Posts Tagged Paul Assaiante

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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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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