Posts Tagged Trinity College Squash Champions

Practicing With Better Players Is Supposed To Improve Your Game

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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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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