Tuesday, September 27, 2011


London, ON, Sept 23-25

Over the summer, the London Squash Racquets Club underwent a complete renovation. It was sorely overdue. They shut down the club for about 4 months, ripped out their one North American hardball singles court, replaced it with a new pro shop and office, remodeled the bar area, and fixed up the locker rooms. Throw in the new carpet and furniture, and the face lift is reminiscent of a 60 year old walking out of the plastic surgeon’s office with a body of a 25 year old.

During all the construction, the club also had the audacious task of searching for a new squash pro. Their previous fellow left to try his hand coaching in the Bermudas. It’s no easy mission finding a worthy candidate to move to a small, remote ‘city’ such as London. But, every now and then a true professional arrives on the scene and the club can count themselves extremely privileged that Brit Dave Morrish packed up his suitcase from England, toasted up his final crumpets and scones, and brought his wealth of experience and knowledge to town.

The unfortunate side of all this was that the registration total for the tournament suffered. From 140 last year, to only 95 this year. However, it did not detract from the experience. At all. The more often I go the more fun it is. Relationships build and I feel exceedingly welcomed by their membership. The social atmosphere simply grows and grows. 
Left to right: Jan Koukal, Jay Nash (major sponsor),
Dave Morrish (London Squash Pro), Shawn DeLierre

Now to the squash. Firstly the pros. This year, the purse was $10,000. The most they have ever raised and consequently the standard of the squash was the best they have ever witnessed as well. I managed to watch one and a half semi finals and the final, and each match featured players around the 50 in the world mark, which pretty much guarantees they were all top quality. The most entertaining encounter was the semi final with Czech Jan Koukal (48 in the world), who won this event last year, against Egyptian Andrew Wagih (71). Wagih’s style is goes against all conventional teachings – which is rather typical for an Egyptian. Rather than establish a good length and wait for the opening to attack, Wagih simply attacks from shot one. Drop after drop, nicks, angles, he throws the kitchen sink at his opponent without hesitation. Koukal is more a grinder and was forced to do exactly that for the duration of the match – all 79 minutes of it. Of course, with Wagih’s gumption to go for so many ‘winners’, he also dies by the sword. A couple of crucial unforced errors in the end of the 5th game cost him dearly and he lost 13-11. In the final, Koukal met up with Canadian Shawn DeLierre (54), another grinder. The four games these two played took longer than the 5-set semi, and although there were many long and engaging rallies, there were also way too many interference calls and referee involvement. The standard of squash was outstanding, but the amount of discussions diluted the quality. DeLierre outlasted the Czech to win 3-1 in 91 minutes.

The amateurs. James Van Dyke was our sole representative this weekend as he tried out in the C draw. It was a tough slog for him as he lost his 2 matches and naturally was disappointed. However, he did feel that if he played to the level he knows he can, he would have been very competitive. Having tournament experience and playing in such environments is irreplaceable and hopefully he will travel to events more often.

I played once again in the open, and once again every match I played was against a lad from the Western University Squash team. Younger (obviously), faster, fitter, better tolerance to beer, more hair (and darker), and baggier clothes, the only thing going for me was experience. Shot selection played a big part in my victories, and couple that with the uncanny ability of my opponents to find the tin at the most inopportune moments, helped me squeeze out a 5-set final. And, once again, my body is not particularly pleased with me and making me pay.

Whooping it up. So popular is the after-pro-final-beer-pong-event, it is now announced at the presentation and is part of the program. Two tables were set up this year (on their doubles court), and ping-pong balls were bouncing, splashing and rebounding for intense beer-sculling action. In addition, since apparently people just can’t wait to guzzle willy-nilly, flippy-cup was also started with teams of four going at it non-stop. The beer stopped flowing around 11pm as everyone was forced to shuffle (stagger?) 100 yards down the street to the bar which is a big supporter of the event. Moans and groans were initially heard, but immediately stopped when they realized beer would be served their too and waiting for them were plates of wings and some of the best nachos you’ll ever taste. (That’s not to say we didn’t “whoop it up” on Friday night as well. Because we did.)

As always, it baffles me that more members do not make this easy trip. You simply cannot not enjoy yourself. It will be on the same time next year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Achtung! Looking for a quick, easy, fun, social squash event that won’t tax your body terribly much unless you attack the keg a little too vigorously? Then, Standuppenundsquashen! (Translation: “this is the tournament for you!”) Enter the Blitz Tournament for a chance to match wits against a variety of opponents playing one speedy game to 15 points.

This event has two stages. Firstly, the Kattleherden (Translation:group”) phase. Everybody will be placed in a group of 4-5 players of assorted standards and complete a Lastenmannstanden (Translation: “round robin”.) Each ‘match’ will be one game to 15 points using point-a-rally scoring with no tie-break. If the score reaches 14-all, you play a Losenpointenundveeshooten (Translation: “sudden death rally”.) Handicaps will be issued to even up the competition and to place a lot more pressure on the higher ranked members. These handicaps are subject to change if both players agree to do so, or if I feel I have miscalculated and need to adjust them.

Then, secondly, comes the finals stage. The top two players of each group will advance to a Headkrackendownenfallen (Translation: “knock-out draw”.) In the case of a tie in the group phase, the players will draw straws to see who advances. Handicaps will also be issued in the knock-out stage. The top three place getters will receive a prize.

This will be the 8th running of this event and we have never had a repeat winner and on top of that the first place getter has ranged from a 2.5 level to a 5.0 level. In other words, anyone can win this.

The Blitz Tournament is scheduled for Friday, October 14. Matches start at 5pm and depending on how many people play, it should take a couple of hours. If you want to be a part of this entertaining tournament, make sure you Veearrestennallenlatenregistrieren (Translation: “I need all registrations by Wednesday, October 12”.) I must have a minimum 16 players to host it, but no more than 40. And of course, Drinkendieyummybeeren (Translation: “Naturally the keg will be chilled and ready for consumption”.) There is no fee to enter, but you do have to be a Blackballer to participate.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Firstly, the Detroit Tigers won in Oakland after guaranteeing their place in the play-offs. Then the Lions massacred the Chiefs by 45 points. Even U of M won, giving them a 3-0 season. It was a good weekend to be a Michigander (even though the Spartans failed) and all that was left was for the DAC squash team to overcome their Cross Border nemesis… Windsor!

We had fantastic participation. 21 matches, 1 full keg (which ended up almost empty), and an especially competitive afternoon of squash. The first four results were split. Jason Trombley was our first defeat, losing 3-0 to Syed Azmet, but in all fairness Syed was probably a ringer from Egypt that Windsor had recruited for the sole purpose of helping them win. Eric Green followed Jason going down 3-1 to Dave Guthrie but a 3-1 win to Sante Fratarcangeli and an 11-9 in the 5th victory by Peter Logan over the hard hitting Justin Warnock steadied the ship. [Photo above: Rich Routley (left) and Sante Fratarcangeli enjoying their after match beer! Photo below: Justin Warnock (left) and Peter Logan after their 5-set groaner.]

It went back and forth like this all afternoon with neither club taking a commanding lead. A couple of the close results didn’t fall our way. Ken MacDonald blew a 2-0 lead to go down 9-5 in the 5th and he very well knows that fitness had a big part to play in his demise. It was a wake-up call certainly, a match he probably should have won. Anil Kathuria also had a heart-breaker as he fell 2 points shorts against Renka Gesing 9-7 in the 5th.

But the DAC definitely had plenty of solid results. Jeff Gembis overcame his nervousness to put away his opponent 3-0, John Rakolta finally got his revenge over Brian Porter with a sturdy 3-1 performance (ever since Brian beat John in the final of the DAC Classic earlier this year, he has been drooling for his blood!), Derek Aguirre was steady enough to take care of the awkward Dan Barisic 3-1, and new members Josh Slominski and Justin Jacobs both recorded sound 3-1 victories.

Our winning ways were also aided by Windsor’s “mistakes”. As an organizer there are no worse words to hear than “walk-over”, or “forfeit”, or “default”, or “no-show”. And they had 2 of them. That’s not to say we wouldn’t have won those matches anyway (we’ll never know), but the team has to show up. Reluctantly we accepted the 3-0 defaults which gave us 2 free wins for the day. One could argue, however, that we reciprocated the defaults with 2 of our own by fielding two doubles teams! Since we virtually never win the doubles against Windsor, it was predestined that things weren’t about to change – they didn’t. We lost both doubles 3-0.

By the time the last ball rolled to a stop, the DAC had their noses in front 11 matches to 10. The trophy is back in my office – Let’s see if we can keep it for longer than 1 event. This is our 3rd victory from 11 attempts, and another sign that sport in Detroit is looking up… either that or we’ve slipped into Bizarro World.
Celebrating our victory!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


If I had a dime for every member who complained about their opponent blocking, I’d be close to retirement. Blocking doesn’t just happen at the club level, it happens at the pro level too. There are some pros that have made into a fine art. One of the most affable players on tour is Egyptian Wael El Hindi but he is also renowned for testing the patience of the most experienced referees and players with his uncanny knack of somehow constantly getting in the way. Wael reached a career high number 8 in the world back in 2008, and bases himself in New York. The Squash Poet takes a tongue in cheek jab at him here. I am sure you can relate this to someone you know…

It’s really quite amazing and I don’t know why I do it
I run like a lunatic to get the ball, hit it, then just view it
Get back to the ‘T’ I was told, after every time you hit it
But all I do is watch and stare, with the running I just quit it.

So every time my opponent runs, and we have a collision
And once again the argument starts over what is the decision
A ‘let’ or ‘stroke’ we shout out loud and often it gets heated
And cause we’re dumb, the very next rally, the scene is just repeated.

Now the only reason I’m in the way, and in my true defense
It’s just too hard to run that fast, by backside is immense
So watching pros who are fit and lean and gifted with such speed
To block the path and cause those ‘lets’, there really is no need.

The Squash Poet

Block Control
(Sung to the tune of “It’s still Rock and Roll to me” by Billy Joel)

What’s the matter with the clothes you’re wearing?
Can’t you tell your shorts are way too long?
Maybe you should get some sleeves too, buddy,
You’re guns don’t look terribly strong,
Where have you been hiding out lately, Wael,
To clearing a path you continuously fail,
All you do is talk about it with the referee,
Funny, it’s still block control to me.

There’s nothing wrong with the swing you’re using,
It’s actually quite a nice style.
So why do you insist of getting in the way,
Can you count the amount of lets you compile?
Play the ball, keep your head, and stay a lot calmer,
Maybe then one day you would beat David Palmer,
Hip check, hit the deck, argue for another ‘let’,
It’s still block control to me.

Oh, all the reports I see that are ever written
Have always kept the same old theme,
It goes hand in hand
When on the court you stand, the amount of calls are so extreme…
It’s the opposite of your buddy Karim.

How about another blonde stripe mo-hawk,
To go with your silver chains?
You could really be a big clothes model,
Wearing Calvin Klein and drinking champagne,
But keep playing squash; you’re a talented world-beater,
And stick to your skills and not a constant point repeater,
Smash kill; stand still; another ‘let’ the same ol’ drill,
It’s still block control to me.

I recommend you also stop the histrionics,
You do not win points with the act,
Run hard, hit clean, open up a straight path,
Do all you can to avoid contact,
Keep yourself this focus it’s the best way to survive,
And hopefully soon you can reach your dream of top five,
It’s the new Wael, can’t fail, with the refs stay out of jail,
And stop the block control ple-eeze!
‘Let’ shark, back arch, typical Wael trade-mark
Just stop the block control ple-eeze!

The Squash Poet

Monday, September 12, 2011


With just under one month to go before the Boasters League season commences, it is already full with 108 players. That of course gives me more time to sort everyone out into playing levels but it doesn’t really make that job any easier. It actually gives me more time to question myself. At least sorting out the number 1 players in every team was simple enough. The league has received a huge boost from the handful of members who decided to play the league that normally wouldn’t – I’m talking about those who are ranked high up in the club. (Players such as George Kordas, Paul Doherty and Mark Gregory just to name a few.) They agreed to step in and support for which everybody should be extremely thankful. It boosts the overall level of the league and it is great chance to watch them more often.

Like every season, we have received oodles of new faces. This year, we have 28 of them! I’m not sure if that’s a record, but it must be close. Some of the players are new-old faces, members who have been M.I.A. for a few seasons and for various reasons but have come back with renewed enthusiasm, some are not new members to the club but are new to squash or the league, and some who are brand new DAC members altogether. On those grounds, it made the task of ranking everybody a long and tedious one. I have no doubt made a couple of “oopsies!” along the way but I suppose that’s to be expected.

Paul Huth was the winning captain last season after he managed to knock-off Justin Winkelman’s team in a close fought final. It was the end to Patrick Petz’s winning streak who is of course as eager as ever to make amends after his quest for a three-peat was thwarted in the semi-finals. The first chance to pick up points for your team will be to attend the Referee Clinic on Thursday, September 22. Anyone who is registered in the league and attends the clinic in its entirety will receive 1 point for their team. It would be nice to start the season off with 12 extra points, wouldn’t it?

No new rules have been implemented into the league for this season, however there was much discussion regarding the ‘bonus point’ rule. As you know, you are awarded one ‘bonus point’ for your team if you turn up on the scheduled Wednesday whether you played your match or not (so long as your team does not have the ‘bye’ week). The reason behind the rule was simple – it was to encourage everybody to come on Wednesdays and play and / or socialize. Unfortunately, some people were taking advantage. Not breaking the rule, but sort of bending it a little. Too often, a player would run into the building, mark their name off as being here to collect the point, then leave immediately. Or, if they were bowling in the dungeon, make a quick trip upstairs to do the same. That really defeated the purpose. They were in fact cases where a player would rearrange the match to different day, but then still run in to collect the bonus point while their opponent (who would otherwise be here) stayed home since they didn’t have a match.

Since it is impossible to police, the onus falls on you to abide by the correct etiquette when collecting bonus points. There is no time limit of how long you need to be here, but use common sense. If you do not have a match and walk in for a very short appearance, then please don’t claim the point. If you hang out for a while, drink a beer, socialize, then sure, take one. I think bonus points are important but they shouldn’t be used as a winning tactic.

Another way to encourage you to come on Wednesdays, the doubles court will be reserved between 5-7pm every week for pick-up-mix-and-match games. This is for anyone who wants to snag a few doubles games or if you are new and are keen to learn, just jump on and let the members help you!

Draft night is September 28. The league gets going on October 5. Better start working off the rust now!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


It’s been a long time coming. The only professional squash tournament in the state of Michigan - the Motor City Open - is currently held at the BAC. And, they do a terrific job. It has grown over the past few years in terms of prize money and I know from personal experience since I have played in it myself that the players love the event. It’s not the largest tournament in the country with a $50,000 purse, but as far as I can tell, it’s in the top five.

Curiously, the Motor City Open used to be held at the DAC. I do not know the story of what really happened and why it moved, but since it did, we haven’t held a pro event here since. That is about to change.

Joe McManus of the PST (Pro Squash Tour) approached me in the summer as asked if we would be interested in hosting their end of season tour tournament. PST, if you recall, is the US based squash tour in which the PSA (Professional Squash Association) banned its players from competing in. You can read an article I wrote about the ban here: http://thesquashjoint.blogspot.com/2010/10/no-pros-allowed-on-pro-squash-tour.html.

The ban is still in place. Joe points out that the ban will in the long run only hurt PSA since he isn’t about to go away. Rather than work with them, he is forced to compete against them. He is extremely pro-active in promoting and marketing his product and raising money and sponsorship dollars. He will eventually get to a point that the purses he can offer for his events will start to look very attractive for top PSA players and no doubt they will start to jump ship. It won’t happen this year, but it could be a different scenario five years from now if the current trend continues -  signs are pointing to an accelerated growth. However, I digress.

We have agreed to Joe’s request, so on May 4-6, 2012 we will be hosting their tour finale which will feature the top 8 players from the 2011-2012 PST in a 3-day, knock-out draw. While I cannot guarantee who will be in the event, I can certainly speculate. There is a decent chance we will see John White. John will be active on the tour and is an ex world #1 player and also holds the world record for the hardest hit squash ball at 172 mph. To put that into perspective, the fastest tennis serve ever recorded is 156 mph. No matter who will step on court, the squash is guaranteed to be nothing short of sensational. (As a reminder, the PST implements the ‘no let’ rule. That means all player requests for interference will be decided with a ‘stroke’ or ‘no-let’. Replaying the rally with a ‘let’ is not an option.)

As an added bonus, the event will be webcasted live. PST will be taking care of all the particulars with that, but it will be excellent promotion for the club… and the tournament sponsors. Which brings me to the next item: Are you (or your company) willing to sponsor this event? Naturally we need to raise money. Your name could be the one not only displayed in the club, but also broadcast live during the event over the internet.

Contact me if you are interested in getting involved with bringing the professionals back to the DAC. World class professionals. In a world class squash tournament. At our world class venue.

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: http://www.michigansquash.org/blog/travel-league-rules/

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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