Archive for category squash

Sports/Exercise Report For November

November was respectably active. I did something physically demanding 19 days, down from last month’s 22 days and below my record 25 days in November 2009. I am not counting seven days, when I just did some push ups or a plank. Maybe I should count those days.

I played tennis just seven days, for only 23 1/2 hours, way below my record of 18 days set in June, and my all-time record of 42 3/4 hours. But I did play squash six times for 7 3/4 hours, and went hunting and walking in the woods four times for 6 1/2 hours. So I was moving around: it adds up to 37 3/4 hours.

I also did crunches three times, down from four last month and still a long way from my record of nine sessions in May and in December last year. However I again broke my all-time record for numbers…my best session of 1600 (500+500+600) set a new record over my previous record of 1505 (400+455+650) set last month. Having reached this high level, I pretty much stopped for about five weeks now, taking on the challenge of reaching 100 push ups.

I did some push-ups…10 different days, up from four times last month and setting a record over the eight days in September. My maximum without stopping was 46, no better than my number in September. But I am working on it. I only did a plank once for 210 seconds. Very boring and very strenuous. My record set last month was 270 seconds.

I made it to the Boston gym once and did some lat pull downs.

I am discovering that achieving 10 push ups in six weeks seems impossible for me. But I am sticking with it and will report back later.

Martina Navratilova’s Thoughts About Failure Applied To Dumbness On The Squash Court

It’s amazing how absent-minded I am on the squash court. At the last two Sunday one-hour clinics, the instructor teaches us shots and strategies, we practice them for 15 minutes, and then we play games against each other with the intent of using them in a contest. What’s unbelievable is that I forget to do them, whether it’s a high lob to the back court—I finally remembered after 3 1/2 games last week— or a rail or drop shot on the side of the court opposite my opponent, when I am returning serve.

I just can’t remember. Today I was in the third losing game before I realized the other guy was a lefty, and that I had been serving to his forehand each time. And hitting to that side of the court as well. What the hell is this dumbness all about? It’s nuts to be so completely thoughtless and unaware. As I was leaving the courts after two hours, I saw someone flick his wrist a certain way and then, finally, realized I was hitting my backhand wrong.

How can I be so out to lunch? Is it nervousness that is to be expected, when attempting a new sport or task? While feeling sorry for myself and whining to a friend, he told me to have patience, that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something, that I have only been playing squash for under two years. Nevertheless, I am still pissed and disgusted. It’s pathetic to lose awareness to such a degree.

Maybe this is what many folks experience in daily life, when doing their job, dating, or handling the logistics of everyday chores: they forget what wise or experienced people have told them. They aren’t sure what to say, which decision to pick, what shirt would look best, etc. I don’t have problems with a lot of those challenges.

But I am a complete ignoramus on the squash court. In tennis I can now often see an opening and control my body in time to hit the ball there. I just have to stay with it in squash.

I am reminded of an article I read today about tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who attempted to climb Mount Kilmanjaro and failed to reach the top. She couldn’t breathe and was carried down on a stretcher.

Nothing about the experience, she insisted, had altered her definition of success, which despite her countless trophies and record 59 Grand Slam titles has never revolved solely around winning. “I’ve always said, ‘The only failure is when you fail to try,’ ” Navratilova said. “The other failure would be not giving your best effort. And I feel I did both: I tried and gave my very best effort. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

I am not sure I agree with her last sentence, suggesting the result was more fate than personal failure, but I like the part about how you have to make the attempt and give it your best effort. If only I could remember a few of these pointers for improving my squash game, then I would feel that I gave it my best effort…even if I lost, as I did all 10 games among three players today. Patience…and practice. Have to build that muscle memory. 10,000 hours, here I come…

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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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Pushing Too Hard For Push Ups

Continuing my goal toward 100 push ups, I flew by the second day’s regimen of five sets of push ups: 25, 15, 15, 20, 25 with 90 seconds between each set. The third day was my first obstacle. The challenge is 22,30, 20, 20 28 with 120 seconds between sets. I could only do 15 non-stop for the last set, so I paused a few times as I crawled on my knees over the finish line doing the last 13: 5 (pause), 4 (pause), 2 (pause) and the final two.

I think I strained my back too. Idiot. I gather that I am now supposed to either start the week over or keep doing this third day over until I complete it.

At least I made the effort. I was so exhausted from the morning’s tennis that I had to rest all day. After the push ups at 6 pm, I went to hit tennis balls with a friend who hadn’t been on a court in over a year and used to dominate me. If we’d played a game, I am pretty sure I would have lost…unless I could have worn him out over a set or three. I was definitely improved over our last match and in better shape, but he can still kill a forehand and deliver a serve.

In spite of my aching back, I also hit with my coach today. He really urges me to relax my upper body. I didn’t tell him about the pain I was feeling. But some of his pointers—focus on your feet, so there is no tightness above your waist and your stroke and serve is smooth and fluid—made a huge difference. Can’t wait for the next games on Thursday and Friday.

In the last seven days, I have played tennis and squash six days and 15.75 hours. During three of those days, I did push ups. No wonder I am tired…

At the squash courts, where I am number 14 of 15 members on the ladder, I was challenged by the guy below me. I won the first game 11-1, then lost 1-11. What a shock. Thought I was going to run away with it. Next game I came from behind to win 14-12. He was winded in game four, so I won 11-6 or 7. Another player at the Sunday clinic who hadn’t played in four years took me three games straight, and I never earned more than 6 points in each game. These experienced players sure are tough to beat. The lesson focused on hitting balls long and over your opponent’s head when he is up close. I didn’t even think to do that in my ladder match until the middle of the last game…when #15 did it to me. Pretty dumb of me.

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First Step Toward 100 Push Ups

Yesterday I started the journey to doing 100 push ups. I realized that at three sessions a week for six weeks, I have just 18 workouts of about 10 minute each. One down and 17 to go…although given how many I was able to do from the start, the instructions said to go right to week three. Maybe that eliminates six days of training. I am determined.

The first day was easy: five sets (14, 18, 14, 14, 20+) with 60 seconds between each set. Is it asking too much to do abs exercises on alternate days? This may be unrealistic—I played tennis for 1 1/2 hours this morning and then had my first squash match in the afternoon…I lost 3 out of 4 games, but two were at 10-12, and 13-15, and my win was at 11-9. My opponent had to work hard for those wins at the end.

So it’s easy to rationalize that I am too tired. And I have to not overdo things—I have almost five hours of tennis scheduled for tomorrow, because people asked me to fill in for two doubles games that each needed a fourth.

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Sports/Exercise Report For October

October was reasonably active. I did something physical 22 days, around the same as last month’s 23 days and below my record 25 days in November 2009. I am not counting two days when I just did some push ups or a 270 second plank.

I played tennis or practiced on 15 days, below my record of 18 days set in June, but for 42 3/4 hours, up from last month’s 37 3/4 and breaking my all-time record of 42 1/2 hours. I am now playing the best tennis of my life and last week dropped out of a regular game that has not proved as challenging at my new level. So many improvements in my serve, lobs, forehand and net volley game. I can’t get enough of this sport.

I did crunches four times, up from just once last month and still a long way from my record of nine sessions in May and in December last year. At least I broke my all-time record for numbers…my best session of 1505 (400+455+650) set a new record over my previous record of three sets of 450 (1350 total) in May.

I did some push-ups…wrist still not any hindrance or pain. Only four times, down from eight different days last month. My maximum without stopping was 43, down from last month’s top of 46. I’m inspired by some of the world records I have been reading about and posting, as well as my story and email exchanges with Doug Pruden, who holds many national and world push up titles. There were three days of stretches and doing planks, same as last month, and a record of 270 seconds, up from my June record of 240 seconds.

I made it to two gyms (Boston and Miami), swam two (butterfly and back stroke) laps in North America’s largest and longest pool and went hunting twice for a total of 7 1/2 hours.

I still can’t believe that I have become such a physical person. This past week I played squash four times in eight days, tennis three times for 11 3/4 hours, and went hunting twice for 3 1/4 hours. Who is this guy? I just don’t recognize myself. Do I look familiar to any of you? I only regret that I get tired and “lazy” and can’t make myself do exercises when I am so active in the other sports.

Sports/Exercise Report for May

May results set some good records. I was active 23 days, up from 20 in April, though below my record 25 days in November. Being out of town for my son’s college graduation was a welcome and happy break.

I played tennis or practiced during 17 days over 37 ¾ hours, which is up from last month’s 15 days/31 ¼ hours and is greater than my high of 16 days, though below my record of 41 ¾ hours. I was fairly tired the day I played with three different groups over 5 ¾ hours, and temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s exhausted me. Many days I played tennis matches in the mornings and then hit balls with a friend in the afternoon. Forcing myself to fit in crunches is the ultimate challenge, and I usually failed at it.

My nine crunch session equaled my high in December. I set a new record of three sets of 450 (1350 total), up from my previous record of 1050 total in January. Then to vary my routine, I started just doing different stomach exercises for 30 minutes a session. We’ll see if I can fill in that one missing muscle, because I really only have a feeble five-pack at the moment. I was told that if you don’t change your routine, your muscles get used to it and don’t grow as much. Jason Statham’s abs still look better than mine.

There were also two squash sessions for two hours total, way below my record of 8 days and 7 ½ hours. I went bow and arrow hunting for wild turkeys four times for 19 hours and also spent two days (3 ½ hours) chain sawing shooting lanes and clearing trails in the woods. Never even took a shot though this year. Too few birds. And two few weight lift days—just two. But my wrist and shoulders are healing—even swam some butterfly laps yesterday and felt no shoulder pain.

Sports/Exercise Report

April results were a bit inhibited by a sore back for 10 days. I only had 20 days of sports and ab crunch activity, down from 21 in March and a record of 25 physically active days in November My crunch sessions totaled eight, up from just four in each of the last two months (my record is nine crunch sessions in December). I did increase to 1000 total-in-a session ball crunches (three sets) up from highs of 750 in March and 550 in February, but below my record 1050 in January.

For the month I played tennis 15 days and 31.25 hours, up from last month (record is 16 days and 41 3/4 hours), squash two days and 2 hours (record is 8 days and 7.5 hours), practiced archery twice and went hunting for turkeys with a bow once for seven hours. I also lifted weights at home three times.

It’s nice to see my abs showing again and to be improving my tennis game with more outdoor practice possible. Spring is definitely here at last.

The Greatest Athlete Of All Time?

Yesterday I heard for the first time about the greatest squash player in the history of the game: Jahinger Khan. He was undefeated for almost six years and won 555 matches in a row! This is the longest record of consecutive wins by any athlete in any sport. After that loss, he was undefeated for another nine months.

How he even began playing squash is a story I just discovered in the following excerpts by Richard Eaton from the official Dunlop British Squash Open program

“When Hashim Khan returned home (to Pakistan) after winning his first British Open in 1951, he was driven through Peshawar in an open top car amidst celebrations so great that schools were closed for the day.

When Hashim won it again, his distant relative Roshan Khan, who had once been a street sleeper, came to England with £5, a borrowed overcoat and warnings that he would starve. Instead, his capture of the British Open title by beating Hashim in the 1957 final opened a door to a better life and did much to begin the Khan legend.”

Roshan then taught his son, Jahangir Khan, who won the British Open ten times and was eventually named the Sportsman of the Millennium, with his image cast on postage stamps.

Jahangir Khan—1984

Jahangir Khan—1984

Startling enough that this superhuman athlete’s father used to sleep in the streets. Listen to how unlikely that Jahinger would even play any sport. During his earlier years, Jahangir was a sickly child and physically very weak. Though the doctors had advised him not to take part in any sort of physical activity, after undergoing a couple of hernia operations, his father let him play and try out their family game.

In 1979, the Pakistan selectors decided not to choose Jahangir to play in the world championships in Australia, judging him too weak from a recent illness. Jahangir decided instead to enter himself in the World Amateur Individual Championship and, at the age of 15, became the youngest-ever winner of that event.

In 1981, when he was 17, Jahangir became the youngest winner of the World Open, beating Australia’s Geoff Hunt (the game’s dominant player in the late-1970s) in the final. That tournament marked the start of an unbeaten run which lastedover five years and over 500 matches. The hallmark of his play was his incredible fitness and stamina, which his cousin, Rehmat Khan, helped him build up through a punishing training and conditioning regime. Jahangir was quite simply the fittest player in the game, and would wear his opponents down through long rallies played at a furious pace.

In 1982, Jahangir astonished everyone by winning the International Squash Players Association Championship without losing a single point.

Here is part of a documentary in Pakistan that interviews him perhaps in 2009, tells his story, and shows him playing squash as a youth.

The unbeaten run finally came to end in the final of the World Open in 1986 in Toulouse, France, when Jahangir lost to New Zealand’s Ross Norman. Norman had been in pursuit of Jahangir’s unbeaten streak, being beaten time and time again. “One day Jahangir will be slightly off his game and I will get him,” he vowed for five years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sports/Exercise Report

February was full of sports activity, but little exercise and crunches. Maybe I am just too tired to work on muscles and abs. Could I be lazy as well? Can’t really say that when I was active 24 out of 28 days.

I played tennis 15 different days for a total of 41.5 hours. (The totals in December and January were 15 and 14, 41 3/4 and then 36) There were eight days that I played squash for 7.5 hours (up from once in December and two times last month). I went cross country skiing twice and downhill skiing once (in a storm on powder) (up from once in each of the last two months). And I did crunches just once a week, four times in the month (down from nine times in Dec and seven times in Jan), and 550 ball crunches was my largest amount (down from my record of 1050 last month). For a guy who used to do almost no sports or exercise in previous lives, this is a huge improvement. Nevertheless, I feel badly that I am not working on my abs and chest muscles.

Guess I should start doing them if I want that six-pack..

Eye-For-An-Eye Or Turn Your Other Cheek?

Which do you prefer of these biblical admonishments? In your life and in sports?

There was a controversial event at the 2010 National Collegiate Squash Finals that was very upsetting and confronting for me. It made the papers, ESPN, and YouTube and also generated much commentary.

With Trinity College seeking its 12th consecutive annual victory, and leading Yale four matches to two (with five out of nine needed), the Trinity #1 player, Baset Chaudhry, the #1 ranked college player for four years, won the final point in the third game, thus winning his match and the team national championship.

Baset Chaudhry howls at Yale's Ken Chan, while Ira rises next to lady in orange sweater—2/20/10

Baset Chaudhry howls at Yale's Ken Chan, while Ira rises next to lady in orange sweater—2/20/10

At that instant, Chaudhry let out a howl, a scowl and three-inch-away face-down at his Yale opponent, freshman Kenneth Chan, who is at least a foot shorter. The cameras and videos recorded the moment, and the fire was ignited on the explosion that resulted.

“Bad sportsmanship,” “He lost it,” “Penalize and punish him,” were some of the damning comments. The lion against the lamb. The bullying giant versus the innocent little guy.

I was there for two days of the tournament, I know Baset, admire his talent and have seen for years what a gentle young man he is. He also has high grades that have earned him academic recognition and a job already waiting after he graduates this spring.

What was largely ignored by the media is that Chan was constantly bumping into Baset, losing from the beginning (three games in a row), and in the middle of the second game, after Chan made a difficult point, Chan let out an enormous howl up at Baset’s face that was startling, unsportsmanlike and unforgettable. But no picture was taken or published of that provoking gloating. Only one of Baset at the moment of victory giving it back to him.

Polls in the Hartford paper show that of 2000 readers, 61% think that Chaudhry’s behavior was unacceptable. A former sports coach I know agreed, as did a friend who has been a jock all his life. You are supposed to be gracious in victory, able to control yourself, especially in a gentlemanly sport like squash. Even if you are a kid in your early twenties and not a professional athlete. No excuse, no justification is possible. No matter what someone did to you before, no matter what insults might have been said (I have no knowledge or grounds to think that was the case this time), regardless if someone taunted you, cursed you, made comments about your mother or yelled in YOUR face before you yelled back in his. You’re expected to smile and be a nice guy. A good sport. Well done, old chap. You did your best. Cheerio.

I find it hard to agree, even though I was told that I am acting like a “fan” now (which I am), rather than like a neutral observer.

I mind when people not involved in something tell others how they “should” act. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blood On The Court

Yesterday after I slammed my head into the squash court wall, there was enough blood on the floor and in my cupped hand that I wondered if I had a concussion or was going to need stitches for the ¾ inch gash above my right eye.

Later while watching the Olympics, I grimaced during the three crashes I saw in the women’s downhill ski competition. And Lindsay Vonn won a gold medal in that event in spite of her pained shin, her almost-ripped-off thumb.

This morning I read about a snowboard athlete, Kevin Pearce, who wiped out in training and is in rehab learning how to walk again. Shaun White (gold medal snowboarder) has experienced a list of injuries from his sport that makes one pity his mother: He fractured his skull, broke his right hand and right foot and was knocked unconscious—all by age 11.

Now that I follow professional athletes—or even the amateurs I know—we are all getting injured all the time. It comes with the territory. But I lived for decades without messing up my body. I didn’t have broken anything, much less limps, bruises and aches. Can any of you who play sports imagine such a pain-free existence?

I can’t any longer. Though I am not taking the extreme risks of the pros, who might die or be permanently disabled from their passion to play and excel. I still can’t grasp those rock climbers who fall to their deaths with one slip of the finger. Unimaginable.

In an article about the dangers of Olympic winter sports, I read that Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission make clear just how dangerous winter sports can be and not just for Olympians: 139,332 Americans were injured while skiing in 2007 and even more, 164,002, got hurt while snowboarding that year. And when looking at all winter-sport injuries, including sledding, snowmobiling and ice skating, 10 percent involved a head injury.

Why do we all do it, to whatever degree? Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Tennis/Crunch/Sport Report

Finally, finally and finally, the Australian Open is over. I become too interested in these contests and spend so much time watching that other interests are short-changed. Now I can do more reading, writing and exercising.

So here is what I did in January.

I played tennis on 15 days—one more than last month—for a total of 36 hours (down from 41 3/4 in December). Almost can’t imagine how I was doing five hours a day last month sometimes, but it was usually doubles. Played more singles recently.

My abs crunches set a lifetime record and also were modified.

Jan 1: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 500 balls
Jan 5: 250+250+250+250=1000 balls (legs on exercise ball, back on floor)
Jan 9: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 550 balls (a record)
Jan 18: 250+300+300+200=1050 balls (a record)
Jan 23: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + slow balls
Jan 27: 100+100+100=300 bicycles
Jan 29: 40 slow balls

When I did 1050 ball crunches, it took half an hour. So I am experimenting with the theory of reducing the time exercising but doing the moves more slowly—when I lower myself back to the floor, I am taking 15 seconds for just one descent. We will see if this builds muscle as well or better than faster, but more, reps.

I also went skiing once, played squash twice (one session was 10 games, and I wasn’t tired), lifted some weights just once (my injured arm was able to do it), and rowed once.

Another activity that took up some very exciting time was attending five of the Trinity College squash matches at Hartford and New Haven. Trinity has now won 217 consecutive matches over 11 years, the longest of any sport. The team has also won the annual national contests 11 years in a row. I am a big fan, and love rooting for the players and coaches I have come to know and admire.

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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Exercise/Sport Report

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

David Beckham shows off abs for Armani ad—2009

I am now addicted. Maybe it’s endorphins that are kicking in. I read that they can be as powerful as morphine. I have become a sportaholic or exercisaholic. I am astonishingly fit, hardly tire, barely sweat (it is 40-50 degrees outside the indoor tennis courts I play on these days).

In just 25 November days, I have done the following:

Tennis—played 15 times, some sessions for three hours of singles and doubles

Squash—played, mostly practiced 6 times, three in a clinic, each session one hour.

Hunting—3 times, average of three hours each time


Crunches—9 times, some slow, some sloppy but 500-700 most times

Lat pulldowns—6 times

I am now an exercise junky. Read the rest of this entry »

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Helluva Week For Physical Stuff—From A (abs) to Z (zumba)

Back home to normal life: signing checks, initiating roof replacement, selling a horse. But still awed with the increased physical activity of the last week. I will post specifics later of my time:

hot tubbing with Palm Beach girls,
eating enough desserts in Florida to gain five pounds,
swimming in the country’s biggest hotel pool,
tennis playing/practice (four times in six days),
squash practice twice, including a one-hour group lesson,
ab crunch workouts twice,
practicing archery for upcoming hunting of wild turkeys,
two gym visits for mi latissimi,
Zumba dancing with 26 mostly Latina ladies,
skipping Connecticut meals and exercising enough to lose five pounds,
driving a newly-leased, “brilliant red” car like I was on the race track, and
making 25 green-headed, red-faced, white-ring-necked pheasants feel drunk, so they wouldn’t fly away as I set them in bushes.

I am determined to rebuild my abs and play better squash and tennis, and this burst of body energy better jump-start the effort.

Tennis and Exercise Reports

I just returned Wednesday the 28th from Florida, where I attended a college reunion. I will comment later on what I saw when I looked at people I hadn’t seen since 1962. First a report on the month’s physical activity, which was hampered by the high-class problem of being away 22 days.

Gym Work—I avoided it like I used to, as if it were a punishment. And Surprise! Surprise: my abs have practically disappeared. No wonder. I worked on them diligently April, May, June, July…then went to the gym just three half-hearted-30 minutes-each visits in August, September and October. Just used the lat pull down machine. Once in Boston and twice in Miami. How did I ever go to the gym 6-10 times a month? I did do crunches at the gyms or at a hotel. But the quality is very poor—when doing bicycles, my elbow doesn’t always touch my knee after about 60 or even 50 on the last two sets. We’ll see how long it takes me to get back where I was. I really miss seeing some definition each time I shower or brush my teeth.

Oct 5: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 200 chairs

Oct 10: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 200 chairs

Oct 14: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 200 chairs

Oct 16: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 250 chairs

Oct 18: 30 minutes of slow, good crunches and lat pull down in gym

Oct 21: 100+100+100=300 bicycles + 200 chairs

Oct 27: 100+100+100=300 bicycles plus lat pull down in gym plus first Zumba dancing class

Oct 28: lat pull down in gym

Oct 30: 150+150+150+200 ball crunches

Tennis Play—Six contests plus an hour against a wall in Miami. Includes two singles matches in which I beat a contemporary and played well against a 40+ in a Florida pickup game.

I was awful after a two-week break and jet lag. But I hit a lot of good strokes yesterday after Wednesday’s wall practice. When it clicks in, the game is terrific. Also made it to the squash court for an hour of practice. Just agreed to attend a squash clinic on November 1st.

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Playing My Best Tennis After Weeks Of Terrible Tennis

In spite of my injured right arm and shoulder, I have continued to play tennis and practice squash. In the last two months, my game steadily deteriorated to terrible, and then recently it became (for me) sensational. I am ecstatic today, after playing the best tennis of my life. How did this happen? Here is a little account of my journey from awful to fantastic.

I was doing real well in July, until I injured myself I believe in the gym. That month I played and practiced tennis 14 times and squash once.

August was busy and sore, although I played/practiced tennis 10 times and hit squash balls (no games yet) with a friend twice. September has seen me on the tennis court 12 times and the squash court three.

My tennis game had suffered enormously, and I was very discouraged. I guess the injury had some influence, but I didn’t feel any aching while playing (just after for a bit) and wasn’t aware that it was affecting my performance. But I constantly hit the tennis balls long or into the net. My serve was weak, and I had a negative attitude. My team lost more sets than I could accept easily. As relaxed as I am about losing, I was really fed up.

Then a number of things changed, so that in the last week, I have played the best tennis ever. My team has won six out of seven sets: 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. I must confess that I have had three different partners in those three matches. But my playing has been superior…for me, and compared to my previous results.

My net game is vastly improved and the backhand volleys are often powerful instead of dinky. Many of my volleys are gentle, finessed at side angles that are impossible to return. My forehand strokes are harder and IN THE COURT. I was always hitting the ball too long, over and over. And my backhands are better, although there is still plenty of room to add power.

So what happened? Read the rest of this entry »

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Tennis and Squash Report: Victory At Last! And Then I Was Smashed.

In spite of sore muscles near my right elbow, I have been playing some racket sports. Now that I am back to my old serve, I am improving my game.

August 3rd—an hour of hitting with a beginner.

August 6—4 hours of tennis. Slaughtered my regular opponents in doubles and singles. Then lost two doubles sets with the age-50’s group, but made a good showing.

August 8—1¼ hours of squash practice and games. Getting back into it. Won 3 out of 4 with a former opponent who used to always beat me…although she hadn’t played in a year.

August 9—1¼ hours of squash practice. Really starting to whack the ball well and place it too.

August 11—Tennis victory: beat the old guys (93 and 86) both sets, 6-4. 6-3. A real achievement. So my team has now won three sets out of 12. Those guys can place and lob so beautifully. Decades of practice. Though they can’t run fast or far, they can still reach the ball and return it perfectly over and over. My own game was definitely better, with fewer long balls and some amazing “gets.” My partner played really well too…so we beat ‘em both sets at last. What an effort!

One benefit of an arm that hurts is that I am guessing this ache is the result of not hitting the tennis ball properly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Exercise Report—Two New Records: 300 Normal Crunches; 10+6 Chin Ups+Pull Ups

Practiced squash today at the prep school courts of the club I just joined. Such an exhausting sport. I love it. What a workout. Too tired to look at local fireworks.

Last night at the gym late—done at 9pm. Two new personal bests: 300 crunches (3 sets of 100 each) with the exercise ball (not the bicycle-type crunches, which are much harder) and 10 chin ups followed by 6 pull ups (increased from 10 + 4 1/2). On June 16 I was at 135 crunches with the exercise ball. That’s progress to me. I am loving the chinning bar. I want to move along it like a ninja.

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Some Practice Makes Me Better

You have to laugh at how hard it is to perform when competing as well as in practice. My record at squash on my friend’s court was much better—I have never earned more than 4 points. But last Saturday I won 7 points in two games, was ahead 5-0 in another game and scored 5 points in 2 or more other games.

Great! But I still can’t return the backhand serve off the left sidewall with any consistency…must have lost 2 to 4 points each game that way. Once I really improve that shot, I should be able to give my friend a real contest. And I was exhausted after an hour of play. I actually had to nap for two hours in the afternoon. I never ever ever do that. But I was tired.


Death Plays Tennis and Wins

Had some pretty heavy coincidences recently. In my post of June 9th, a friend said “I could be dead in 10 minutes, so why not give myself some pleasure and have another dessert or third glass of wine.” Of course he hopes this possible reality doesn’t come true.

But while I was hitting tennis balls with my son yesterday afternoon, the man friend of a woman I know did die unexpectedly. I think it was a heart attack. I spoke to people who had seen this man just a few hours before he passed on. We are shocked and numb.

The suddenness of it is so traumatic, so startling. It makes one want to savor every moment possible, suck as much nectar as we can from the flowers of our lives. And when it happens to people we know, the nearness of it emphasizes the fragility of life much more than we care to recall.

Today at tennis, my friend Francois told two women at the indoor court an amazing story that had happened a couple of years ago at that same court. He had been playing with a friend, Cliff, as his teammate. The score was 6-6, and then the tie break was won by Francois and Cliff. They did it 7-0. Both men were very excited. Someone asked if the group wanted to stop or play some more, and Cliff said let’s play another set. He turned from the net and collapsed. Francois was unable to catch him, and he died before he was on the ground.

Then one of the women said that she had been there that day and had used her sweat pants to cover him and keep him warm until the ambulance came. But it was too late.

So if life can be so arbitrary, and death can be so abrupt and unpredictable, does it really make sense to not eat an extra dessert or two? What the hell? Who cares? Why care? These are legitimate questions that most of us answer by our actions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gotta Keep Your Eye On The Ball

In both tennis and squash, I have trouble keeping my eye on the ball until its impact with the racket. And I can see that that one detail alone is what the pro’s seem to do all the time. It’s not easy. And I can’t imagine why it is so hard. But it makes the entire difference… Read the rest of this entry »

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Using Tennis Advice So That Ira Can Finally Drop His Turkey

I shot a turkey yesterday morning, only the second time with a bow in eight years (that’s 16 seasons).

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

Before I describe the whole hunt in another post (which may not interest you), I want to tell you how tennis prowess and peak performance was used in my turkey hunting. And I think it can be applied to other sports as well. This had all been explained the day before by my friend and tennis coach, Frank, when I asked him what allowed the very top players to dominate the game.

One squash coach told me (see April 21st post) that it’s easy to swing the racquet perfectly, but adding a ball that you’re supposed to hit on the swing changes the dynamic enormously. Similarly, aiming at and hitting a stationary, life size, 3-D turkey target is one challenge. But shooting a moving, walking turkey that might see you raise your bow and fly or turn away from you at any second is totally different.

Turkey stories aside, and in accordance with Frank Adam’s advice, I was able somehow to enter a kind of numbness or zone. I was on automatic, totally instinctual. I never calculated distance to the bird, the angle down, what the horizontal length was (see the May 2nd post about Bow and Arrow Lessons). It all just sorta, kinda happened. I wish I could explain it. Read the rest of this entry »

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