Thursday, September 1, 2011


Many years ago – in the hardball era – I am occasionally reminded that the DAC boasted around 10 teams in the Michigan Squash travel league. Back then, the league thrived. But when the conversion to softball occurred, so did the beginning of the end for the travel league.

Many players opted out and teams and divisions dwindled. So much so, that for the 2010-2011 season, there were only 2 divisions (a 4.5 and a 3.5 division) and a total of 15 teams from 10 clubs. Six of those teams came from 3 Life Time Fitness clubs and the four largest clubs in the area – DAC, BAC, Franklin and Windsor – fielded only 5 teams between them. New Life Time Fitness restrictions on guest policy have made it virtually impossible for the travel league to be hosted in their venues next season.

And here are some disturbing facts from last season. I will name specific clubs since everybody has a stake in this:
  • The Toledo team in the 4.5 level did not play one single match over the final 6 rounds of the season.
  • The Toledo 3.5 team did not play one single match over the final 4 rounds of the season nor did they play a match in rounds 2, 5, 7 and 8. That’s 8 of the 14 rounds (not including the 2 bye weeks) without a match. They also turned up twice with only 2 players.
  • The 4.5 BAC team had 12 different players represent them over the season. Only 4 play on any one night.
  • One player played for 2 different clubs in the 4.5 level.
  • The playing order of the teams change constantly. It is common for a player to play in the number 1 spot one week and then the number 2 spot – for example- the next week.
  • In the 3.5 league, no-one played the final round. All match-ups were declared forfeits.
  • One of the Life Time Rochester teams in the 3.5 division turned up only twice during the season with a full four-man compliment of players.
  • Metropolitan (3.5 division) only turned up 3 times with all 4 players. They handed out 5 complete team defaults. They also had a DAC member play for them once.
  • The 3.5 division had all the matches in one round completed only once out of 14 weeks.

On top of all this, and I know from our own DAC team, there was countless match rearranging going on. In short, the travel league was a complete farce.
  • Team spirit appears to have disappeared. Players are organizing their matches at their own convenience, at the venue of their convenience. Rarely does it seem tha all 4 matches and all 8 players present at the same time.
  • There is no (or little) social value. Without all players present, the camaraderie aspect of the league is completely lost. Isn’t that the (main) point of the league in the first place?
  • Commitment for a full season is virtually zero. With the amount of defaults – especially over the final few weeks of the regular season – players have given up. A fourteen round season plus finals where you are scheduled to play almost every week during the winter, and where players are supposed to travel to opposing clubs looks too much to ask. It is a travel league after all – what else was to be expected?
  • All players in the league are supposed to be Michigan Squash members. It is impossible to figure out if that is in indeed the case, but my guess is that with all the players that have played in the league, many were not registered.
  • Having any player represent two clubs during the same season is ridiculous. Having any player represent a club they are not a member of is just as absurd.

So what do we do about it? There must be stricter regulations, a different format, an environment created that promotes the camaraderie, and above all (which is something only you- the player can change) a better commitment from the players. Michigan Squash has decided on the following:

  • The league will be played on weekends. Dates will be organized to one to two Saturdays a month for each team from 1pm – 5pm. This will cut down the amount of weeks a player needs to commit from 14 to about 8 (plus finals).
  • When possible, matches will be played at clubs where a minimum 2 courts are available -  DAC, BAC, Franklin, Toledo, Metropolitan and Windsor. Due to the policies of the Life Time Fitness Clubs, they make it very difficult for Michigan Squash to organize travel league on their courts.
  • Each team will still consist of 4 singles players playing on the given day.
  • Three teams will be present at each scheduled round. Every team will play twice on the day meaning every player will get 2 matches per day.
  • All 4 players from each team must be present on the day. Rearranging of matches is strictly forbidden.
  • Point-a-rally scoring to 11 will be adopted.
  • Players must play in the same order every week. Team rosters are entered at the start of the season with players in a specific ranking order – including all alternates. Players – including alternates - cannot play out of “ranking” during a match.
  • All players must be registered for the league and must be US Squash and Michigan Squash members. Any team playing a non-league-registered player, or a player who is not a member of US Squash and Michigan Squash, will automatically forfeit that match.

For the complete rules of the league, click:

I believe some players will not cozy up to the new rules. As always, when things change, somebody is bound to disagree. That’s fine. Then they shouldn’t play. But done correctly, the new format and a stricter structure should bring the ‘fun’ back into the league. Having 12 players mingling around, sharing a beer or two, supporting each other, makes the atmosphere a lot more “tournament-like” and players are also more likely to commit to a season if there are less days to actually make themselves available for.

Radical transformation is necessary if the travel league is to survive. This proposal still may not save it, but continuing down the spiral it is on now, extinction is inevitable and something has to be attempted.

Are YOU interested in playing and representing the DAC? I am taking names for teams at the 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 level. E-mail me your interest. The effort will be made to have a league at each level, but realistic expectations are that it won’t happen. However, it needs to be offered and continually pushed and eventually, slowly, the league can start to expand again.

And let me once again make it absolutely clear: it is a season long commitment and be prepared to play at opposing clubs. From October to March. So sign-up. Join US Squash (and by doing so, the Michigan Squash as well). Improve your squash, meet many new people, opponents, make friends, gain the match experience so many desperately need and crave and be a part of a team while helping grow the sport.

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