Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Serious Squash Podcast Episode 2 ft. Graeme Williams

I'm really enjoying interviewing some insightful and knowledgeable squash coaches. In episode 2 I interviewed Graeme Williams who was the head coach in Windsor for 7 years and is now in the US coaching. While in Canada he had a great junior program and was also the Women's National Team coach. We discuss a lot about junior squash, the differences in squash and coaching from England to Canada to the U.S., the PSA, CSA and his thoughts on a few technical ideas about squash.

Something all the coaches I've interviewed have in common so far is they are so passionate about squash. There's also been some similarities and also a few differences in their philosophies about squash and coaching. I've learned a lot so far and I know you will too.

Here's a little teaser of episode 2 with Graeme:

The full episode will be released tomorrow morning. You can find it wherever you listen to your podcasts or from the following link:

Episode 3 is also another great interview featuring a good friend and a big time coach for junior squash in Canada. This episode will drop in 2 weeks so make sure you subscribe to the podcast or the email list below to be notified when new episodes and other Serious Squash stuff is happening.

A mentioned there is a new Serious Squash email list. Since Serious Squash is all over the net (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Patreon, Podcasts, a shop and this blog) I thought it would be easiest to have a central place where I can email out the occasional update on all things Serious Squash related. If you'd like to subscribe you can do so here: Serious Squash Email List

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Serious Squash Podcast: Episode 1 ft. Rob Brooks on Junior Squash

Throughout the pandemic I've been listening to a bunch of podcasts and I've even been interviewed for a few squash ones as well. Last weekend I had the idea of creating a Serious Squash podcast. Instead of simply interviewing the backgrounds and stores of squash players, I've decided to focus on interviewing the top coaches and sharing their expertise. I may know a lot of things about squash, but there are plenty of things I still don't know.

I believe a lot of top coaches will be open to sharing their knowledge and ideas because together we can improve our sport as whole. Our sport is too small to do things on our own on a trial and error basis and a lot of us coaches don't have the luxury of working alongside great mentors. I also think that this information will be interesting to the squash players and the parents of juniors. 

For episode #1 I was fortunate to get Rob Brooks on. I've known Rob for over 30 years and he's one of the nicest, humblest, most passionate and hardest working guys I've ever met. He's worked with more top juniors over the past 30 years than any other coach in Canada and in this episode he shares his expertise on junior squash. Rob definitely ignited my passion for coaching and I know you'll enjoy some of his ideas and philosophies about coaching kids. 

Currently the podcast is only available on 2 platforms, but will be added to others in due time. If this sounds like an interesting topic to you feel free to have as listen and subscribe. I already have another beauty lined up for episode 2. Here's the link for episode 1: Rob Brooks on Junior Squash

Friday, July 10, 2020

Challenging Times For College Squash

College squash in the US seems has made our sport boom. Thousands of junior squash players from all over the world train and dream for a chance to play on a varsity squash team one day. A lot of big name ex-PSA players are now coaching in the US which helps recruit and train these players which in turn is increasing both the popularity and the caliber of squash.

Because of covid-19 it's difficult to know how next season in the College Squash Association (CSA) is going to shape up. It seems clear that the start of the season is going to be pushed back, but there has been a lot happening since the completion of the 2019/2020 season. A lot of schools have said they are starting with online courses and many international students may not be allowed back in the US for the fall. The US college squash system is changing in many ways at the moment and it could have a major impact on squash as a whole. A few months ago I would have said that the CSA was stronger than ever; the caliber of the athletes, coaches and the sheer number of teams participating was at an all time high. Now in July there is a lot of reason for concern.

I know for a fact that I never would have went to university if I couldn't have played varsity squash. College squash was such an amazing experience which I'm so thankful for. As someone who played at varsity level and is now a coach of a varsity team I'm shocked by the decisions of Brown and Stanford to cancel their squash teams. Squash wasn't the only varsity sport to be cancelled at either program and the schools make it sound like this is a permanent change. Last season Brown finished 12th in the womens, 15th in the mens and Stanford was 6th in the women's. Those are strong results in a super competitive league.

These decisions were made so late that I doubt the squash players at these school will be able to transfer for next season. They have likely already confirmed their residences and have their courses picked; it's really a shame for them as well as the coaches of these programs. It's even worse for the incoming freshmen who were recruited to play on these squash teams and now will not have a chance to live out their childhood dreams. This hits close to home because I know 2 of Stanford's incoming players were top Canadian juniors.

Brown made a statement saying their decision had nothing to do with money or covid. They further claim to continue to support the team with the same amount of funding to play club squash, even though their alumni support will surely diminish without their variety status. On the other hand, Stanford claims to be doing this for economic reasons even though they have a 27 billion endowment fund.

Mark Talbott is the long standing coach and has approximately a 5 million dollar squash endowment fund. Mark and his staff raised all of the money for his teams so it's tough to see his years of hard work crumble. So even though Stanford claims these sports were all cut because of cost, it's obvious that this wasn't true for squash. Apparently squash doesn't fit into the Stanford athletic model. Dartmouth also just announced that they cut some sport teams as well, but thankfully squash was not one of them. Who will be next to fall?

Are there more teams that will suffer a similar fate? Are these decisions purely financial? Does covid play a part or this timing purely coincidental? What will next season look like? How many students will drop out because of this?

Clearly I have more questions than answers. As a squash supporter, alumni and college coach I'm really concerned; we all should be. I'm not only worried about my own job, but about the strength and future of the college squash game. The CSA was driving our sport as much or perhaps even more than the PSA and if it begins to falter I'm worried about the future of our sport. How many coaches will have to find a new career? How many juniors will pick up a new sport or hobby? How many clubs will never reopen? Is squash being exposed because we are not in the Olympics and not officially a part of the NCAA?

Brown reinstated their track and field team because of the public backlash that most of their athletes were black. I doubt race had any part of why Brown cut their track team, yet this was the reason the sport was reinstated. Does squash need more diversity or is this a completely separate topic? Squash is a sport that people from all over the world play, but yet we it was not reinstated. If the Brown squash team had more black players would the school have been pressured to reinstate squash as well? I know it's an uncomfortable question to consider let alone ask, but there appears to be some truth behind this line of thinking.  I have a full sleeve of tattoos, and I know that was not always well received when competing at US schools. Even though I'm caucasian I know for sure I've been stereotyped countless times. Part of the reason I decided to get all of my tattoos is that I wanted people to judge me for who I am, not for who I look like. I know it sounds a bit unsure, but it's true. If you don't like me because I have a tattoo that's on you and no skin off my back. I have to finish his thought by saying that yet I did compare my tattoos to someone being subject to racism, but I know they are 100% not the same thing. I made a choice what to do with my skin while others were born with theirs and nobody should be judged or ridiculed based upon something like that.

Compared to the current pandemic and the issues revolving around racism, squash doesn't isn't too high on the priority list of the state of the world; nor should it be, That being said, squash has been a huge part of my life for 30+ years. College squash was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life. This is where I made most of my best friends and when I was also the most dedicated and trained the hardest. Nothing beats training and competing alongside a group of friends. I sympathize for everyone that will miss out on a similar experience.

These times are unprecedented so it's impossible to know what's in store for college squash and squash in general. There's been a pile of PSA players retire (which I unfortunately predicted at the start of covid) and now 2 varsity squash programs have been cut. When Brown cut their program I thought it was a 1 off and that college squash would be fine, but after Stanford's announcement this week I'm left with a lot more worry about the future of squash and in particular the CSA.

I don't like writing about negative news on my blog, but this is the world we're living in and the current state of our sport. We have to all stick together and support the clubs and programs to make sure they are still here for us in the future. I know I'm a little biased, but squash really is the best sport on the plant and college squash is the pinnacle for most players. Stanford and Brown may not believe in the importance of variety sport and in squash, but I do!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Nicole Bunyan

This week is going to be short, but sweet. One of my favourite people, Nicole Bunyan has started a Patreon account. She's from Victoria, BC which is how I know her. We've trained together and hit many times over the past decade. She went to St. Michaels, which is where I coached and was a long time member of the Victoria Squash Club. Even though she's been living in the US for awhile now, I always try and get her involved in coaching my junior program whenever she's back home for a visit.

Nicole is super active, fit, incredibly humble and intelligent. She graduated from Princeton (I'm not sure how many times she was an all American) and on top of being a professional squash player, with a current PSA ranking of #65 she has also competed and done very well in triathlons. She has a wide range of knowledge when it comes to exercise, nutrition and squash. She's always been a terrific role model and I've never seen her low on energy even though she is always on the go.

I believe she has the firsthand experience that can help a lot of athletes (not just squash players) and I will certainly be recommending my athletes to subscribe to her page. I encourage you to check out her account and give her bio a read. I'm confident if you subscribe that you will not be disappointed. Here's the link:

On the Serious Squash front there's just a few short updates. I've paused the Serious Squash Shop for the time being. While clubs were closed not much was selling and it's not cheap to keep the site in operation. Also at this time, Canada Post isn't shipping to many countries so that makes things more difficult. I do have a new batch of Serious Squash tees. They are Canadian themed now that I'm back in Canada and available for $35 by emailing or messaging me. Again, unfortunately I can only ship them within North America. I've sold half of them if the first week so get 1 soon or they'll be gone.

I also did my final squash specific live home workout yesterday. There's now a list of 12 if you want to get into better squash shape from home. Here is the link to the playlist: Workout Playlist

That's all for this week. Thanks for the read and hopefully if your club is back open you are enjoying being back on court. I know I sure am!