Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Now that Hashim has (hopefully) convinced you to hold the racquet correctly, it’s now time to swing properly. He keeps it as simple as possible, and states the obvious as only Hashim can. It makes you think you are listening to Mr. Spock – the Vulcan from Star Trek - his logic is so undeniable. Watching pros is a vital aspect to picking up important techniques and footwork (as well as strategy). Try and emulate what the good players do for they must be doing something right. However, every player has their own set of skills and sometimes certain things won’t work for certain players. Experiment, and see what can benefit you.

And remember, it doesn’t have to a major overhaul of your swing. It may be a small adjustment which can make all the difference. For example, maybe you need to shorten your backswing slightly in order to get your racquet prepared more quickly, or maybe keep a couple of inches further away from the ball on contact, or do you need to stay down through the stroke a fraction of a second longer? Whatever it is, if you are not hitting consistently, you need to change something. Of course, I can definitely help you too!

To see all the blog articles on Hashim, go to: Hashim Khan

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Cross Border Challenge – September 15 at the Windsor Squash Club

Step right up, step right up, step right up! Everyone’s a player, squash galore! That’s right; you too can be a proud representative of the Detroit Athletic Club, in our quest in defending the holy grail of all holy grails, the Cross Border Challenge Trophy!

One border crossing fee, that’s all it will cost you. A tiny charge for the pleasure of the services you will receive! You need a singles match? We’ll get you a singles match! How about a doubles game? We have that too! Something for the socialite? We’ll have a keg available at your disposal, drink any much or as little as you like, just remember you are all welcome at Windsor’s Little Shop of Squashers!

This is a once in a year opportunity (sometimes two!) so don’t be on the outside looking in. Act now! Don’t settle for less, everybody must play! How do we do it? How can we afford it? Money is of no consequence! We want you to have the squash experience of your life! Can I use a few more exclamation marks to get my point across?!

That right! If it’s black or blue and round, involves a racquet, a squash court, and a free flowing beer tap, you simply must get involved. You’ll be running, you’ll be stunning, you’ll be gunning for the booze! If you’re not completely satisfied with this genuine, never-to-be-repeated (until the next one) challenge, then take some more squash lessons, drink a few more pints, sit back, relax, and feel the enjoyment seep into your bones!

Please allow 5 days for organizational time. That’s right! September 10 is the sign-up deadline. Want to make a name? Get some fame? Then the Cross Border Challenge is your game! Step right up! Step right up! Step right up!

…Before I get any more carried away, here are the main points of interest:
  • Matches start at 2pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Windsor Squash Club
  • Singles players of all levels needed
  • Doubles players at the A, B, and C level needed (if possible)
  • You will play one best-of-5  match against a Windsor member
  • Even if you do not wish to play, come and enjoy the camaraderie
  • Entry deadline – Monday, September 10
  • Drink. Win. Then drink some more. Or, win first, then drink. Or just win. Or drink. Just be there.
Oh, and by the way, we are currently the defending champions. We need to hold onto the trophy, it belongs here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


So where is that proverbial line in the sand when it comes to ethical behavior in sports? The Olympics it seems slipped from its traditional values to an almost farcical demonstration of athletes doing what they can to secure that elusive gold medal and all the fame that comes in tow. Scandals emerged that have us scratching our heads wondering whether to blame the athlete or the system – or both – and the old adage of “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” could not ring more untrue. Like some 2012 Olympians, the mantra was, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”.

Doping notwithstanding, since any athlete that feels the need for chemical assistance is truly a cheat and should be banned immediately for life from competing ever again, the issues arising from the London Olympics came from situations where the rules weren’t actually broken. So can you fault the athletes, who were there to win gold, for manipulating a system to their best advantage for victory?

We have all heard about the badminton fiasco. Multiple pairs trying their utmost to lose a round robin match for a preferable draw in the knock-out rounds. Hypothetically, faced with the same dilemma, if the reward for me to win a squash match in a tournament was to immediately play Ramy Ashour, as opposed to a much lower ranked player, but still be in the running to win the event, I doubt very much I would have thrown the match. Even though I would much rather lose to Ramy in the final than in the first round, I couldn’t stomach losing on purpose. The badminton player’s issue was their subtlety. There wasn’t any. It was clear what they were trying to do, but as professional players, they surely could have done a better job of acting like they were trying but just having a bad day at the office. But was the decision for them to be kicked out of the Games ridiculous? Yes, it was poor sportsmanship, but they didn’t break the rules. In fact, they were doing whatever it took to give them the best chance to win. Even if it meant losing. Blame the system? Then, organizers should have been sent home too.

And then there was the British cyclist in the team track event who admitted purposely crashing on the first bend because of a poor start in order to restart the race. The British team ended up winning the restarted race and the gold medal. That would be like me requesting a restart to a squash match because I have hit the first 3-4 return of serves into the tin. Clearly the cyclist didn’t break the rules – he also admitted it was a team strategy if that exact circumstance came up – since the restart was allowed. It sounds completely ludicrous – but again, the athlete was doing his best to win for his country – even if it meant crashing.

Swimming. The South African swimmer who won gold in the 100 breaststroke admitted cheating during the race by using an illegal dolphin kick. His excuse? “Everyone else is doing it”. Without the kick he says he most likely would not have won, and even after his admission, he gets to keep his medal. I suppose there isn’t much the IOC can do here, because is everybody is doing it, then they all should be disqualified. So changing the rules seems like a no brainer. But until then, it’s still cheating.

Soccer. In an eerily similar situation to the badminton debacle, the Japanese women’s soccer team was instructed by their coach not to win their final round robin match against South Africa, but play for the tie in order to get a favorable draw in the knock-out stage. They succeeded with a 0-0 score. Unlike the badminton debacle, the powers that be had no issue with this. Japan reached the final, but lost to the USA and received the silver medal. There are also reports that the Spanish basketball team deliberately lost to Brazil in their round-round match in order to avoid playing USA early in the knock-out draw. Spain eventually ended up with the silver medal – also losing to USA in the final.

Moral dilemmas. Apart from the South African swimmer, none of the above mentioned actually broke the rules. Athletes will search for any advantage they can find to give them that edge. If the system is designed for abuse, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be exploited. What did the IOC expect? The rules allow you to do ‘x’, just be a jolly nice chap and don’t do it? As righteously reprehensible as it is, can you really hold the athletes accountable? They still followed the rules.

So as squash players, are we constantly crossing over that honorable boundary? How often do you continue play after you know your ball has bounced twice, or clipped the red-line, or after a double hit? Should you immediately own up to it or wait for the referee to call it? How often do you ask for that ‘let’, knowing that there was no way in Hades you could have reached the ball? Increased the size of your backswing to fish for the ‘stroke’? Do you argue with the referee? Intimidate? Waste time? Tie that shoe lace up that suddenly comes undone when you are tired? Stretch that 90 second rest between games as far as possible? Are we trying the win with the help of bending the rules without quite breaking them? Are these acceptable tactics?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Anyone who answered ‘no’ to all the above questions is either completely oblivious to their own actions, or a liar. Under pressure, desperate times call for desperate measures and we can all hang our heads a little for actions less than honorable in stressful situations. However, where that principled edge lies definitely differs from person to person. What is seen as unethical by some may be considered perfectly legitimate by others.

And don’t forget that sports are as much a mind game as a physical one (if not more). Getting under your opponents skin, creating doubt, breaking their concentration, plays a huge part in success. We all know how hard it is to perform when your mind isn’t on the court. If all of this could be placed under the ‘mind-game strategy’, are they suddenly more acceptable?

It really comes down to one thing as far as I am concerned: self-respect. In the grand scheme of things, you play for one person only – yourself. You are the one person you cannot avoid living with 24/7, so you should probably have the need to feel good about yourself. Do you pride yourself on following the rules, being fair, but also busting a lung to win whenever you play? Would you much rather lose having played hard, than win under controversy? Everyone hates losing. And everyone loves wining. But does it need to come at a cost of your dignity or integrity?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Doubles Select Tournament – Starts September 4

I’m not sure why this is called the “Select” tournament since none of you can actually “select” your own partner. Nor, really, do I. Your doubles partner depends 100% on who enters and how I rank everybody. The top ranked player will be matched up with the lowest, the second ranked player with the second lowest and so forth. So, there is really no selecting going on at all. It’s fate. As the knock-out draw will be. I’ll be pulling teams out of the hat as I fill in the bracket. No seeding. Should be called the Doubles “Kismet” Tournament… Feeling lucky?

As the summer winds down and the squash leagues loom, this is the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things. We had 34 registrations last year, 2 short of the record, many 5 set matches, and the winners were Shail Arora and Bob Garvey. Bob has now won this event 2 years running (he won it with Mike Skaff in 2010), and I’m sure he’ll be searching for a three-peat. I am hoping to eclipse the entry record of 36 (set in 2006) since we have been slowly getting more play on the doubles court over the past 12 months. Even if you don’t believe you are ‘up to scratch’, I recommend you jump in and have a crack – let your partner carry you!

Just keep these few items in mind:
  • Each match will have a deadline. It will be the player’s responsibility to complete the match no later than the assigned date. Failure to do so will result in severe sanctions, incarceration, a ban on drinking beer for 12 months, and the large probability of a forfeit.
  • Draw will be a knock-out format. Once you lose, you’re done. Try not to lose.
  • The winning team will receive a nice shirt with their name stitched on it proclaiming to be the champions. If you want one, then heed to the bullet point above.
  • All matches will be best of 5 games. You just have to win 3 of them.
  • Don’t hit anybody with the ball. It really, really, really hurts.
  • Be very understanding and considerate with the ‘let’ calls. Safety and common sense first.
Registration deadline is Friday, August 31. For obvious reasons, I need an even amount of players, so the earlier you sign up, the better chance you will have of not being the odd one out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Ken MacDonald in his favorite squash shirt
I’m not totally sure if we received so many entries for this event because people were sorry to see Ken MacDonald leave, or happy to see him go… I kid of course, but for the middle of summer to have 25 participants in the “Race Against the Clock” tournament is a testament to the man of the hour. I now somehow need to have him come back every summer and then go away again in order to keep the registrations up.

It was a fantastic effort by all involved to keep the matches rolling along. All 52 of them, just on two courts, and although it did take a little longer than anticipated the feedback amongst the players was all very positive. In fact, one e-mail I received requested I run this event every month. That’s not going to happen, but I am pleased with the response. 

Split into 5 groups, each round robin match varied in length from 3 to 7 minutes long. There were no handicaps handed out. I was simply interested in who won or lost, since the player in the group who ended up with the most victories would take away the winners ‘check’ (or gift certificate). But it was intriguing to see many of the individual scores as well. Ten of the matches were decided by 1 point only and 4 of those were by sudden death – that means that if the score was tied by the end of the time limit, a sudden death rally had to be played to determine the winner. Patrick Petz had 2 of them – and won them both.

Brittany Paquette, Paul Huth
and Bruce VandeVusse
The ‘A’ group was the only one of the five that did not need a finals play-off. Anthony Fracchia went through the group undefeated, his closest match was against Mike Counsman whom he beat 8-6. Every other player in the group posted only 1 win. 

I’ll get to the ‘B’ group last, since Ken MacDonald was in that one and I want to end the article with him. In the ‘C’s, we had a tie between Patrick Petz and Sante Fratarcangeli, both with 3 wins. Sante could have swept the table, but came up short in his final pool match against Rich Stimson losing in sudden death 8-7 in a little controversial fashion. The play-off would be a 2 minute match. At the end of regulation, the score was 4-4, once again forcing a sudden death rally. Third time lucky was not a charm for Patrick as he tinned a (hypothetical) winner to hand Sante the victory!
Justin Winkelman, Ken,
Paul Ward and Mike Counsman
The ‘D’ was a closely fought bunch. Paul Flanagan and Dane Fossee scraped through to the play-off with 4 wins each, with Josh Slominski and David Pontes each with 3. Josh can blame David for not being a part of the play-off, when he lost their match 16-15. One rally the other way would have made the difference. In the 2 minute final, Paul scooted off to a quick start which made catching up an impossibility. He took the match 7-2.

In the ‘E’s, we were faced with a 3-way tie for first place. Justin Winkelman, Brittany Paquette and Elliot Shafer each scored 4 wins in the group. Their only losses were against each other, so the 3-way play-off was up for grabs. After Elliot drew first blood against Brittany 6-3, he then immediately stepped on court with Justin and found himself on a roll. The quick points piled up and by the time Justin tackled Brittany, Elliot had established an unassailable lead. He took the final with 15 points with his closest rival 4 points back.
Ken playing in the 2 minute final

Ken MacDonald, as you may have heard, is leaving the DAC. For the DAC. That’s the Denver Athletic Club. He is off to Colorado to start a new chapter in his life with his wife and young child. He was very active in our squash family, representing us in tournaments, the Cross Border Challenge, the Farris Cup, the McQueenie Cup, he played the leagues and ladders, was the Squash Committee Chairman last year, and seriously you’d be hard up to find a nicer, friendlier guy. So nice in fact, that the players in the ‘B’ group were overwhelmed by his affability, they couldn’t beat him. Except for (spoiler alert!) – Paul Huth. Paul beat him in the round robin to force the 2 minute play-off and wouldn’t you know it, at the end of the time limit, they were tied 5-5. Paul, it appeared, was going to make Ken earn the win just an itty bit. The sudden death rally was going swimmingly well, Paul lollied a ball into the middle of the court for a Ken MacDonald tournament ending winner, which he them promptly nailed into the tin. Oh well, not the fairy tale result, but close enough.

So, on behalf of the squash membership, I would like to wish Ken and his family the best of the best of luck, nothing less than genuine happiness and prosperity. I know you will miss us here in Detroit and the squash program (since there is no other one like it!) and we hope to see you regularly back in town. Make sure you wear that t-shirt when you return, but please, in the name of the Lord, wash it first.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


We all knew the Haggarty / Logan stranglehold on the DAC Club Champion title couldn’t last forever. What we didn’t know was that it would end so soon. Barely a month into his membership and this guy has already etched his name into immortality. Now the question begs is who can challenge him? We have a number of contenders, but can they catch this baby-faced 28 year-old…?


The Squash Joint (TSJ): Give us the rundown of how and where you learnt to play squash. 

When I was 12 my main sport was soccer, during that year I developed a very severe allergy to grass so I had to stop playing soccer. In order to get better and be able to play any sport, my physician recommended starting swimming to increase my lung capacity so that the allergy attacks would not be that severe. I started swimming almost every day for a long period of time in a club near my house that also had squash courts. One day my uncle, that played squash in that club, invited me to play. He gave me a wooden squash racquet as a present and that was my first squash match. By coincidence, this club that I enrolled to swim was the best squash club in the country. I had the chance to grow up playing with the best players of the country and had very good coaches and people to play with.

TSJ: How is squash set-up in Ecuador (or Quito)? Are there leagues? Tournaments? Junior and school development programs? What was your participation?

During the last 20 years, Ecuador’s squash has increased its popularity around the country. Now days we have an average of 8 national tournaments per year and 8 state tournaments per year. Every national tournament has an average of 140 players as well as the state tournaments. We do not have any leagues because there are so many state and national tournaments. The nice thing about the tournaments is that they always give trophies and money prices and people get motivated to play more. We do have junior and school development programs, especially in Quito and Ambato, the big squash cities. They just opened new public courts in Quito were anybody can go play without having to be a member of a club. When I was actively training as part of the national team I was always very involved in coaching the juniors too. Two of the juniors that started training with me became national junior champions. 

TSJ: How did you end up landing in the US? And then specifically Detroit?

When I finished my medical school in Ecuador I wanted to get the best training for my subspecialty. US have the best residency training in the world and that motivated me to apply here. During my application process I had to apply to 100 programs around the US. From those I got a couple of interviews mostly in the east coast. One of them was here at Henry Ford Hospital. I loved the place and I found that this hospital would also provide me with the most difficult patients and diseases in order to get an excellent training.

TSJ: What are your favorite things to do in your time off (except playing squash)?

 I love traveling (whenever I have time off, not very often), hopefully when I finish my residency I can have more time to do it. I also like dancing. I studied salsa dancing for 3 years and I had my own group of “rueda de casino”. It is a salsa style originated in Cuba.
TSJ: What was the last gift you received that you genuinely disliked? What did you do with it?
I cannot recall any gift that I have really disliked, but if I will get one, I will save it and give it to somebody that I think would like it or find it useful.

TSJ: Dr. BuitrĂ³n. What do think this rash is that I have on my… oh hang on, this isn’t the place for that… What is your area of specialty? Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 years?

 I am doing my residency in Internal Medicine. I want to continue my training applying to Cardiology fellowship and hopefully in 10 years I will be able to go back home and use all what I have learned here to help people in my country.

TSJ: Even though you have only been a member since March, what has your DAC experience been like so far? 

It has been wonderful. Since the beginning I have felt like I would have played here for years. Everybody is very helpful and always motivated to play. I like the courts too and what I love the most is that I have the chance of playing at any time I want.
TSJ: Do you get back to visit your family often? Would you return to live in Ecuador if the opportunity presented itself?

 I have not been back home in more than a year. My parents came to visit this summer as well as my brother and sister. If I could, I would go back at least once a year but being a resident physician I do not get that much money to travel that often. I would like to go back home after I finish my training and after I have been able to save some money to open my own practice back home.

TSJ: Tell us about a ‘secret’ talent you have? Tell us what talent you don’t have that you would like to.

I guess I like innovation very much. I always find different ways to do things my own way. Now days I am developing a new methodology to study medicine. This is one of my biggest projects. I have finished my first electronic book that I have been working on for years. I am hoping it gets published during the next 4 months. I used to be part of the chorus of my middle school, then adolescence ruined my voice haha, I was never able to bring that talent back.
TSJ: Complete these sentences…

a)             The worst movie my girlfriend took me to was… She has never missed one yet. I am the one usually picking the worst movies haha, like sucker punch.
b)      The one house chore I despise above all others is… laundry 
c)      Happiness for me means… believing that I already have everything I need.
d)      The biggest difference between Ecuador and the US isfamily culture, I might be wrong but I feel we spend more time close to our families.
e)      I am still a child when it comes to… everything. I always try to feel and think I am still a child; no fears and a big ability to be amazed by all things in live. 
f)       The one food I cannot resist no matter how full I am is…  pizza.

TSJ: If you didn’t play squash, which sport would you take up (You are not allowed to choose soccer)?

Ping pong or biking. 

TSJ: The concluding question. The one that tries to expose you and make you a little vulnerable, embarrassed and defenseless. Ready? What does your girlfriend consider to be your most irritating habit? Tell us a story when this really made her annoyed!

For some reason, whenever I use something from the refrigerator that is close to being empty, instead of putting it in the trash I leave it there. When Andrea finds this out she gets really annoyed. I have improved a lot though but I still unconsciously do it.   

I wonder if that refrigerator thing is a male trait… my wife would believe it to be so. A huge “Gracias” to Pablo for spending quality time and sharing some personal information with us. A much needed (and welcome) addition to the DAC in not only his squash ability but also personality. You cannot not like him! Let’s hope he stays with us for the long haul and we see him vying for more nametags on that championship board.

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