Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Last year, this event was rather well received. The purpose of the thing is to chuck two buddies on the court and let them go hammer and tongs just to see who will be paying for the keg. It’s remarkable how players find that extra gear as soon as booze in on the line.

Wednesday, December 15 starting at 5pm, is when the matches will start. Players of all levels are encouraged to enter – if you drink, you belong in this event! I will do my utmost to match you up against a player of similar level. I’ll even throw together a couple of doubles matches if we get the players since they drink too.

All matches will be best of 5 games to 9 points (box ladder scoring) and all matches mean absolutely nothing… except of course pride and bragging rights, and I’ll also enter the results on to the on-line ranking. Since there is no consequence for losing and everyone gets to attack the keg at will, the scores have little significance… excluding the final bout: the Celebrity Keg Match! This one is for all the marbles, or better said, all the beer. The loser of this contest has to pay for the entire keg – yes, that same keg you all will be selfishly and guiltlessly drinking from!

So… "Let’s get ready to rumbllllllllllllle….

In the right corner, weighing in at an estimated 215 pounds (give or take), claiming to be from the Grosse Pointe area but is commonly seen in other parts, coming in with a 2010 record of 5 wins and 15 losses (all close), the “ruler-of-the-cooler” the “will-slot all the kill-shots”, … PAT – I-can’t-believe-my-opponent got that – PETZ!!


In the left corner, weighing in at an estimated (and kind) 200 pounds, probably from the US, but who knows where the red hair came from, coming in with a 2010 record of 11 wins, 6 losses, the “call-your-lets-against-Petz”, the “architect of intellect”… RICH – huff ‘n’ puff – STIMSON!!"

The sparks are sure to fly when so much is on the line with these two! The match will be scheduled to start last so as many people as possible can squeeze in behind the court, guzzle their wobbly pops, and egg on the pugilists… um, I mean protagonists.

Registration deadline is Monday, December 13 if you would like me to organize a match for you. Otherwise, you are more than welcome to come on down and drink the beer you don’t have to pay for. Be sure to thank the loser of the match for their wonderful generosity.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We are all thankful for something. I, for example, am thankful for a job I love, an exceptionally supportive family, and all the many friends I have. Pretty much the usual. However, as an Australian, Thanksgiving does not mean a whole lot – the pilgrims never made it that far – but I am more than happy to take the day off. It seems the Squash Poet is also thankful for a few things, pretty much not the usual…

This is my favorite time of year
More than my birthday and Christmas cheer
Because without remorse and without stops
I can for hours on end stuff my chops
Sit on the couch without the nagging
And watch the football ‘til my eyeballs start sagging
Then in my gluttonous coma I begin to snore
And dream of all the things I am thankful for…

The Squash Poet

"Happy Thanksgiving"

I’m thankful for…
My physical trainer who has no concerns
To run my ass off till my lungs start to burn
Ignoring my pleas for the cruelty to stop
Forcing me to continue ‘til my heart almost stops
Calling me names when I snivel and blubber
Even when I can’t stand cause my legs turn to rubber
God only knows why you just didn’t quit
But thank you so much for making me fit!

I’m thankful for…
My nutritionist who didn’t gag at the sight
Of me waddling in, my width matching my height
For making me stop from stuffing my face
With all that good food that has wonderful taste
Changing it with all this stuff green and raw
Which is like eating cardboard and chewing on straw
But look at me now, I can call myself thin
And can run a bit further before hitting the tin!

I’m thankful for…
My wonderful squash pro with patience eternal
Working with me and my technique infernal
How he hasn’t run and jumped off a cliff
When he feeds me those balls and always I whiff
He must think I’m stupid, I forget constantly
That after every shot to get back to the ‘T’
But truth must be told, my game is quite healthy
(And he should thank me for making him wealthy!)

I’m thankful for…
My squash playing partners who laugh at my pain
As they run me around, they are inhumane
From corner to corner, with drops and with lobs
Until I dissolve into a quivering blob
But needing to win is of no consequence
(I keep telling myself, since I have no competence)
The reason I torture myself year after year
Is to play with my buddies and after drink a cold beer!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Squash Poet

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Boasters League Round 7~~

Two rounds to go and only 11 points separate 1st from 7th. I cannot recall when the league was any closer. Even the last 2 placed teams are not that far behind and can make up ground with a few make up matches. “Mongoose” still hold onto first place even though they had the bye this week, but they have 3 teams breathing down their necks just 3 points behind. “Mr. Daniels Walking” sit just 4 points back, but week 8 is their turn to sit out which definitely hurts their chances of keeping pace. “Winky-Dinks” hold the tie-break with the most bonus points (49), which is why they are officially second place over the other two teams who also have the same point total.

Round 7 participation was a lot healthier than round 6 (it would have been a struggle for it to be worse!) and we had plenty of matches to choose from for ‘match-of-the-week’. Paul Van Tol (“The Beamers”) and Pat Petz (“Threepeat”) made a case for it as Pat took a tough 2-1 victory, as did the Brandon Dobbins (“Speed Ballers”) and Mark Monaghan (“The Underdogs”) contest which gets the ‘most entertaining’ match of the week award. These two almost spent as much time diving on the floor as staying on their feet. I’ll be picking up the skin from their knees and elbows off court 8 for a few days. For the record, Brandon took the match 2-1. But this round goes to Matthew Nichols (“Mr. Daniels Walking”) squeaking through with a 2-1 victory over Julie Anne Smith (“Courts and Pints”) who is coming back after a an injury but is getting her form back quickly. [Picture: Pat Petz steps into a forehand against Paul Van Tol in the 3rd game of their match.]

There is no league next week because of Thanksgiving so that gives everybody 2 weeks to make up some matches. With the standing being so tight, every result makes an impact. So enjoy your turkey, enjoy your family, enjoy Matthew Safford watch the Detroit Lions watch Tom Brady throw a few touchdowns, but do your best to get on court and help your team! Don’t forget: December 10 is the deadline for all matches to be completed.

Monday, November 15, 2010


This snap was taken a few years ago during an in-house event. Many of you would remember Mike Counsman - he's the one wearing the Homer Simpson shirt. His opponent - Phil Pitters - had the giggles...

Look at the following photo and answer the question below:

Why is Phil laughing?

A) Phil loves Homer Simpson
B) He’s remembering how he posed for Mike’s t-shirt
C) Phil loves donuts… (obviously)
D) Mike is not wearing any shorts
E) Mike’s left hand is tickling Phil’s… shorts
F) He found out his ‘racquet’ is longer
G) The two are just… feeling the ‘love’

Answer: Actually, I have no idea. And, I really don’t want to know either.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Boasters League Round 6~~


Was it Boasters League last night? I wondered that to myself as I could hear the echoes of my footsteps reverberate through the squash courts. It didn’t make sense… The Handballers were here… the keg was here… my watch hadn’t stopped and it wasn’t on Australian time… but where were the squash players? I did see a few of them congregating around the beer tap (nothing unusual there), but as the evening wore on I finally managed to catch fleeting glimpses of some matches being played.

While a decent amount of matches are being played during the week, it appeared that Wednesday was the day off! Not one single match was played on court 8, and the teams that were scheduled to play there picked up a combined 9 points for the week. As the dust settled on week 6 (or more like the pocket fluff), team “Mongoose” have streaked ahead of the pack. A 17 point lead is a healthy buffer as they go into week 7 and they’ll be needing it since they have the ‘bye’. Making major strides is “Delta Force”. They move from 6th to 2nd and take on the “Winky-Dinks” next week who are one point behind them.

I can’t really mention a “match-of-the-week” with so few of them to choose from, so I’ll give out a “drinkers-of-the-week” instead! Pictured here are John Blake, Joe Schaden, Paul Huth and Mike Petix enjoying the ‘breakfast of champions’. Which, mind you, is almost just as important as the squash itself because where would we be without the social aspect? My question is though, what is Paul looking at?

We have three rounds to go and four weeks to play them. November 24 is off due to Thanksgiving, and the deadline to get matches completed is December 10. There is time, but it is also running out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The DAC had 5 representatives in the Windsor Tournament and the results actually made me raise my eye-brows just a little. Usually, we struggle to perform well in Windsor – their draws are strong and often the schedule has you playing 2 to 3 matches a day. Plus, it is Canada, which is a disadvantage in itself.

Now, since I wasn’t there and didn’t witness any of the matches, I can only roll off the results. Of course, we’ll start with our winner. John Dunwoody paired up with Windsor member Kevin Parent in the B doubles. They won the final over a pair from London, which is amazing since I thought all the players from London never lost (unless it’s against themselves). Paul Ward reached the semi final of the B draw (he lost that match 3-1), so I assume he played very well and picked up some solid wins. Same can be said for James Van Dyke in the C draw. He also made the semi final. David Pontes lost the quarter finals of the C draw, but it was to James. (Why weren’t these two in separate sides of the draw?) Ryan Bendzinski played the B draw and the B doubles but did not play terribly well (according to the man himself). He lost first round in the doubles and second match in the singles. [Photo: Kevin Parent and John Dunwoody: the perfect couple!]

Kudos and thank you to these 5 players for supporting the tournament! It was terrific to hear that we had 3 players make it all the way to Sunday. We are improving. But we also need to keep sending more players to these outside tournaments – not just for that support – but for your own experience and to better yourselves as squash players. Real matches are invaluable!

Regrettably for me, I had to miss the weekend. Hmph. Age is catching up. Three days before the start of the tournament, I pulled a muscle in my lower back - during a lesson no less – that left me with no choice but to withdraw. (It also left me with the conundrum for a couple of days of figuring out how to put my socks on!) As an organizer myself, I know exactly how frustrating that can be to the poor fellows that spend endless hours making the draws and schedules. At 39, my body is becoming more prone to injury, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that I am not playing regularly. I know that I am suddenly embarking on the same boat as many of our members… that boat is more like an ocean liner... that is sinking...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I love Christmas. The presents, the time off, the excitement on my daughter’s face, my wife’s turkey… all the good stuff we celebrate just because countless elves that live in the coldest place on earth have slaved 364 days of the year making toys for no pay so an overweight man with a fetish for funny red suits can invade every home in the world in one night leaving them under a tree that should be out in the garden instead of our living rooms, then raid the fridge before flying away with magical reindeer. What a wonderfully logical tradition!

Going along with tradition, the 7th Annual Holiday Tournament is one jolly fun evening of squash and drinking. At 5pm on Thursday, December 2, the keg will be ready for consumption as matches get under way. A maximum 24 players can enter this one – each player will get 4 matches against opponents of different levels. We will be using the ‘Swiss System’ - which means that everybody will be placed in the same draw. First round matches are drawn out of a hat in front of everybody to make it completely random. Each match is 2 games to 15 points. Second round matches is against someone who ends up with the same first round result as you, and so forth. (Did I mention there is a keg?) This is of course for players of all levels. (No handicapping!)

The kicker is that each entrant has to bring a wrapped gift worth at least $20 as an entry fee. After the matches, the players get to choose their gift from the pile (sorry, we won’t have a tree) in order of the final rankings. Being in the Holiday spirit, this ensures no one goes away empty handed. Also, being in the Holiday spirit, we have to make sure that all the gifts are appropriate. Over the years, some items have been added to the ‘banned substances’ list. These include:

1. Muffins
2. Viagra
3. Cash
4. Canary yellow DAC t-shirts

Typically, booze is the most common, but try to be imaginative when choosing a gift!

So don’t be a Scrooge! Get some fun squash in and fun drinking in! Registration deadline is Tuesday, November 30. (Did I mention the keg?)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Boasters League Round 5~~

There were two big movers this week. First, the “Winky-Dinks”, who came out firing after their bye week and jumped from 5th to 2nd and now only find themselves 3 points off the first placed “Mongoose” team. The other big mover were “The Beamers”… but in the opposite direction. They dropped from 6th to last. Given, they did have the bye this week, but with only 4 rounds left this half and 11 points back from 8th, it makes them really the only team losing touch. A measly fifteen points separate 1st to 8th which keeps all of those teams well in contention to end up on top of the first half standings come mid-December.

Match of the round would have to go to Anthony Fracchia (“The Underdogs”) versus Bob Rogers (“Winky-Dinks”). I managed to get a glimpse of a few rallies between the two and both of them had the attitude of ‘no ball too far away, no ball too difficult to get to, no rally can be long enough’. Bob also has an attitude of ‘no wall solid enough not to bounce off of’ as he pin-balled himself from corner to corner; rather effectively mind you – if not unconventional nor recommended! Anthony won 2 games to 1, 15-14 in the 3rd, and admitted he was gassed after the match – quite a statement coming from a tri-athlete! The picture you see here is from the Doug Troszak (“Speed Ballers”) v Tom Delaney (“Mr. Daniels Walking”). Doug won this encounter 2-1; this match also having its fair share of long and hard fought rallies.

Five rounds in, and we have only 2 players out of the 108 that have so far played all of their matches and remain undefeated. (Am I jinxing them now?) Tom Bergh (“Mr. Daniels Walking”) and Anil Kathuria (“Winky-Dinks”). Not exactly a great percentage, but there is just over a month left for everybody else to make up what they haven’t yet played. Take note, the deadline to get them completed is December 10.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Many of you may have heard about an urban squash program starting up in Detroit. This exciting and innovative program is called “Racquet Up Detroit” and is headed by new DAC member Derek Aguirre. If the world was full of Dereks, every single kid on the planet would be swinging a racquet. Truly inspirational and dedicated to the sport and helping underprivileged kids (no city needs that more than Detroit), Derek is the perfect man for the job.

The Squash Joint (TSJ): “How did you get involved with the urban squash program, and why Detroit?”

My path to “urban squash” and Racquet Up Detroit is a rather unlikely one. I grew up in the small town of Standish, in northern Michigan, where farming and the other type of squash are a big deal. But until I moved to Ann Arbor to attend University of Michigan, I had very little experience with cities and urban environments. While at Michigan, I became very involved with a volunteer group that facilitated community service opportunities for U of M students in Detroit—after helping clean up a park, tearing down an abandoned house, and working with youth in a tutoring program, I was hooked. Detroit, and non-profit work became my passion. Family, and a great after-school youth program called SquashBusters drew me to Boston, where I had my first exposure to squash and Greg Zaff. Greg, a former hardball squash champion, started SquashBusters about 15 years ago with the notion that the sport could do a lot to help kids in the inner city when combined with academic tutoring, community service, and mentoring in an after-school setting. He was right, as the successes of SquashBusters have been incredible, with nearly 100% of program graduates going to college. The model has now been replicated around the country in 9 other places, including now here in Detroit (ours is called “Racquet Up”).
When I began working at SquashBusters, I had never seen or played squash before. I was running the tutoring and community service components, but it didn’t take long for me to get the “squash bug.” I was soon playing with the kids in the program any chance I could get, and eventually playing in Boston club leagues and tournaments. After six years at SquashBusters, squash was in my blood.
I also became a true believer in Greg Zaff’s approach to youth development. The secret to his success—very personal, intensive, long-term relationships with kids over many years. Only when young people know that you are in it for the long journey with them, will they begin to trust you, listen to you, and look up to you as a mentor. I am still in touch with many of my very first students, then 7th graders, who are now seniors in college! Don’t be surprised if I recruit some of them to Detroit one day to work for Racquet Up.

So, why Detroit? I have always been a believer in this city, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the “Urban Squash and Education” model here. I have confidence in the approach, and know that kids here in Detroit have a ton of untapped potential. We will hopefully help a lot of young people realize this potential through our program.

TSJ: “Please summarize for us what it took/takes to get this program underway in Detroit”

There are three essentials ingredients to the success of Racquet Up Detroit: people, funding, and facilities. Greg Zaff, who now runs the National Urban Squash and Education Association, led the charge to put together a great local board of directors (with a few outstanding DAC members!), hire me as Executive Director, and start getting people excited about our new initiative. He helped secure a major challenge grant from the Knight Foundation to spark our fundraising efforts, and we have had a good deal of success with other foundations and individuals as a result. In addition, we have secured a great partnership with the Northwest Activities Center, the former Jewish Community Center in Detroit for use of squash courts and classrooms—this will be our home base. Finally, we have built partnerships with two Detroit Public Schools to recruit approximately 35 fifth grade students to join the program this January.

TSJ: “Where does the money come from?”

The money to support the program comes primarily from philanthropic foundations, and from generous individual donors. We offer the program as a virtually free opportunity to our students and our partner schools, but that means we must raise every dollar we spend each year. Many of you reading this have already contributed to the cause—thank you! We couldn’t do it without you. If you have not yet done so, and would like to learn more, please contact me anytime at 313-600-9593, or derek@racquetup.org. You can also visit our website at www.racquetup.org (thanks to DAC member Matt DiDio’s Gyro Creative Group for outstanding work on our visual brand, logo, and website).

If you would rather give of your time, we are also in great need of volunteer squash coaches and academic tutors, Monday through Friday from 3:30-6:30pm, and Saturday mornings. Please let me know if you want to help out in this way—it is a ton of fun, and very rewarding.

We would also be thrilled to receive donations of new or used racquets and eyeguards.

TSJ: “Which NFL team do you follow?”

Now for the serious matters…sorry to say that I don’t follow the NFL very closely. I am a die-hard Michigan Wolverine, so Michigan football takes every ounce of loyalty and spirit I have (especially during years like this one…)

TSJ: “How do you choose the kids for the program?”

Racquet Up recruits students through an intensive, month-long process aimed at identifying students from Detroit who will most likely thrive within the culture and structure of the program. We don’t choose students based on athletic ability, and we don’t screen for the top students either—our biggest concern is finding students whom we believe can make the commitment and will take full advantage of the opportunity. We also weigh character values very heavily—do they treat their peers and adults well? Are they willing to try hard and take positive risks? Can they handle the demands and structure of the program?

Students in the 5th grade are first exposed to the opportunity through a presentation in their auditorium. The next step is to give all 5th grade students an opportunity to try squash in their gym classes. If students are excited and interested, they can “try-out” for one of 35 spots on the team. Tryouts consist of roughly the same activities as the normal after-school program— playing squash and engaging in academic and team-building activities. After tryouts, we consult the teachers for more feedback, and finally meet with each of the families individually to ensure that the program is a good fit all around. If all the pieces line up, the student and their parent/guardian signs an Agreement of Participation, and we are off and running!

TSJ: “How do you rate the success of the program?”

Our primary goals are to help students improve their physical fitness and reading abilities, increase their self-esteem and strength of character, and ensure that they achieve high educational goals. We will have measures for each of these along the way. Most importantly, however, we will consider Racquet Up Detroit a success if our students stay in the program for several years, grow to love the sport and enjoy exercise, try their hardest in school, give back to the community, act with integrity and show respect for others, and graduate from high school and college.
[Picture: Derek with success story Carlos. Carlos joined the Boston "Squash Busters" program in 8th grade and spent 5 years under Greg Zaff's and Derek's tutelage. He is now a junior at the Wesleyan University and part of their squash team.]

TSJ: “‘Family Guy’ or ‘The Simpsons’”?

I can’t stop laughing once I start watching Family Guy, but I grew up on the Simpsons (and it’s probably more appropriate for kids, which is my business…).

TSJ: “Apart from raising money, what has been the major hurdle to overcome in order to start the program?”

I just graduated from business school, and I did not anticipate how quickly I would be putting what I learned to use! While this may seem like “just an after-school program” on the surface, we have in fact started a full-fledged business. Incorporating Racquet Up Detroit, filing for tax exemption from the IRS, establishing corporate by-laws, binding insurance coverage, developing an accounting and payroll system, and soon enough, hiring staff—all the little details are incredibly time consuming! But these elements have provided me with a great learning experience at the same time.

TSJ: “Your worst squash moment?”

I’ve had way too many “up 2-love in games, 7-0 in the 3rd, only to lose in 5 games” moments, but I would have to say that getting hit in the face with my opponent’s backswing, and getting knocked out was probably my worst moment. On-lookers said I hit the floor like a sack of potatoes…

TSJ: “And of course, the most important question we are all dying to know: When you were little, who was your favorite superhero?”

Easy—Batman. He defended a whole city without super-powers. Just a lot of money, a great butler, and some amazing gadgets. And rumor has it that Bruce Wayne had a court in the Bat Cave and was an A-level squash player.

Thank you to Derek for spending time to answer all these questions. To find out more about the "Racquet Up Detroit" you can contact Derek at derek@racquetup.org or call 313-600-9593 and go to the website http://www.racquetup.org/ . This wonderful program needs all the support it can get through sponsorship, donations, and volunteer help.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Nothing like finishing these events ahead of schedule! Firstly, thank you to all who entered the 2010 Doubles Select Tournament – all 20 of you – for being so accommodating and playing well within the deadlines. It makes my job and the tournament so much more enjoyable. Every single match was played, with one exception where one of the players had a business emergency come up at the last minute and was forced to forfeit. (Unfortunately, it happens.)

What makes this event so interesting is that if you can get 2 teams of equal strength on the court, regardless of the individual level of each player, the matches become very close. Three of the matches went the full 5-set distance, none closer than the semi final between Mike Skaff and Bob Garvey versus Peter Fortune and Craig Hupp. 17-15 in the 5th was the final score, and as always when you win such a close encounter, some luck is definitely involved. Taking nothing away from their performance, some of that luck carried on through the final for Mike and Bob where they took on Mike Petix and Dan Follis. Once again it came down to the 5th game. This time the Skaff / Garvey team grabbed the ascendency early and never looked back, not giving their opponents an opportunity to even threaten a comeback. A convincing 15-5 win gave them the 2010 title. Congratulations Mike and Bob! [Picture: Mike Petix leaps for an overhead forehand... go-go-gadget-arms!]

The next Doubles event on the calendar will be the Doubles 100 starting mid-January – stay tuned for details and registration coming up next month.

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