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Posts Tagged Trinity squash

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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Amazing Sugar Story

Andres Vargas

I have been hearing for years how terrible sugar is—fattening, rotting your teeth, bad for your health, like a poison for your body, causes diabetes, heart disease, promotes cancers, which thrive on it.

But a top athlete, Andres Vargas, wrote that he can even tell that it affects his performance. Andres played squash for Trinity College, the top team in the country, and finished the year as number six in the country. His college squash record is at the bottom of this post.

Hi Ira,

I just finished reading the article by Jonny Bowden you mentioned on your blog and thought it was pretty interesting.
For me, the sugar is much worse than high cholesterol foods in an athletes diet. Personally, my performance changes
noticeably when I eat a lot of sugar, but it changes slightly when I eat foods such as milk or egg yolks. Anyway this
was just a comment to the post on your blog.

Best as always, Andres Vargas

Here is a typical description of the dangers of eating sugar that I pulled from the internet:

The truth is, most American consumers are so addicted to sugar that they will deny their addictions in the same way that a crack or heroin addict might. And yet, when it comes down to it, sugar controls their behavior. If they don’t have their sugar in the morning (in their coffee, pancakes and cereals), sugar at lunch (in the salad dressing, pasta sauce, soda and restaurant food) and sugar at dinner (there’s sugar in pizza, ketchup and BBQ sauce, plus virtually all restaurant foods), then they suffer serious withdrawal symptoms and go crazy with moodiness and irritability. They start blaming everyone around them for silly things, and they may even become sweaty and light-headed.

Refined white sugar is a pleasure drug. If you don’t believe me, just put a spoonful on your tongue and observe the instantaneous effects. You’ll experience a warming, comfortable feeling that makes you feel safe and happy. They’re not called “comfort foods” by accident.

Sugar is, essentially, a legalized recreational drug that’s socially acceptable to consume. And yet, just like other drugs, it destroys a person’s health over time, rotting out their teeth, disrupting normal brain function, promoting heart disease and directly causing diabetes and obesity. The argument that “street drugs are outlawed because they’re dangerous to a person’s health” falls flat on its face when you consider what sugar does to the human body. It’s a lot more dangerous than marijuana, for example, and yet marijuana is illegal to possess or consume.

Andres’ college squash record:

Tri-captain…three-year starter…CSA First Team All-American…two-time CSA Second Team All-American…3rd on team in wins last season…2007-08 CSA First Team All-American… won the deciding match in a 5-4 triumph at Princeton in 2008- 09…2007-08 NESCAC Rookie of the Year…2nd on team in wins in 2007 08…member and captain of the Colombian National Team…majoring international studies and hispanic studies…son of Martha Heredia and Raul Vargas.

YEAR BY YEAR RECORDS
2007-08 18-2
2008-09 15-3
2009-10 16-1

Career 49-6

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Digging Deeper When You Are In A Hole

Andres Vargas (rt) and Chris Binnie (who won the 9th match in the final)

On February 25th at the college squash national quarter finals, Trinity’s #3, Andres Vargas, defeated Franklin and Marshall’s Mauricio Sedano, 12-10, 12-10, 11-8. The closeness of the final numbers doesn’t reveal a startling comeback I witnessed in what I may recall correctly was the second game. Vargas was down by a score of 3-9. It only takes 11 points to win, although you have to win by at least two points.

There were less than 10 of us watching this game on the side courts with no bleachers. The eight or so folding chairs were mostly empty of fans. But standing beside me was a Trinity team member who does not rank in the top 9, so he was not playing that day. He casually said to me—in response to my expression of concern that Vargas was in deep trouble—”Don’t worry, Vargas will win this game.”

I was shocked. What made him think that? How could he be so sure? He was absolutely certain. When the score increased to 5-10, so that F&M’s player just needed one more point, my Trinity neighbor repeated his prediction. “Vargas has heart. He is the ultimate fighter. He will win this game.”

And then something emotional and inexplicable happens…Vargas wins two more points. It’s a 7-10 game. The distance to the finish has been cut to one point for F&M, but “ONLY” five points for Vargas. Still seems impossible to me. Yet having just won four out of the last five points, the momentum has clearly shifted to Vargas’s side. Trinity fans are hopeful. Maybe it isn’t impossible. F&M needs just one little point in the next five or so efforts. But it doesn’t seem like such a sure thing any more.

Remember that the first game was very close. It had been tied at 10-10, before Vargas squeaked ahead to a victory. This was not a pushover competitor. In this game, F&M had been ahead by 6 and then 5 points…Nevertheless, Vargas claims the next five points, forcing his way to another 12-10 win.

I turned to his Trinity teammate beside me. “How come you are not surprised?” I asked. Vargas had just won 9 out of 10 points. “He just digs in and wins. He is a fighter,” was the explanation. Not very clear nor satisfying to me. But he did it. I had witnessed it.

When Andy Roddick was playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009, there was a moment when Roddick was up a set and winning in the second set tiebreak 5-2. I was sure—well 99% sure—that Roddick would win two points, before Federer would win five. But Roddick blew it…and maybe never recovered. He lost the match in the fifth set by a score of 14-16.

Federer just dug deep. And he does it over and over. In a recent interview, Roddick said that Roger plays consistently at the highest level, whereas the other top 10 pros like himself lose focus, have more off days, are unable to maintain winning game play.

I tried to dig deep at tennis today, like Vargas and Federer. We were behind 0-3, and I was serving. I tried to be a killer, instead of a gentleman who doesn’t mind losing. It is my biggest challenge. But I believe I can do it…and we came back to win that game 6-4. Who’d a thunk it?

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Trinity Squash Wins 13th Consecutive National Title And 244th Straight!

the Trinity team in all its high-energy glory—2/27/11

The team just keeps on breaking records, in squash and for any collegiate sport. But when I watched three days of great play this past weekend at Harvard’s courts, there was no assurance that Trinity would be victorious. The crowd on Sunday at the finals with #2-ranked Yale was so large that people were sitting on the floors everywhere, standing on garbage cans, and shouting so loudly that at one point in the last match, a point was replayed when the Yale player complained he couldn’t hear himself think. This was not like the unearthly quiet of championship professional tennis. The two boys in front of me seemed totally drunk as they yelled nasty words toward one pony-tailed referee.

Amusingly and surprisingly, there were students from Harvard who came at my invitation and then rooted against my Trinity favorites. They wanted to be on hand at this historical contest if Yale should upset the reigning champs, as they hoped. After the match, one of them said he had switched sides and was for Trinity.

There are three rounds of competition in these games played on three different courts simultaneously: the first round is played by the team members ranked 3, 6 and 9; then 2, 5 and 8; then 1, 4, and 7. Trinity was behind after the first round 1-2, and after the second round 2-4, when the Trinity #5 lost in the fifth game by a score of 9-11. That was such a close match. Then Trinity won the 1st string and the 7th string, tying the team scores to 4-4. So the entire tournament would be decided by the last match of the 4th string.

While I was exhilarated when Trinity won some of the points and games in the earlier matches, and jumped out of my seat and waved my hands and fists in the air, I was totally tense and numb and shut down emotionally during the 9th match. I was too scared with the possibility of defeat, even though many around me were either for Yale or against Trinity winning yet another national title. If I weren’t such a fan, I would probably cheer for the underdog as well. But I know the guys and admire the team way too much to feel any guilt about one more victory.

Chris Binnie seconds after his historic win for Trinity

During the second round, I spoke with Chris Binnie, Trinity’s #4, and he seemed nervous as he realized how close the overall contest was and that a lot might depend on his match coming up. I told him to take deep breaths, my usual advice for relieving tension that does very little for me when I am facing powerful tennis shots.

But Chris functions under pressure far better than I do. He won the first game 11-9, then the second game 11-9. Those are nonexistent margins. Then he lost the third game 9-11. So close. But he took the fourth and final game 11-7 for his match and the whole tournament for his team.

Coincidentally the last shot by Yale was hit out of the court and into the crowd…right at my feet. I recovered this historic ball, still warm from the pounding it took and relished this prize memory I could savor forever. When I saw Chris’s smile after he had settled down 15 minutes later, I gave it to him with no hesitation.

On February 18th, the NY Times had an article about how Trinity dominates squash. It is very balanced and even describes what the Trinity coach is going to tell his team when they finally do lose a match…which all agree is inevitable.

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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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Catching Up And Choking Up

If playing and watching sports often results in our forgetting about “real life,” and the drama of sports is often regarded as a metaphor for “real life,” then how much can we adapt from sports success and failure to improving our daily lives?

A lot, I hope. When an athlete or team is way behind and comes back to win, what can we learn from that to help us also upgrade our own performance…in sport as well as possibly going from rags to riches? Or personal setback to major achievement?

And just as a player way ahead often blows his/her lead, what can we glean from that choking that will stop us from doing the same in our own athletic contests and also our personal quests? So we don’t go from castle to hovel, from happy marriage to divorce?

There is this sports announcer thing about momentum, more confidence, change in mood, reviving, rallying. What is it all about? What happens on a psychological level that obviously affects the physical level and then the score and final result?

I have seen recently a few sports situations that make me think about these changes for the better and worse (when one comes from way behind, someone else blows their big lead, right?).

So let’s explore this subject in a series of posts. First some Wikipedia definitions: A “choke” is a failure to perform in sport due to anxiety. This is a form of panic attack in which the athlete may literally experience breathing difficulty or otherwise lose physical composure. Successful champions do not choke, but are “clutch” players — rising to the occasion under pressure rather than collapsing.

In sports, clutch refers to competent and/or superior play during high pressure situations. Most often it is a successful action taken under high pressure during a game, usually at the end, that may result in a significant change on the game’s result. In the mainstream, performance in important situations is often attributed to some wealth or deficit of character that causes a particular outcome…

So I was watching a college squash match, and the Trinity player was behind one game to two. (A winner needs three games out of five.) He’d just been crushed in the third game 2-11. The score in the fourth game was 6-10, so it only takes one more point to 11 for Trinity to lose this individual match to Dartmouth. Although the odds of a Trinity comeback are incredibly remote, I have some faint intuition that this game is not yet over. But I don’t say anything, don’t want to jinx the outcome. I’m all for Trinity.

The score inches up to 7-10, 8-10. Now the fans sense defeat is not inevitable. The players must realize it a bit as well. 9-10, we are almost there. What is going on? Is the Trinity player gaining confidence? He must have more hope now than when it was 6-10. What about his opponent? From a sure or very likely win, enormous optimism, maybe even cockiness, he has to be worried, more fearful, tightening up on his shots.

Suddenly it is 10-10, the unimaginable has happened. It’s a new game. More tension, excitement, many minutes of back and forth. In fact there are six match points total, until Trinity’s Parth Sharma wins 16-14. What a turnaround! Now Trinity has the momentum, the greater enthusiasm; his opponent has to be debilitated and let down. Sharma wins the fifth game easily 11-3, and that individual match goes to Trinity.

How did that happen? How can we make that happen? In sports. Or off the court. People do rise to riches. They do get the girl. They do zoom from doom to boom?

Last year at the Wimbledon final, Andy Roddick wins the first set, goes to a tie break in the second set, and takes a huge 5-1 lead. Read the rest of this entry »

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