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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Smart Squash

Front cover of Smart Squash by Austin M. Francis

For whatever reason, aside from a few great autobiographies and instructional-type books, there do not seem to be that many good reads about the game of squash out there.  Certainly not relative to other more mainstream sports.  Hopefully this will change in future as squash grows in popularity.

There are notable exceptions to this, however, like two great books about squash written by Jim Zug.  Another is a book called 'Smart Squash' written by a gentleman named Austin Francis, which was first published 20 years ago, at the time that the US switched from hardball singles to the international softball game.  Austin interviewed all of the top US-based players and coaches at that time in order to understand what the critical differences are between hardball and softball.  Some of the names of those interviewed for advice are in the preface below.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oxygen and Nick Matthew

Front cover of the autobiography of world squash champion, Nick Matthew

A few readers have asked me what the best squash advice I have ever received is, given that I have been playing for thirty years.  It is true that I have had the privilege of playing some of the best players in the world in training sessions, and sometimes even in matches when I have been lucky enough, so I guess I have learned a thing or two by osmosis.  Most recently I played against Nick Matthew in one quick game of squash.  He was on vacation in the US.  Even though I don't play singles much anymore (play more hardball doubles), I jumped at the opportunity.  And what a great experience it was!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Q&A with Shaun Johnstone

Shaun Johnstone, Zimbabwean professional sportsman
Shaun Johnstone was born in Zimbabwe on April 20th, 1984.  After high school he moved to the US to attend Trinity College.  Johnstone was on the Trinity squash team that has the longest unbeaten winning streak in the history of collegiate sports – the team was undefeated for 252 straight team match ups against other US colleges over the course of 13 years.  Shaun was an invaluable member of that Trinity team and consequently was an All American for all four of his years at college.  Johnstone is a talented individual and has achieved national recognition in sports other than squash.  In fact, word has it that long time Trinity head coach, Paul Assaiante, considers Johnstone the best overall athlete ever to play for him. 

I recently got the opportunity to ask Shaun a few questions about squash and about his life generally and have shared his answers to them below.  You will find that he is someone that not only loves playing squash but who is also extremely focused on being the best coach that he can possibly be; and you'll understand why.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Q&A with Peter Lasusa

Former US Squash Chairman, Peter R. Lasusa, Jr.

Last June Peter Lasusa finished his four year term as the Chairman of US Squash. He had served on the organization's Board for the last nine years.  When he initially got involved it was known as the USSRA, but Peter oversaw way more than just a name change.  He recognized early on a need for a change in the governance structures and implemented big changes during his tenure that led to a dramatic turnaround in the prospects of the organization.  Membership has doubled, participation has doubled and revenues have more than doubled.  And the US Open is among the premier squash tournaments in the world.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How I Remember my Countryman, Nelson Mandela

Mandela handing over the Rugby World Cup winners trophy in 1995

I grew up in the Eastern Cape in South Africa during the height of the apartheid era in the late 70's and 80's, in a part of the country now known as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Area.

Being a white person growing up in that environment meant living with certain privileges.  But it also meant I was handicapped without even knowing it, as were all the other boys at the boarding school which I attended.  You see, we had a tainted view of the world. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Youthful reflections on the British Junior Open

Ayush Menon

Below is an article written by Ayush Menon, a young man of Indian descent who is a Junior US Open Squash champion in his age group.  Ayush is a first generation American and at the age of 12 years has already accomplished much in the game of squash. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

An analysis of the IOC voting processes

London, England, site of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which squash just narrowly missed being a part of 
In order for a new sport to get voted into the Olympics, first it needs to be recognized by the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF), a sister organization to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This body essentially monitors the 'B list' of sports that are not in the Olympics but perhaps could be. They facilitate a big convention on a regular basis called SportAccord. Delegates from all of the member federations of the B list sports (e.g. squash, karate, bowling, motorcycling, surfing) come to these conventions to showcase their sports and share ideas with others and attempt to get the visibility that is required in order to get onto the Olympic A list.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Q&A with Karim Darwish

Karim Darwish, Egyptian professional squash player

Karim Darwish, of Cairo, Egypt, is one of the world’s best professional squash players. His list of accomplishments in the sport is impressive. As a young man Karim won the World Junior title and then the World University Championships. In 2009, at the age of 27 and after over a decade on the professional tour, he attained the PSA world number one position. As a seasoned professional, Karim Darwish has Captained Egypt to the World Team Championships twice. In 2009 he received the PSA "Player of the Year" award in tribute of his extraordinary success. Darwish is still ranked at number five in the world today and has had an unbroken stretch in the PSA world top ten since October 2007. He has also attained the remarkable achievement of 25 major tournament titles during his illustrious career as a squash professional.

I recently got the privilege of asking Karim a few questions about his squash career and his life in general. Here is our conversation:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Squash and the Olympics - The Final Chapter?

Roger Federer with Nicol David, long time squash world number one from Malaysia
Which sport is the best choice for the 2020 Olympics? The answer is obvious to me. As is probably evident by now I have done a lot of research on this topic, not out of any obligation, but because I am fascinated by how the process works and also because I think that the sport of squash deserves to be more popular than it is. So, please indulge me again whilst this squash blog temporarily becomes a blog about the Olympics. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Squash and the Olympics Part Four

When the result of the IOC Executive Board vote regarding the new sport for the 2020 Olympics was revealed last week, I was very relieved that squash made the shortlist along with wrestling and baseball/softball (baseball and softball joined forces and are considered one sport).  But, honestly, the more overwhelming sensation was a sick feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.

The reason I was uncomfortable about the decision was because wrestling was the clear favorite of the IOC Board during this vote.  I suspected that this would happen after comments made by Jacques Rogge, the outgoing IOC president.  In September this year his twelve year term will be over and the IOC will have a new president.  That vote on a new sport for 2020 will take place at the IOC general assembly meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  A host city will also be selected for 2020 at that time.  For the record:  There is only a single spot for a ‘new’ sport.  Two of the three sports on the shortlist have already been in the Olympic sports program, so to say they are ‘new’ would be an inaccurate description.  For the sake of inclusiveness, transparency, fairness and advancement of the Olympic movement, one would think that the choice faced by the IOC membership is an easy one.  Just vote for the sport that has never been in the Games and has never been kicked out.  That is, vote for squash.