Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I can’t say I know too many hip-hop or rap songs, and if I even had an iPod, it would be full of rock from the 80’s and 90’s. So, because I am tone deaf and my singing is akin to rasping fingernails down a blackboard, it would be easier for me to read the Squash Poet’s next rhyme if I had a beat in my head to go with it. (I figure he’s going with the rap angle here…) Maybe someone clever reader out there could put a tune to it? Nevertheless, I still got a kick out of it. 

Finger signs and sagging pants
Backwards caps and rhythmic chants
My Calvin Klein’s for all to savor
Inked up the wazoo, rebellious behavior
They think life’s rough but have no idea
Til they pick up a racquet and a small rubber sphere
And experience the pain of the world’s best sport
The masochistic pleasure of being on a squash court.

The Squash Poet

Try Squash

Combination of agility
The audacity to have ability
Flexibility defying gravity
Versatility for lethality
Capability of terminal velocity
Temerity, ferocity
Activity exclusivity
Captivated into captivity
Feelings are borderline profanity
The intensity is insanity

Man up and grab a racquet
A little black ball and try to whack it
Don’t start to cry when your heart starts racing
Suck it up and continue chasing
Head-butting egos on court collide
A sport of wits and machismo pride
No time to rest cause that’s for wimps
Put on your skirt, return to your pimp
If you’re feeble minded don’t try this sport
You need a spine of granite to grace this court.

Brutality, sweat’s a flying,
Vicious pain, feel like you’re dying
Nasty pace, your muscles are frying
Desperation intensifying
Cruel opponents, don’t stop trying
Wicked power, death defying
Depraved self-harm is gratifying
Devilish fitness magnifying
Racquet skills electrifying
Nothing is more satisfying.

Train the talent with athlete’s class
Have the drive to just kick…
Arsenal is the weapons you wield
Be aggressive on the battlefield
Take the ‘T’ and attack is the trick
Don’t sit on your heels like a useless…
Dictum should be ‘have no mercy’
Kick ‘em when there down, no controversy
Take your rewards as you please
Force your opponents to their knees.

Flick the wrist, disorientation
Opponents grow in frustration
Honing skills with dedication
Creating angles, improvisation
A natural high, buzzed stimulation
Punishing foes with imagination
Run them ragged, suffocation
Move in with style for annihilation
Adoring crowds show admiration
Take the praise of congratulations

Competition is one on one
Athleticism required is second to none
Push your body to the extreme
Mental toughness beyond supreme
Power and grace melded together
Sting like a bee, float like a feather
Velvet touch with lightning speed
Will to win should make you bleed
Only one question, you’ll be brainwashed
Are you tough enough try out squash?

The Squash Poet

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Boasters League round 4~~

Not that there isn’t enough time to catch up (although round 9 is only 5 weeks away and we all know how fast that can go…) but does it already appear that the top three teams are set? “Old Shillelagh”, “Town Pump”, and “The Tap Bar” – 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively – increased their lead over the chasing pack. It looks like that unless players start getting their acts together and start making up matches, the remaining 6 teams will be fighting for the last 3 play-off spots.

In fact, I could narrow that field down to 5 teams when looking at last placed “Jacoby’s” who dropped from 7th last week and are now a painful 15 points behind 8th. Given, they had the bye this week, but collecting only 4 points in make-up matches over the week simply doesn’t cut it. They need to be hunting down the 6th placed team – an enormous 23 points ahead.
Rich Stimson

There were a number of close contests last night. Ken MacDonald (“Old Shillelagh”) cannot be terribly pleased going down 2-1 to Rich Stimson (“Vivio’s”), and to rub it in a little more it must be mentioned that it wasn’t only Rich’s first win of the season, but first time he had won a game. Joe Schaden (“Anchor”) survived 2-1 over Mark Monaghan (“Town Pump”) – or maybe it would be more appropriate to say Mark survived as I saw blood trickling down his knee as he exited the court, no doubt from one of his signature desperado dives. Sante Fratarcangeli (“O’Blivions”) was scratching his head even though he took the wily Joe Moran (“1st Place Lounge”) 2-1 over his astonishment at Joe’s court coverage – Joe is 62 and reads the play rather well!

Next week, “The Tap Bar” will have to sit on the side lines and watch the teams attempt to catch up. Actually, the one and only saving grace for the teams outside the top 3, is that the teams in it all still have to endure the bye week. I know it’s a little early, but make a note anyway- the deadline to play your matches is March 1 (inclusive).

Monday, January 23, 2012


Trinity’s Domination Termination

 All great things must come to an end. In Trinity’s case, ‘great’ doesn’t quite cover the inconceivable achievement of the “Bantams” – their record holding squash team.

(On a side note, if you’re like me, I didn’t know what a ‘bantam’ is, so I looked it up. It’s means small, feisty and combative. It’s also a name of a small chicken. So, the Trinity Squash Team is named after little, aggressive, confrontational fowls! Their mascot of a chicken now makes sense. Oooooh… scary!)

The Bantams lost a scrimmage for the first time in 14 years. It was way, way back in 1998 when they last experienced failure. Since then they have won 252 consecutive matches which is by far and above the most in college sports history – and that includes all sports. The next best streak is owned by the Yale swimming team back in the 40’s and 50’s with 201 swim-meets.

Coach Paul Assaiante has been at the helm for 18 years and has earned myriad of coaching accolades including the US Olympic Committee Coach of the Year twice (which is strange to me since squash is not in the Olympics), the US Squash President’s Award in 2003 for his lifelong contribution to the sport and one of Connecticut’s top sports coaches of the 20th century. No one can doubt his coaching ability, nor - and probably just important in college sports – his recruiting ability either.

Simply the nature of the accomplishment itself labeled Trinity as the evil empire of college squash. I am definitely not going to sit here and claim to know much about college sport. I don’t. A lot of Trinity’s success, however, can be attributed to the gifted foreign players on the team. I have heard rumblings of how is Trinity able to continuously attract overseas talent year after year. Do they have lower academic standards? Are they breaking rules? Nothing I have read even comes close to suggest any of that and these types of suggestions appear to be generated through plain resentment. And in all honesty, how could you not resent  if you are competing against them? Can you imagine the hatred towards the Yankees if they won the World Series 13 years straight? The county would be screaming ‘conspiracy’!

 Back to their success. The Bantams’ run didn’t happen without drama. They were in danger of losing that streak most in the 2005-2006 season when during the final match against Princeton, the Trinity player was match-ball down in the final match of the day when the teams were tied 4 matches apiece before winning in 5; and in the Potter Cup (the Superbowl of College Squash – nothing to do with the wizard!) where in the 2008-2009 season Trinity’s number 1 player Baset Chaudhry came back in the 5th game also against Princeton to win the title.

But the most (in)famous incident – one that received nationwide coverage and the attention of ESPN – also involved Baset Chaudhry with his over-the-top reaction directed towards his one foot shorter opponent after thrashing him 3-0 back in the 2009-2010 season. It was a disgraceful display of sportsmanship and an unfortunate way of getting squash in the public eye but as the old saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining” and it did place squash – and Trintity’s record – into the limelight.

It was predicted at the start of this season that this would be the year Trinity would stumble. From last year, they lost 12 players to graduation including 4 All-Americans. That prediction turned out to be correct. The Yale team (called the “Bulldogs” – I didn’t have to google what that means!) beat them 5 matches to 4 although the win wasn’t a walk in the park. They won in the 5th game in the final match of the day.

The loss was taken admirably. Paul Assaiante knew there was a gigantic target on their backs, and knew the streak had to end eventually. The profile of college squash has risen across the country, they have unquestionably raised the bar.

For our DAC members, there is an interesting footnote with this story. A connection. Especially to our older members who have been playing squash here for quite a while. You’d be pleasantly surprised to hear who the coach of the Yale Bulldogs is: Dave Talbott.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Boasters League round 3~~

For a Wednesday league, it’s rather odd that the majority of the matches are played on every other day except Wednesdays. I am sure I’m not the only one who is scratching their heads wondering why people are avoiding the scheduled evening. The keg is there. The courts are ready. It’s social. Incredibly, 6 of the 8 teams picked up more points by turning up last night, than actually winning games. So people are there too. I’m rather stumped.

On a happier note, a couple of the captains are actually raising the bar on team spirit. Perfect. Patrick Petz’ team – “Town Pump” - all received t-shirts (or will when they all turn up) and Rich Stimson’s team – “Vivio’s” – received (or will receive) embroidered headbands. Team “Vivio’s” also have at their disposal a night in the bar they represent which will be on the house. Yes! Free drinks for the team members. Now that’s team building! Just don’t pick a Wednesday night to do it… Hopefully the other captains can come up with some type of gimmick for their players too.

With so few matches completed, the standings look more like Summer League numbers and the Summer League is half the size. It’s time for everybody to suck it up and get cracking with their opponents. “Old Shillelagh” holds a commanding 14 point lead over “Town Pump” and on the opposite side of the ladder, “Anchor” is last. However, the team that should most be worried is “Jacoby’s”. They are only 5 points ahead of “Anchor” and have the bye next week. It will be very easy for them to slip into the abyss and be left far, far behind.

Believe it not it’s already round 4 next week – almost half way through… tick-tock…tick-tock…

Friday, January 13, 2012


Jon Power has many titles. Included in his 36 career tournament wins are the World Open in 1998, the British Open in 1999, 3 times PSA Masters Champion, 4 times Tournament of Champions winner, and a gold medalist in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He was ranked world number 1 when he retired from international squash in 2006 and is considered to be one of the all time great players. And here is another title I’m adding to his list: “Hero”.

Power now lives in Toronto and has opened his own Squash Academy. He trains and coaches players at the elite level. Players that are dedicated, talented, and want to be world champions. And he isn’t just focused on Canadian talent. Any nationality is welcome.

But this is really a story of a young Pakistani girl. A girl who fell in love with squash at a young age. A girl that discovered she had a talent for the game. A girl, who because of her location, had to take incredible steps to nurture that talent. Maria Toor Pakay was born in a Taliban-run zone called Waziristan. The Taliban do not take lightly to females getting educated, or playing sports, or pretty much anything. It is literally life-threatening. To avoid castigation from the Taliban, for the first 11 years of her squash career Maria pretended to be a boy. Her family took a great risk in helping her achieve this. They then moved to Peshawar in order for Maria to pursue her dream. Eventually, as a victim of her own success, hiding her gender became impossible. Within two years, she was Pakistan’s number 1 ranked female squash player.

Naturally, the Taliban did not pop open the champagne bottles and embrace her success with open arms. Maria’s family received threats. To continue to play squash, it became clear that she needed to ‘escape’ her home country if she were to shake off the shackles of Taliban oppression. So Maria started to send hundreds of letters to coaches and training centers all around the world for help. She was ignored for four years. Eventually, one person replied: Jon Power.

With Jon’s help, Maria left her homeland and family behind is now under his tutelage in Toronto at his Squash Academy with – according to Jon – the potential to be a world champion. (And who can argue with Jon on that matter?) Her family is still in constant danger from retribution from the Taliban and that has to weigh heavy on her mind as well. She does not know whether she will ever see them again.

Whether Maria turns into a world beater or not only time will tell. And best of luck to her and her family.  I cannot imagine the headlines in Pakistan if their next squash world champion is a female. On top of that, she would have been trained outside of the country. But just the fact that Maria now has the opportunity to chase her aspirations thanks to the one guy – her savior - that stepped up when no one else would is inspiration enough. I, for one, hope she gets there. It would be a fantastic ‘fight-against-the-odds’ story just made for the movies. You can see a television report about Maria’s emotional account by clicking http://watch.tsn.ca/#clip488005 (after the initial 30 second commercial…)

Jon Power was many things during his playing career: world champion, temperamental, entertainer, witty, a natural born squash player – the list goes on. He was a John McEnroe-like magnet at every tournament. He bought people to the stands, raised the profile of the sport in Canada and North America, motivated juniors to take up the game. But to me, what he is doing now after his career speaks more about his character than whenever he wielded a racquet in his magically gifted hands. Talk about giving back to the game.

Monday, January 9, 2012


It was BAC’s turn to host this, the 8th running of the Farris Cup. They comprehensively thrashed us last year on our home turf to win the Cup for their second time so it was up to us to hand out a little of their own medicine. As it turned out, the medicine wasn’t working and in fact it appeared we accidentally drank it ourselves.

Ugly is an understatement. The DAC didn’t really have a chance. To say we got off to a poor start is putting it lightly considering that before we won our first match, we had lost the first ten. (We had already lost the event after the eighth.) Naturally, it sounds like a train wreck and looking at the score of 2 wins and 13 losses, it’s tough to think otherwise, but I am still very proud of the effort of our team. Every single player put their heart and soul into the match, and many of the game scores were extremely close.

It’s not quite correct to say we were totally outclassed – certainly the 6 matches we lost 3-0 were a little out of our reach – but we definitely had chances in the other 9. Even the three results we lost 3-1 were very tight contests. But the three matches we lost in 5th-set tie-breaks are the ones that hurt the most. And in each of those matches, the DAC were leading either 2-0 or 2-1 in games. Closing out the opponent was a recurring problem for the day. 

Robin Basil and Andrew Pritchard

Robin Basil has probably never played a racquetball match as long and as tough as this one. His unusual style catches a lot of players off guard and he often gets a jump on his opponents. This was no different as he skipped to a 2-0 lead over BAC’s Andrew Pritchard. But Andrew started to play steadier and was more patient for Robin to hit errors – for which he kindly obliged – and before Robin knew it he was in a 5th game dog fight. Down to the wire, and down for the count as Robin lost that game 14-12.

Anthony Fracchia would have probably lost sleep over 12-10 in the 5th loss to Mike Beauregard. I am not saying that he should have won, but I think he let this victory slip out of his hands. I’m going to put this one down to experience – Mike has been playing squash a lot longer than Anthony, and knowing how to perform in under pressure is paramount is these situations. I didn’t get to watch much of Anthony’s match, but from what I was told, the last 3 rallies were basically unforced errors. That’s not fitness, that’s experience.

There are three doubles matches in the Farris Cup. This was the 8th running of the event, so out of the first seven years, there have been a total of 21 doubles matches. Of those 21 matches, the DAC has won 3. Edition 2012 was no different – we simply can’t catch a break. Bob Thibodeau and Bowden Brown once again grabbed an early lead in the match. However, their opponents just wouldn’t go away. Out lads lead the whole way – except when it counted most: at the end. It was a stinging 18-15 in the 5th defeat and we then went on to lose the other two doubles matches 3-1 and 3-0.

Ironically, our two victories occurred the same way as the close losses. George Kordas tackled Terry Barr and quickly found himself 2-0 down. Terry played John Rakolta last year and found himself in this position as well only to be steamrolled in the final three games. All George needed to do was to extend the rallies a little and keep Terry on court – his fitness would work out the rest. He managed to do just that and eventually ended up with a 3-2 win.

John Rakolta also took his time to get his game going against Eric Machus and had to dig himself of the 2-0 hole he had put himself in. Fitness also came into play in this match. Eric has great hands and skills, but struggles on the long rallies. John scratched his way back into contention with better ball movement and fewer errors to take it to a decider. In a last ditch effort, Eric kept up with John virtually point-for point well into the tie-break. At this stage it’s anyone’s game, and John managed to pull it off 14-12.

Jim Johns (BAC) beat Arnaud Mangin 3-2.
Arnaud lead the match 2-1
Losing 13-2 was painful. Any loss is an exasperating experience. Tie-break losses are especially heartbreaking particularly when you held the lead during the match as well. No one is happy to lose, disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow (washed down by the medicine they drank!) but I don’t believe our spirits were dampened. Once the frustration subsided – and it’s perfectly okay to be frustrated - I am sure a hungrier motivation to do better next time set in.

The BAC must be commended not only for the hospitality, but for their squash game. They won under pressure – we didn’t. It is now up to us to reach the bar to the level they have raised it to. And we can. And we will. Work harder.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Boasters League round 1~~

The first week back after the holiday break is always a little iffy. Players can be somewhat skeptical at how they are going to perform after no doubt indulging themselves waaaay too much for the past couple of weeks. I realized it was tough for many to pass up those Christmas cookies as I did see a few ‘muffin tops’ wobbling around on court, quite a few hands on knees, excessive labored breathing, and tomato-red faces. Naturally, what didn’t change was the partaking of the keg. New Year’s Resolutions don’t go that far.

A common theme I was hearing after many of the matches was, “I’m (pant… pant…) rusty (pant… pant…)”. Squash is not like riding a bike. Without consistent focused practice, it is all too easy to fall into those innate bad habits, and all too difficult to figure out how to stop it. Taking a couple weeks rest can be all it takes to find yourself miss-hitting, miss-timing, unable to read the play, sucking wind after only one decent rally, and of course losing a match you normally wouldn’t.

Old Shillelagh” started the season in the best possible way. By turning up and collecting 10 bonus points, and then playing 8 matches as well. That’s not to say that their team was training hard during the holidays rather than spoiling their appetites, but it goes hand in hand that when you turn up and play, you will be rewarded! “Town Pump” did well on the bonus point front too picking up 9, but they only completed 5 matches.

The “O’Blivions” find themselves in unfamiliar territory in 5th place (rather than last). But it’s hardly time to get excited about that. One, it’s only round 1, and two, they are only 2 points from 8th spot, and three, they have the ‘bye’ next week.

We are off and running. Try and get your matches in on time, do not let them pile up. Remember, only the top 6 teams will advance to the finals.

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