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.

My knowledge of squash is pretty limited, and I still have much to learn. I was only introduced to the sport four years ago, when my daughter played on her high-school team. I then became a Trinity fan—practically a groupie—who attends many of their home and away games. The college is an hour away in Harford, CT. I have seen professionals play in just two tournament days. And I started playing myself in April 2009.

Mostly I have been watching the Trinity men’s matches, young men still in their physical prime. Full of optimism, vital, not yet tried and tested by the outside world. My daily life brings me constantly into contact with older people, often gray-haired and worn down by life. They are frequently overweight, tired, not fit, eyes sometimes glazed over from the struggles of adulthood. Maybe that is what is so appealing about my recent interest in sport and trim athletes.

After Nour's match and her dad's training session with me—2/10

After Nour's match and her dad's training session with me—2/10

However when I saw Mohsen at age 57 move so nimbly and gracefully on the court, I was almost mesmerized. So beautiful, balletic, light-footed…and then the ball gets smashed and whacked with the power of his stroke. I was reminded of a visit in Brazil, when I was studying that country’s martial art, capoeira, and I met an old mestre (master/teacher) in his 60’s who seemed frail and weak. Then the music and clapping started, and he entered the roda (ring) and was doing cartwheels and controlled falls to the ground and kicking and ducking so expertly. It was poetry to watch and astonishing to see the change in his movement.

So it was with Mohsen, not that he looked old or frail, but that prior to being on the court, his demeanor seemed gentle and reserved. His strength and force were coiled inside, waiting to be released. Maybe it is the same for other coaches of demanding individual sports, but this was rare for me to be two feet away from such a master.

Of course he corrected me: showed me that my foot position was wrong, my angle to the ball needed altering, my backhand needed improving, that I had to always watch the ball. And within the hour, I did hit the ball better and with more control and harder. A vast gain in performance. I hope that some of this knowledge is applicable in tennis. Very exciting.

You can follow Trinity’s men’s squash activities at: http://athletics.trincoll.edu/sports/msquash/index

To locate a college squash team to root for near you, visit the site of the College Squash Association: http://collegesquashassociation.com/