Ira (in blue) with three top squash players—Ryan Thompson (left), Zack Wilkinson and Gustav Detter (far right)

Here is a true, amusing story that proves practice doesn’t always make you perfect right away…at least not for me.

I went to a squash clinic this morning and hit with four players. First was a warm up on the only court with a single—it was 10-year-old Zack Wilkinson. I held my own. Then the coach of the Millbrook School in upstate New York, Greg Reiss, who had arranged the clinic, took me on for points. I did ok, won a few, returned a lot. Then I hit with my friend, Gustav Detter, one of two top squash players there for an exhibition who was 4th best in college squash his senior year at Trinity. (You can read about him below.) It’s a joy to hit with an athlete of his caliber. Just returning a shot and making a point is exquisitely satisfying.

After taking a breather, while Greg stepped onto the court with Gustav, I asked Zack if he wanted to play a game. I was finally ready for him, and watching three days of Trinity winning the nationals last weekend assured me that I could play better in competition. I had the wisdom that comes from watching the national champions and their opponents. I had new strategies. And I had just rehearsed with two superior athletes.

I lost 5-11. Blonde smiling Zack is three fourths my size, and one seventh my age, but he could place the ball too far away. Thank goodness I have no pride in these matters.

Then we watched Gustav play professional Ryan Thompson from Namibia, South Africa, who coaches at St. George’s School in Newport, RI and has ranked as high as #136 in the world. Gustav recently won the Swedish Nationals for the first time and was in really good shape. The match was sensational. Though less than 50 people were in attendance, the level of play was breathtaking. The athletes were holding nothing back. It came down to a fifth game, and Gustav was in danger of losing. Twice he faced match points, but held on and won 13-11. He told me later, when I asked, that the pressure does not bother him, because he has been in that position so often.

After everyone left, I practiced until a Millbrook School sophomore arrived. We hit for half an hour and then we played one game. I lost 7-11. A real improvement. Felipe Pantle is there as a result of the City Squash program. He is a very strong player. He is 15 years old. I have a long way to go…

Now here is some exciting background about Gustav:

A four-time All-American, Detter left Trinity with a 65-11 career record. Detter played most of the 2009 season at the number 2 position, compiling a 17-2 record and finishing the season ranked number four in the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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