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Posts Tagged Trinity College

Baset Chaudhry Plays Gustav Detter In Exhibition Squash Match

Gustav Detter (left), Ira and Baset Chaudhry before the match

Over three days this past weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun), I watched 17 hours of college squash at the national tournament in Princeton. You would think I’d be saturated, blurry-eyed and ready to take a rest…NOPE. Yesterday I drove to the squash courts at the Millbrook School in New York State and watched an incredible exhibition match between Baset Ashfaq Chaudhry and Gustav Detter.

Both were top players at Trinity College, where I followed their contests for three and four years. Baset was the #1 college player in the country. Gustav was #1 in Sweden, was 4-time All American, and is now the #1 amateur player in the U.S. This match promised to be sensational.

And it was. The level of play was way beyond almost all of the games we had just seen at the Nationals. Gustav is working out on the courts 3-4 times a week. Baset is not quite as fit, but still a powerful and amazing competitor. It took five games to determine the winner, so you know it was close. But I was in awe of what I saw. Gorgeous, rough, athletic, nimble. Astonishing gets and terrifyingly hard hits. Some reports from the old days suggested that no one hit the ball as hard as Baset. And few were as quick and anticipatory at Gustav.

Of course there have been plenty of great college players over the years, and I have only seen a few of them in action. But after four or five years of watching top college squash, I have some appreciation for really outstanding play. And I feel privileged to have watched today’s match between two squash stars and giants.

I also want to mention that during all the matches I saw at Princeton, some were dull, uninspired, lacked subtlety, nuance and finesse. Still great competitors, with determination and heart. But true brilliance in sport really stands out. At the Friday session, we watched a Trinity player decimate his opponent with cross court backhands and gentle drop shots that were positively poetic. It was lyrical to watch such skill, craft and beauty. The game soared toward its potential. It was divine.

The next day, this same player was quickly beaten by a different competitor who raised the bar even higher. We were mesmerized and dumbfounded. How could a level of play so high the night before now appear so much lower? But it did. And the game was magical, grander, subtler, even noble. OK OK, I am getting a little carried away with superlatives. But it was startling to watch…and then be uplifted even more by today’s match.

Just goes to show you that you never know when someone will come along who can do it better, more skillfully, deftly, winningly. The memory of these three matches were among the many highlights of the weekend. I feel so fortunate to have witnessed such exalted athletic prowess, been part of the crowds, and enjoyed the passion of watching thrilling sport.

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Trinity’s Squash Coach Writes About The Team’s Loss In National Finals

Trinity on left, Princeton on right, Princeton Coach Callahan talks about his team's victory

Trinity College’s men’s squash team won the national championship 13 years in a row under the guidance and leadership of Coach Paul Assiante. The team also set a record of winning 252 matches in a row, an historic success that only this year was interrupted by Yale’s long-sought victory. (Search Trinity College on this site, and you can read many of the stories I have written about these achievements) Paul’s book describes how he/they did it, how he built character in his boys, how they rose to the occasion in 2009, when they beat Princeton 5-4 in the last of nine matches on the Tigers home court. I was there then to scream and see victory won in the fifth game of the ninth match, when Baset Chaudry came from behind at 0-5 to win the game 9-5. Monumental excitement.

colorful Princeton Tiger fan

Yesterday Trinity fell to Princeton in the Nationals, and I was there to watch the effort, hear the Princeton fans’ cheers and whistles as their long-awaited victory edged closer and closer, and to tell the saddened Trinity players afterward that they had given it their best.

When I wrote to Coach Assiante this morning, here is what he sent back to me. As one friend wrote me back, “it brings tears to my eyes.”

Dear Friends of Trinity
For the last 13 years on this Monday I woke up happy. Happy because our men had brought another national championship home to the college
Today I woke up proud. I have never ever been more proud to be at Trinity, to be a bantam and of a group of young men.

Yesterday we lost in the finals to Princeton 5-4 in the national finals to a terrific Princeton squad and I could not be more happy for my dear friend coach Bob Callahan. He is a class act and he has waited a long time for this.
Our path to the finals was challenging in that after losing mid season to Yale and seeing the streak slip away, we rebounded beautifully and won the remainder of our matches.
In the quarter finals we beat Franklin and Marshall but did not play well. Against Harvard in the semi finals we won a mighty battle that finished Saturday night at 9pm
Fifteen hours late we were standing on court in front of a large and boisterous Princeton crowd to play for the crown
We went down 1-2 after the first round, but came roaring back to go up 4-2. Sadly our men could not hold off the tigers and saw the lead slip away to a 4-5 loss

So why would I be proud you might ask
During the award ceremony both teams lined up to receive their awards and to congratulate each other. I looked into the eyes of everyone of our guys and there was not a dry eye in the house.
This loss hurt them deeply!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The boys went “all in” ! They completely exposed themselves and as a result they felt the full pain of defeat. That is living life to the fullest. Most people never take the chance to experience either the elation of victory or the devastating sting of defeat
They congratulated Princeton with class, and walked out of that facility visibly shaken but like men!
In life you are remembered not for what you do, but for how you do it.
This is a group that will be remembered as courageous and classy. Vince Lombardi said “show me a good loser, and I will show you a loser”
When we stopped on the garden state parkway to eat two hours later they were still crying.
These men are not losers
They are champions, and they represented this game, this program and this college in the absolute finest ways possible.

Please join me in raising a metaphorical glass to these young men.
I could not be any more proud.
Coach A

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A Thrilling Book On Squash By The Winningest Coach In History

Went to my first Trinity College match of the year last Saturday the 4th to cheer, admire the skill and re-connect with Coach Paul Assaiante and many familiar faces on the team. Paul has written a book about his coaching and his team that just came out November 25th. I finished it an hour ago. Fantastic and poignant. It’s called Run To The Roar, Coaching to Overcome Fear.

You may recall that I am a Trinity groupie who sees many of the games at Hartford (an hour drive) and also many of the away games at Yale, Princeton and Harvard. The team has won their last 225 matches—the longest winning streak in any collegiate sport—and the national championships for the last 12 years.

Tom Wolfe wrote the intro. His son was on the team, and he and his wife used to attend the matches. He emphasizes how squash just doesn’t work on TV—a too-tiny 1 5/8″ ball traveling 160 miles per hour. So if it can’t be seen, there are no TV programs, people don’t know about the sport, and millions miss out being thrilled by the sport’s extraordinary athleticism.

But it’s easy to watch it being played live. Around 300,000 players are active in the US. Maybe 15 million in the world. For whatever reason, I am hooked and inspired. If you read the book, you will have some sense of the world of squash, with all of its drama and exhilaration.

Coach Assaiante has constructed his story around one championship game, the 2009 final match between Trinity and Princeton, when the winning streak was challenged and almost lost. I tell you proudly that I was there at Princeton’s courts screaming for Trinity and way outnumbered by those home team fans. Of the nine contests played, the winning team needs at least five victories. For each individual match between two combatants, three out of five games are required to win. It takes nine points to win a game. At the end, it was 4 to 4 in matches, 2 games to 2 games in the last individual battle, and Trinity’s number one player was losing 0-5. You will love reading how it ended…how it began…and how each individual fight played itself out in this memorable drama.

You can learn more about Trinity in this earlier article .

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Squash Spree With Champion Players

Just had an exhilarating squash fest—attended matches three out of four days, and hit balls three sessions for an hour each, once with a former champion professional player and top coach. Also played some tough singles tennis in the mix as well.

Trinity wins its 11th national squash team title-2/09

Trinity wins its 11th national squash team title-2/09

Two of the viewing contests were at a New England Small College teams three-day conference, which was won by both the men’s and women’s Trinity College teams. The men’s side is astonishing, having won the national championship 11 years in a row and their last 220 consecutive matches…a record for all sports in the world. The women’s team is number two in the country, rising steadily each year from fifth place in 2007.

Trinity’s men’s team has many super-talented players. Included among them are three of the top 10 players in the country and five of the top 20. At the head of the list is Baset Chaudhry, who has earned the nation’s first place individual position three years in a row. He is soft-spoken and gentle off the court, but a formidable opponent whose win-loss career record at Trinity is 52-2.

Baset Chaudhry after winning the national squash singles title—2/09

Baset Chaudhry after winning the national squash singles title—2/09


I also witnessed a very exciting challenge match within the Trinity women’s team. The number three-ranked player, Nour Bahgat, took five games to beat the number two player, Nayelly Hernandez, and squeaked out a game-five win at 13-11 (it takes 11 to win, but it has to be by two points). In 2009 Nour was the top college women’s squash player. Injuries kept her lower on the ladder this year, so now that she is well enough to play, she is clawing her way back up to the top.
Nour Bahgat is fighting to regain the #1 spot in women's singles

Nour Bahgat is fighting to regain the #1 spot in women's singles


Though down 0-5 in the first game and 6-10 in the second, she fought fiercely to win both. Nayelly came back in the next two games to force a very tight fifth game. The whole match seemed filled with some pushing and body contact, yelling and frustration. But the drive to win was almost visible for both players. I admire so much how athletes who are behind have the will and determination to not give up and make extraordinary efforts to overcome the momentum against them…and then they win.

The Trinity men’s coach, Paul Assaiante, was the referee, and one of his pointers to the women afterward was that the contest was a good learning lesson. They both received more experience in how rough a match can be when they compete against other school’s players.

My three, squash-hitting sessions were capped off with hard drills by Nour’s father, Mohsen, who had trained her since age five, competed in international tournaments as a youth and won the Egyptian Masters (over 40-years) tournaments each year from 2005 to 2009. He is 57 and has a long history of training, coaching teams, consulting and refereeing. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Week of Casual Conditioning—Frisbee, Tennis, Squash, Beach Running, Hiking After Turkeys

It’s been a busy week. I went to NY City last Wednesday (the 6th) to pick up my son from the end of his junior college year. I thought I could take it easy when we arrived home. However within five minutes of returning from my seven-hour round trip and unloading the car, I was “invited” to play Frisbee. Turns out my son wants to try out for the NYU Ultimate Frisbee team next fall and needs to practice. It was too good a chance to bond with my boy, so I re-learned how to throw and catch. I still have some bruises almost a week later.

After an hour of running after the spinning disc—no leaps, jumps and falls—I gave up and admitted I was tired. I had really been pushing hard and hoping he would want to stop first. In fact he played for another hour with his friend who happened to drop by shortly after I called it quits.

The next morning I was playing tennis doubles for 90 minutes, then an hour plus of practicing my spin serve with one person. My tennis game is really improving. Yet I am impressed that players who are not as good as I am overall are very comfortable correcting my game. And you know what—they often make good points, even if I think that I should be the one giving advice.

Then I fit in an hour of squash practice—mostly return of backhand serve. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Cat Toys With the Mouse, Which Happens to be Me

After confirming at midnight that we were on for hitting, the Trinity squash player called after nine in the morning to say that he was sick. Damn. I had been really looking forward to hitting with a top athlete. But within half an hour, he had found a replacement—Supreet, another varsity player. So my friend and I headed off for a major challenge: could we keep up and rally for long?

On court we were toyed with, like the cat with a drunken mouse. Within one game, I was breathing hard from being run all over the court. But I earned two points. My friend then took over and was also easily defeated…but he lasted two games. Then we continued to alternate two games at a time.

It was a grueling workout in temperatures of 80+ degrees. It was something of a clinic with pointers at game’s end on how to improve: hold your racquet this way for a certain shot, flick your wrist instead of pushing your arm, take a long step to save energy and return to the center—the “T”—rather than moving so close to the front wall. Stop “panicking” when you are not sure how to hit a ball off the side wall.

Of course Supreet was not playing as well as he can—he was merely doing his best to hit easy shots we could return. Except the easy shots went from back court smashes to front court dinks, from the left side to the right. I was whupped and drained. And I thought I was in good shape! Read the rest of this entry »

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