Here I am once again doing a report of a Canadian National Championships. This time it's the Seniors and although I didn't compete in the tournament this year I have a lot of thoughts about the event. Let's get right to it.
Here's a link to the draws if you'd like to see the draws and the results: http://squashcanada.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/draws.aspx?id=A1F701B8-E54A-48A9-BDA2-39A174B90DAA Many of the Open matches were streamed online and I was able to watch a few of the matches including the finals on Saturday. Yes that's right, Saturday! I saw a couple of the mens quarter final matches too. This is where I feel the event needed to be spread out a bit more. Win or lose, everyone who played in the quarters on Friday had to play again a few hours later. It's not surprising that there was a default in one of the matches. These are the toughest matches of the event and they were played on the same day within a few hours of one another.
The event started on Wednesday and I think it would have made more sense if they had 2 matches on the Wednesday or Thursday where the top seeds wouldn't have had their most challenging matches. Either that or they could extend the event to finish on Sunday. Anyways, that's just a little thing that only influenced the top 8 men, but I'm sure they weren't too happy about that. All credit to Andrew Schnell in the final, but he certainly seemed much fresher on Saturday than Shawn Delierre who has a history of playing long, gruelling matches. If Squash Canada wants the best squash to be played in the finals I think they either need to limit the draw size or adjust the match scheduling. Okay, time to move on!
In total there were 281 entires which sounds like a great turnout, but when you look at it a little closer this is what bothers me the most. Zero women signed up for the age divisions until the 50+! In the men's 30+ only 4 did! There were 30 events in total so filling up a good size draw for each event is always going to be a challenge. But my biggest pet peeve is how many of the top ranked Canadian Toronto based players did not even participate. Only 21 of the top 50 ranked men in Canada played and far fewer of the top ranked women! Which also makes me wonder how they are still ranked up there. There are lots of ex tour players living in the Toronto area who are retired and don't compete anymore. How do we keep these players participating? It's difficult for them to not have the same results and to perhaps lose to the next generation, so how can we change that? Can we add a Legends Division, like the event they have in Bermuda and have some money offered for ex PSA players to come back and play in it? What if they only played 1 match per day in the Open division and just made the event 1 day longer?
I know some people will have their own reasons; I wasn't there this season either so I may sound like a hypocrite. I've only been playing once or twice per month as I'm awaiting a small kneed surgery in June, but I still wish I had played. I can see how people in similar positions like myself end up finding perfectly logical reasons not to play. Work, families, injuries or just being out of shape are all popular reasons people miss the event. For many these reasons are justifiable as squash has taken a back burner to the rest of their life. But squash was or still is a big part of many of these peoples lives yet they still fail to participate.
I feel that the main culprit here is our ego. Any squash player who has been successful and played at a high level has too much pride to play just to play. Some say it's our competitive spirit, but we know our best squash is well behind us so we avoid competing like it's the plague. Is this something we can avoid for the future generation by focusing on trying our best, having fun and concentrating more on the love of the game? As I've been out of competition for a couple of years I realized how much I miss just being able to compete, let alone at my highest level. So my intentions is to participate in Senior Nationals moving forwards if at all possible. Win or lose, squash is an important part of my life and we're a big family here in Canada. It would be nice to see some others take my oath and play just to play and leave their ego in the past.
Are there other ways to improve participation at Nationals? What about bringing in a show court? Use a lower tin? Attaching Nationals to some other event (like a big PSA event or exhibition)? Do we need a slower ball at the highest level so the rallies and matches are won more by racquet skill and decision making rather than physicality? Maybe lowering the entry fee for out of province players or juniors? Maybe we need to change the date of the event before the weather gets too nice? Maybe giving all of the entrants a Blue Jays game ticket for Sunday or something cool that we could all do together? Would a Legend Divisions help? Maybe competitive players should have to purchase competitive or recreational memberships which can help sort out the rankings properly and have a proper list of who is active or inactive.
Or as I already mentioned do we just need to learn how to let go of our ego and fear of failure? Is it possible to teach our kids in a way that will enable them to continue to compete regardless of age and ability? I'm trying to use a checklist with my young kids after games. The first thing I ask is if they were a good sport or not. The second was if they had fun or not and the last is if they tried their best. If a kid can learn to do all of those things maybe they can enjoy squash and competing regardless of the outcome.
In closing I also have one more reason why we should compete if we are on the fence about it. The year I won the 30+ I went with a cold and did not expect to do well. I also remember another time at university when I was sick and I was playing #1 against a top school and also has no expectations to perform well. Funny enough these are 2 of the times I've had my best results and it was when I wasn't worried about what would happen. The last time I played senior nationals I went to win and put too much pressure on myself and lost in the finals. It's funny how the more we want to win the tougher it seems to be to achieve. This is why too much winning is not healthy for any athlete and why we should focus on process oriented goals. Learn to enjoy the process and hitting the squash ball! If you've seen any of my skill challenges you'll know that I still love hitting the ball :)