he was very low keyed and not sure what he would do for the PST. I'm on the fence with this one, I love his game, just not so sure he'd bring the punch of a Palmer to the PST. And you have to think do you want to see every PST final Linceu vs. Palmer?

Number 3: Stuart Boswell/Cameron Pillay -- These are my other favorite players and both still have it. I'd love to see either one or both on the PST.

Number 4: Wish list item -- And out of retirement, Peter Nicol or Jonathan Power. Call me sentimental, but as great as squash is right now, I miss these two...maybe I'm too sentimental, could either one beat Ball or Palmer?

Number 5: Wish list item -- Amir Shabanna...I admit I never really followed his game much. I'd like to see him tour in this country, I'd like to see him at some of the PST events just to see him up close and really study his game...then finding out what I missed all this time.

Number 6: Wael Hindi -- ok, cool. I did see Illingsworth come back and beat him in a PST event before the PSA banned its players from participating in the PST. Many find his play exciting and want to see him on the PST...just doesn't move me one way or the other.

Number 7: Wish list item -- Julian Illingsworth. I love his game, and I became a real fan of his in that PST Wael Hindi match.

Number 8: Allistair Walker -- He's in the US now, a great player to watch. Would really add more credibility to the PST.

Number 9: Wish List Item -- Jonathan White, full time on the PST. Another sentimental favorite. He's got to have 1-2 more years of touring left in him. Simply the most electrifying player in squash and just a great ambassador of the game.

Number 10: Any of the rising stars lingering in the top 40 to 60. Robbie Temple comes to mind or Adrian Wahler.

Okay, my boss just came by and wants the tests completed by 2 pm. I look forward to tomorrow's announcement.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Doubles Vision: The Squash Genius of Barbara Cooper

Barb Cooper might be the equivalent or combination of Dale Cargnegie, Delphic Oracle, Sigmund Freud, and even Oprah. She's one of the most intelligent squash gurus, but what makes her really unique is she is able to connect the dots with squash and a squash player's temperment and personality along with all the other facets of the game (doubles or singles).

Her book, Double Up, is simply remarkable. It's a book about Doubles Squash, but like Ms. Cooper herself, the book goes well beyond what meets the eye. My recommendation to any serious squash player especially those coming up through the junior ranks, read everything you can from Ms. Cooper and then have your parents read the material too. And after your parents have read all her material, have your coach read the material as well.

Note: Barabara Cooper is the highest level certified coach in North America. Her credentials as a player and coach are so impressive. She currently resides in Canada and is instrumental in bringing Canadian Squash to the forefront of internatioonal competition.

And for any budding professional, pick up her book, read it for the same reasons you might have read Barrington's Murder on the Squash Court, or Khan's Eye on the Ball, or any other Master's blueprint to great squash fundamentals and tactics. However, what really sets Cooper apart is her attention to the mental aspects of the game. This is where she really excels.
Almost every player at any level will be able to relate to her book. While I'm not a Doubles Player, much of what she writes about transcends squash, singles or doubles, it's about having the right mind set to practices, to improve, to move that newfound experience and energy to a greater find reward in playing and improving.

It doesn't matter if you are man, woman, or junior, you will benefit from this book. It is so packed full of information, and not the kind of infomration you can get just anywhere. It is the kind of infomration that comes with being at first a student of the game and then subsequently, a teacher of this game. She maintains the highest coaching level in North America. She's a level 5 (5 is the highest), which to put it into perspective, we have a few who are highest at Level 3 in the US.

And with all the seriousness of learning to be in the right frame of mind to play this game at a higher level, the chapters are punctuated with pencil drawings, and quotations appropriate to the topic. Squash does imitate life, and like life, you need a bit of humor, some fun. At least that is her message loud and clear, you can be a serious player and competitive, but don't forget this game is supposed to be fun, we're supposed to enjoy it to the point we never want to stop playing. If anyone has ever doubted the benefits of drilling, read her chapters on the essence of drilling and what it does to a player's game.

I found myself taking lots of notes about strategy that can be used in my own coaching, and by strategy I mean the mental and emotional aspects of the game. While Double Up is primarily about the ins and outs of doubles squash with many doubles drills, almost all of the book dedicated to the mental and emotional part of the game translate into the singles game as well.
As you read through this (and you will want to read through it again and again) you will realzie just how complex this game is on one level, afterall human nature is complex, but also how simple this game is (if you can believe that) on another level; in its simplest form the game moves fluidly as you become the very thing that holds all the court's four quadrants together.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is so rich with wisdom and insight into this game that you sometimes can only take in just so much. I thought about quoting passages from the book, but I'm afraid I'd be including most of the book here, in this review. Read this book and also check out Barbara Cooper's new internet talk show help My Squash Game(

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bring It On Home

The PST signing of David Palmer, former World Champion and British Open Winner, is in my mind a great moment for the PST. Palmer, while being at the tail end of his illustrious career, still will manage to lend a jolt of credibility to the PST. Perhaps the PST will eventually become partners with the PSA, who has soundly rejected and even threatened their players from playing in the US Professional Squash based tour, the brainchild of its maverick commissioner, Joe McManus. I don't want to reopen the case of the PSA ban, but what I do want to do is take this time and while taking a break from the tedium of my Technology job, see where my thoughts about producing a world number 1 ranked U.S. born player leads.

It's no mystery, that no U.S. born player will make it to the "top ten" world rankings without a great deal of help from our more experienced and talented squash brothers from the UK, Europe, Australia and anywhere else. For those with deep pockets, and who can afford travel and expenses overseas, there's no need to care about international squash coming to the U.S. They can seek it out and sustain international coaching and competition. It's expensive, but if you can afford it what better way to spend the money. There are a number of retired world class former squash professionals residing in the U.S. but their services come at a premium rate. Squash is an expensive sport, no matter how you look at it, just like tennis, golf or fencing. These are highly technical and demanding sports. Fortunately, for most of these other sports the resources are more readily available here in the U.S. Then it becomes the question of so you have a world class coach, where do you then find players of similar caliber? While most junior squash development is primarily focused on college squash, almost no development is focused on professional squash. We could go into all the reasons, but our country is primarily concerned with attaining monetary success. Monetary success is how we measure ourselves. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not the ONLY measure. Squash doesn't pay well but neither does teaching, non-profit, governments, etc.

My son still maintains a dream of playing professionally, his passion and love for this game is sometimes overshadowed by his immense frustration at becoming better. What he has achieved he's achieved mostly on his own, he is the equivalent of a self made man. We all admire self-made men on one level but on another we still value more success through the easy road. I believe in what he is doing even when he doubts it himself and because the PST has come along offering the opportunity to play and aspire at a higher level of squash, he might reach some of his goals. While I admire those PSA professionals and attend those PSA events nearby, the PSA does little or nothing for professional U.S. Squash development.

Someone whose squash mind I admire greatly mentioned to me the other day that he is waiting for someone to write an article on why Ilingsworth and Gordon (US 1 and 2) play on the PSA and compete all the way in China and lose in the qualifiers or opening rounds when they could play on the PST? Yes, absolutely. What will it take to bring those players to the PST? What will it take to lure Allistair Walker, top 10 PSA, currently residing in the U.S. to join the PST? Will it take one more signing, a Linceau, a Shabanna?

Squash is one of my passions, and call it patriotic, nationalistic, whatever you want, I want to see a U.S. born player someday on the PST play for the World title against the players of the PSA, a sort of "superbowl" of squash. Wouldn't that be something. As for Ilingsworth and Gordon, bring it back home, play on the U.S. PST tour, show some junior who dreams of playing professionally that it's within your grasp, here in the U.S. and that aspiring to professional squash is a noble calling and not merely a means to an end. Back to work, oh, should Linceau, Shabanna, Walker, Gordon, Ilingsworth sign with the PST I hope they sign on the condition that the PST does away with the "No-Let" rule.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Letter To The PST Commissioner

When I saw that the PST was going to announce a game changer on 11/11/11 at 11:00 a.m. I was hoping that it would be two rules changes (maybe three): do away with the No-Let rule; mandatory eye-wear for ALL players; and maybe for good measure changing the PAR scoring. While the announcement was not about any rule or regulatoion changes, and announcing the signing of David Palmer to the tour was great news, it would have been really great news to have included these rules changes.
The No-Let rule; I was watching a match last night from the Tuxedo Open and it was a match where the No-Let rule definitely came into play in terms of the outcome of play. The player, who will remain nameless, consistantly didn't clear, played back, and when there was contact seem to plead for sympathy from the referee because of the contact. The old rule is very simple. The player after hitting his or her shot MUST clear for the opponent. However, the rule is a bit gray if the player makes no attempt to return to the T, plays a very low T or is simply slow to get back because they are just slower than the other opponent or hasn't returned a shot good enough to allow time back to the T. When both players are in position the flow is very smooth. However, a tired player tends to hang back, not clear fully, and then just step into the area of play. While the rule is simple, it's complexity arises when the player, because of the other player not fully recovering back to the T doesn't allow the player to clear. The match I saw, this was what happened again and again. The referee observed the sympton but not the cause. One player was much quicker than the other player on the one hand and the slower player often blocked or didn't clear and on the other hand -- as the match wore on that "other" player drifted further and further back. The referee admonished the wrong player warning of unnecessary contact and played to the simpathy of the player complaining about the bumping and physicality. Because of the No-Let rule the advantage was to the player either not clearing or hanging back to get a jump on the ball in the back. The other player seemed flustered and really should have started redirecting the ball away from the area where the contact was occuring. But why should that player alter their shots because the other player takes advantage of this No-let. Many times in a game a referee will ignore the appeal of a player complaining of "incidental" contact, unless of course you 'flop" like NBA players do to take a charge or something. Unless the other players is a bit dirty and plays through his opponent rather than the ball, it's usually a legitimate let call. I think there's more potential for injury since players are forced to play through the contact, fearing losing a point should they call a let and it's overruled. My understanding, let denied point to your opponent, even though in your mind your opponuent may have been in harms way.
The answer to this is to realize the sole purpose of the let is to protect the players...whether or not it is abused or not that is its purpose. Cars are meant to get people to their destination as quickly as possible, safe and sound, no traffic signals or stop signs create chaos and accidents and are a detriment to driving. The same goes for this No-Let rule. Please do away with it.
My other major rule change is mandatory eyewhere. In this country we spend billions of dollars to enforce high standards of safety. Cetainly no other country spends more. Yet most squash professionals don't wear them. If it ends up saving the eye of one player wearing them it is worthwhile. This rule is safety, it's important, it sends a message to players and spectators, that safety is alwys first and foremost. Each organization is the sum of all its individuals and the individual is critical to any league and organization. If you put any individual at risk, implement the safety standard. Enforce it. Put this rule in effect, because we never want to be sickened by the loss of an eye especially during competition when it is easily preventable. Let's hope the PST isn't like City Hall and not put a traffic light in a dangerous intersectuon until someone is killed or maimed
Let me sneak one more in there...and this may be topic for a totally separate discussion. Let's settle this: PAR scoring has changed the game and has made it much less demanding for players. When you think of how the old scoring rarely produced first games under 45 minutes long, the strength and stamina required was Herculean. Yes that game was too slow as a spectator sport, but perhaps a compromise would be the old American 15 point PAR scoring....let's extend the game because after all this game is partly about fitness, endurance stamina, and attrition. Commissioner?

"Like a Kangaroo on Viagra!" Autstralian's David Palmer signs with Joe McManus and Pro Squash Tour (PST)

It isn't exactly the upstart AFL signing of Joe Namanth to the New York Jets that eventually elevated the fledgling AFL to equal status to its rival NFL, it's more like the New York Mets signing Willie Mays towards the end of his career (he helped put the Mets in the '73 World Series). With the signing of this great, great squash champion and still one of the most formidable players out there, Joe McManus of the Pro Squash Tour has sent a message.

The PST is for real, it's legitimate and it will be a stomping ground for greats, near greats, Sherbini, Ball and Leanza and and young US born aspirants like Omar Sohby, Kyle Jens, and Ned Marks. Imagine what the signing of Willie Mays did to the New York Mets team of the 1973 season, he help take them to the World Series! Palmer no doubt will have a huge influence on the younger players. Those younger players can only benefit from playing someone of Palmer's calibre. Palmer will have some sage advice and give other players the opportunity to see him up close, in the "clubhouse". If you've ever met the man, he has a presence, the kind of presence that seems to say you want to play high level squash this is what it takes. He's been there and still is there.

With McManus signing of Palmer, which I'm sure is to sell tickets, it is still a business, he has provided something far greater than the price of admission. He has provided a level of play lesser players can aspire to. Knowing McManus' committment and passion for bringing squash to the fans here in the US, there's no doubt in my mind, he is doing it for the future great players of this game. Unlike White, a former number 1 who is retired, one can only hope that with the signing of Palmer and his high level play, he will attract other players who might otherwise never have the opportunity to be on court with him, to play him. I for one, if I could play the game at at least the qualifier level would be inspired to do whatever it took to try and get to the master in the main draw.

If you doubt just how good Palmer is in the twilight of his career, take a look at his last PSA match at the World Open which just completed. I've ranked him as one of the top ten greatest players of all time. I love to watch him play. I saw him play in the Hyder a few years back against Clive Leach and it was amazing to watch him on the club court. I watched him toy with Leach, a great player in his own right, and as I sat in the front row I tried to mark exactly on the side wall Palmer hit is cross court. I marked the cross courts from Leach as well and the difference was an inch or two at most but the effects were devastating for Leach. Palmer pressured him with punishing length and angle. I don't often get that close to see it.
How many good years does Palmer have, I guess you would have to ask him. I certainly want to see him go out a champion and then become one of the ambassadors of squash. While terms of the deal were undisclosed, money is money, what Palmer brings to this new league is priceless, you can't place a value on something like this. I hope to hear down the road some future PST star remark that Palmer in the league was a great influence and inspiration he taught him to think and play like a champion.
For all the younger players out there enamoured by the flash of the Egyptians, come watch David Palmer play, you won't see the likes of him ever again, he is one of a kind, one of the greatest, study his game, witness his mental toughness and lo and behold when he hits that forehand kill into the frontcourt nick remember that shot as one of the great shots in the game.