So here we are—the first overhauled Michigan Squash Travel League season has been completed. Even though I was in charge of the league, I will attempt to be brutally honest in my dissection of how I believe it all panned out.
Firstly, the results. The DAC had three teams over the two divisions: two in the 3.5 and one in the 4.5. One of the 3.5 teams went into the season knowing they had their work cut out for them. Consequently they struggled from round to round and as expected ended up last at the end of the home and away matches. Our second 3.5 team on the other hand ended up on top after losing only one match-up and stormed through the finals winning both weeks 3 matches to 1 and therefore were crowned 3.5 champions! Congratulations to Paul Ward (who won 14 of 14 matches for the year), captain Patrick Petz, Andy Adamo, Al Iafrate, Rich Stimson (also undefeated), and James Van Dyke.
In the 4.5 division, our team finished 5th out of 6, and as a result missed out on the finals. Windsor proved to be the best team all season and won the final 3-1 over Life Time Fitness.
The new travel league format was a dramatic change from previous years. Not only did we move the matches from weeknights to a Saturday, we also implemented the rules more strictly. Amongst other regulations, the main ones enforced were:matches were no longer allowed to be rearranged; players had to be registered and paid members of US Squash and Michigan Squash; and teams had to play in the same order every week.
Like anything that is modified, push back was anticipated. Since, in the past, the travel league was run with almost no insistence of following any structure whatsoever, the players got comfortable with that. There was nothing to stop someone playing their round 2 match after round 7 for example. What’s the big deal if the number 1 player on the team wants to play number 4 the next week? What was also anticipated was that teams would not be 100% clear with the rules and inevitably break them. Some teams were penalized with defaults for transgressions, and on the rare occasion a stern warning was issued (depending on the severity of the offense).
Over the season, I received many e-mails asking for leniency. More time to play a match was a common theme since some teams found it difficult to fill a four man roster on certain dates and also to allow a ‘casual’ sub (non US Squash member) to play instead. Such requests were promptly denied – sometimes to the consequence of match defaults and in a couple of cases, full team defaults. In the most disappointing case of all, 3 of the 4 semi finals were team defaults for that very reason. (Injuries and vacation were the main culprits of players not being available.)
I know it sounds harsh. After all, Michigan Squash is all about promoting play. But rules are rules and there is no point having them if they aren’t followed, or if we decide to be flexible every time a conflict arises. Then they turn into “recommended guidelines” and have no meaning at all.
With one year experience behind us I think year two will run more smoothly. People will have a better understanding of what to expect and how to organize their teams. Communication between the captains improved as the season progressed which naturally made everyone’s life a lot easier. It is comforting to know that you will have an opponent when you turn up to play! As mentioned earlier, this did not eliminate defaults – we still had too many of them - but drastically reduced them from past years.
Overall, I think the travel league went fairly well. I’m going to give it a 6 ½ out of 10.
We will see what season 2 brings us. Hopefully those involved were pleased enough to not only play again but encourage their fellow members to join them. Maybe even to the extent we get participation again from our friends in Toledo. It works out to once a month, you get to play 2 matches on the day, and enjoy the camaraderie and experience of playing people outside your own club. Even though we had only 2 divisions, we will be trying to expand it but it will depend on which clubs enter. We’ll just keep trying.