Monday, September 2, 2013

My Left foot

I stared into space late one evening in early July. I could not sleep, the pain in my shoulder was like pain I never felt, it was like an abscess toothache, nothing would take the pain away. I had injured it hitting a backhand volley, a shot I've hit a million times while playing points with one of my students.
A knife went through my shoulder, I screamed and grasped my shoulder. My student alarmed rushed over, "Are you okay?”
"No, no," I said. "I am badly hurt."
My student ran to get ice, almost instinctively. It gave me time to assess what just happened, the pain was excruciating I knew I had done something really bad.
The ice pack was applied, I just stared numbly into space, I told my student I wouldn’t be getting on court..."how bad he asked?"
I said, “this one is really bad."
For days afterwards I couldn't lift my arm; and when I moved it in a way that caused pain, it was unbearable. The nights were especially bad as i tossed and turned and wrenched my shoulder. I finally went to Dr. Shah, an orthopedist who scheduled me for an MRI and said,
"You probably tore your rotator cuff."

All the baseball and tennis players who tore their rotators raced through my head, I asked him" what is the prognosis?"
"Most likely surgery, rehab, and 6-9 months before you are hitting the ball again."
My heart literally sank to the depths of the biggest and darkest abyss. 9 months at my age is like a small lifetime? I was so heartbroken, but I knew the pain I felt wasn't indicative of a minor injury. I have played through a broken hand, fractured foot, nerve damage, a severely strained IT band, so many strains and pulls, I am old school , I'd tell my son, even the torn abductor -- but this was different.
I couldn't even pick up a racket. For that matter I couldn't even pick up a peanut and lift it over my head.
I started taking Mobic to relieve the inflammation and swelling. 6 weeks on Mobic and then I requested another prescription. The medication allowed me to straighten my arm, do a bit of light cooking and cleaning, work on my computer. To be honest, the pain and the sleepless nights said to me, why you would ever want to play this game again.
I am facing shoulder surgery, I have been putting it off hoping by some miracle that I will heal without surgery. Acupuncture, anti-inflammatory this or that, but in the end without these things the pain nemesis returns.
I've told those who asked about my condition that I will not be returning soon. Parents seeking coaching called, I put them off without going into details. I started dodging the messages. The other night I did the unthinkable, I started to imagine life without squash. It was scary at first, but then I thought about it, I was a bit giddy I thought about the freedom, I thought about not having to worry about all the sacrifices squash entails, the early mornings, the soreness, working through injuries, always trying to find matches, coaching, scheduling, the anxiety of maybe you just won't get better, the anxiety of getting old in this game.

I felt so sad and I was really upset with myself for such thoughts, I had come through so much adversity in life, so much adversity in this game. I closed my eyes and I remembered the first time I ever hit a ball, I remember my friend Supriya Mehta telling me when I first hit a squash ball (it was a hardball on the old MIT courts), to remember it as you remember your first time with a girl. I tin'd the ball but something about the racket, the ball, and the simplicity of trying to place a simple object in a certain spot, which just seemed to me the purpose of life. I can honestly say that there were so many times when life just got me down, that I just went out to a court to hit the ball over and over, I felt the ball through my whole body, I heard the sound of the ball through waves of sadness that was like the sun peeking through the darkest clouds; many times alone on court hitting that ball I seemed to make sense of why there was both light and darkness in me.
Now at this juncture, I want so much to hit a ball again, to flick a cross court backhand volley nick, I want to get on court with my son, whom I haven't hit within 5 months, just hit around, to make the indelible connection with him that we always made through squash over the last 20 years, I want to be able to simply tell people I play squash and not spend 15 minutes describing my injury and the doctor's prognosis and why I can't play.
If I cannot play this game, life will go on, but with a different step. I have a beautiful little daughter who has had my undivided attention throughout these past few months, but I want to give her this game the way I gave it to my son, a gift, from father to his children, a gift that is wrapped in gold, a gift that is presented with so much love, I want my new born daughter to someday stand on the court and hit that same backhand volley cross court nick and feel the utter delight of that shot.
I will do this for them, get the surgery and take the long road back to this game, to this place where I have been before, which is where I've been most happiest in my life; there are no guarantees the surgeon says, the nature of the injury is such you may not play again. But at least I'll know and if that's the case, I may just end up having 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dashed and Bashed

This has been quite a week. Yes, I was dashed and bashed as PST Squash said, but you know it was well worth it. First off, I want to tell you that as cliched as it might be every cloud has a silver lining. I met this wonderful squash guy, named Sasha, he reminded me of someone once years ago that I got on court with and we had a most contentious match, we later became really good friends. I want to thank Sasha for reaching out to me and I want to apologize for saying he is "what's wrong with squash". He is actually, although I disagree with him on many points, what is so good about squash. We played a match, had a tough match, we played hard points, but in the end we came off the court and became friends. His emails back and forth about Mark Talbot were really something. I happened to have caught Mark towards the end of his career on the softball platform and judged him accordingly.

I respect more than anything else in this world knowledge and wisdom. As Ezra Pound said if at 50 you have no wisdom then you have nothing. I appreciate Sasha's wisdom. He is 50 and has great wisdom. The beauty of squash is it brings together on court people and players of disparate backgrounds and upbringing. Ultimately, squash is one of the few things in life that on court it doesn't matter where you came from, Greenwich or East New York, Princeton or nowhere, what maters is how you play and carry yourself on court.

I love the history of Squash and Sasha has a great sense of that history, he opened my eyes to that even more and I have such respect for that.

The point of this? This is a game that brings people together, whether on court or on the platform of something like DSR. It's a symphony, so many different instruments and players but we all want the same thing, great squash, we all want this harmony of excellence.

My son whom I consider one of the smartest squash (not just squash) people around, said that, "hey dad, you sometimes go off on a certain tangent, but I know where you are going, because I know you and you want a level of excellence that was not achieved." Not bad, it comes down to believing that we can some day put in the World Open or Olympics, if that comes about, a number one team. Let's instill results and not effort, let's figure out how we get there from here. I love this country, it has so many flaws, but it is the best last hope of anything, I want it to be number one in everything including the sport I love beyond belief -- squash!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Squash...this game, it's an enigma, what can I say. When you love it and have a passion for it you see things all sorts of things. Here is what I see. Sorry Paul Assiante, I read your latest blurb about the US in the World teams, an utter embarrassment. Dylan Murray is no phenom, if you want to know what a phenom is go and watch Jahangir Khan beat Geof Hunt at the age of 17 in the world Open, that is phenomenal. Let's face it rumor had it Julian doesn't want to train. Gilly Lane, yeah some success good for him but not for the team. Dylan Murray, I watched your match against Malaysia, you looked like a top 200 player. Chris Gordon, damn Chris, you are complete, not Gordo, but Gordon. You are a beast, you are at the top of your game push through like there is no tomorrow, because there really isn't. I rode on the elevator after one of your matches a few years back and listened to the most disparaging remarks about you as a player and as a man. I am happy to say, that guy had it all wrong, you are a workhorse, my hat off to you. And I watched you solo hit a few weeks back, inspiring.

What is the structure for the US Team, do we have trials, tryouts, or is it the usual political selections? Open this thing up to all the hungry players out there, hold try outs. Who is the alternates? Who is it for Assiante to run down the list of those on the horizon what qualifies him? The US team is an embarrassment, sorry Paul, this is the big leagues the world stage. Trinity recruited pros from overseas everyone knows that and had great success. How would Mike Krzyzewski fair in the NB, on the Pro level, not very well -- as a Squash mind you are...okay let's not confuse effort with results. You are a great motivator, but not a great squash mind. Chris Walker on the sidelines? Why is Chris on the sidelines? Maybe, he's there to jump in when things really fall apart. Chris Walker what was his function?

Where do we go from here? Open up eligibility to tryouts. A series of tryouts. Let's put a team that isn't based on sentiment or current promotion. I don't want to hear the word brilliant associated with any US player, we ARE NOT BRILLIANT, we have no phenoms, we are mediocre and let's take it from there. Let's put a structure in place that makes players hungry and challenge and fight for every spot on our team. You want the Olympics, this is big business and not squash college recruiting.

Coach. Bring in Hisham Ashour right now bring in his work ethic and his absolute brilliance as a coach. He will be the next best thing since...I don't know, maybe god. This guy is the supreme squash mind and future great coach of the game. US Squash take this stuff seriously, stop embarrassing this country on the world stage of squash. Open this up to anyone and everyone who wants to represent this team, make every player earn their spot. If Julian isn't in shape, well any player knows if you aren't in shape you will be injured. I love your game Julian, but step aside if you don't want to train like it is your last game and like you want to win for your country.

If this were the Olympics, what would you say about a country that finished 12th our of 30 something. Probably nothing. We have the most incredible players and coaches and former best players in the world and what do we do, basically nothing. If US Squash really wants to do something, put together a Squash institute with all these great squash minds over here, let us take from them to build our program to promote our game. Paul, direct this, but get off the front lines, you don't belong there. I want Hisham Ashour or someone like him to lead us forward. I want the boards and the chairman's and the "suits" to think beyond their mean little strategies for our game and I want vision, a visionary, that should we make it to the Olympics in 2020 we are competing with Australia, Egypt and England on the world stage. We can do it, let's do it, but let's do what it takes to put us there.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stop Waiting For a Cure to What Ails Squash

The patient is diagnosed with cancer, the so called doctors say it's best to wait for a cure for cancer, we're almost certain the cure is close at hand. As a patient, would you not take treatment to try and arrest the spread of the disease, or would you not take treatment and wait for the cure?

That is essentially what those who believe squash in the 2020 Olympics will achieve, a cure to what ails this sport right now. I can only speak for what seems to be the case in the United States. Our National tournament, the illustrious and once prestigious SL Green Open is fielding 16 men players! And the women's draw 8 players. The patient is dying while waiting for this cure which could be right around the corner...when the patient is dead. there's no coming back.

 I applaud the Daily Squash Report which continues to carry all the angles associated with this troubling issue concerning squash. I live in New York, the greatest City, hands down, in the world but it is not even close, most likely at the bottom for Squash. Take away the Tournament of Champions and Squash in New York isn't even on the map. It is really heartwarming to hear that the West Side Tennis club is adding squash, but then that is offset by rurmors that New York Sports Club at 86th Street will be discontinuing squash.

Maybe we are going back to those dark ages where squash was played in exclusive clubs. Maybe all in roads the Khans made in the 50's and 60's to open up this closed society and make squash accessible to all who could find a public court and hit around, learn the game, play and play, went for naught. I hope not.

Perhaps it's time to call for a summit of all the squash organizations, historians, coaches, experts, directors to come together and begin to lay the ground work to reviving this great sport. Take small steps towards keeping the disease from spreading. Don't wait for one cure, the Olympics is just another method of treatment, it is NOT a cure. Yes, it will bring much more money to the top players, but not everyone who plays squash will hit that level. The game is fuelled by all those 3.0, 3.5, 4.0...players out there. They are the future of this game.

I propose the following:

once and for all let's determine if those high profile venues actually garner new players to the game?

what real impact will the Olympics have on attracting new players at all levels?

what turns the average sports person off to squash?

once and for all how many US born players play collegiate squash?

once and for all how many US born players after college continue to play past 30?

once and for all organizations like the PST (Pro Squash Tour) should be lauded for their attempts to bring squash to an audience and not squashed by the bigger more powerful organizations.

time to evaluate the vision and leadership of the squash governing bodies!

evaluate and assess this game at an independent, non-partisan level.

Once completed, get the best squash minds together, the best squash business people, the best minds who play this game at any level and set a roadmap to how to fix what is wrong. And above all, please don't wait for some miraculous cure, it may be too late by then.