Squash your inhibitions

As I walked into Lasell at 7 a.m. last Monday, I was acutely aware that something was off. Down every hallway I walked, around every corner, something was vaguely different. As my sleep-impoverished brain wrestled with my varied (ultimately false) hypotheses, it hit me, and if you were in the gym any time last week, it probably hit you too: everywhere you looked, there were signs for the CSA National Individual Championships – at Williams.

If my revelation meant little or nothing to you, I don’t blame you. Three months ago, I would have been right there with you. Three months ago, I wouldn’t have known what the acronym CSA (College Squash Association) stood for. Fortunately for me, I am now among the enlightened.

Growing up in the world of middle class suburbia and public school systems, I’d played my share of sports. It was only after I came to Williams, though, that I realized there was one sport that was conspicuously missing from my childhood: squash. As a kid, I had heard of squash, usually in the context of some of my dad’s wealthier classmates talking about “boasts” and “drives” and close brushes with “the tin,” and given my lack of knowledge regarding anything they were saying and a quick observation of their demeanor, I pegged it as a posh, upper-class sport for snobs right up there with polo and croquet. I shudder to think what my third-grade self would have said if he had known that 10 years later, he would be playing every night.

Partly by way of explanation and partly to justify my actions to my inner child I’ve so coldheartedly betrayed, let me backtrack to the start of my own squash experience. As I arrived at Williams an awkward, lonely freshman, I had two major goals: first, not to fail out of college, and second, to make sure that even if I did finish out the year an awkward, lonely sophomore, I wouldn’t be carrying around an extra 15 pounds. First semester saw me take significant steps towards the accomplishment of the latter. JV and IM soccer marked the first few months, after which I moved on to beginner swimming, paving the way for my most momentous task at Williams yet: the selection of my second quarter PE class. I chose beginner squash, validating my decision by telling myself that maybe my utter lack of skill at racquet sports might benefit from a calm, relaxing game or two of squash a week. I vowed to myself that I wanted nothing more than to just see what all the fuss was about and that my relationship with the prissy game would go no further.

As it turned out, I was wrong on both counts. There was nothing about squash that was calm or relaxing. Squash was one of the most intense and exciting sports I’d ever played; a week of class was all it took – I was utterly and irrevocably hooked. Dead Week saw me visit my local Sports Authority and purchase my very own squash racquet. Now, new racquets in hand, my fellow PE squash classmate/entrymate and I play on a near-nightly basis. And the amazing thing is this – we’re not the only ones! Simon Squash Center, one of the most coveted of Williams’ athletic facilities, gets a lot of amateur traffic by night, and for good reason.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Squash Center this weekend, the CSA Nationals were something to remember. Organized largely by Williams’ own squash Head Coach Zafi Levy and featuring the best Div. I squash players in the nation, the Nationals were played over three days, during which Trinity College’s Baset Chaudhry defeated Princeton’s Mauricio Sanchez in a five-game thriller for his second straight national championship. Trinity added to its legendary status in the women’s tournament, where first-year Nour Bahgat defeated UPenn’s Kristen Lange for the title. But even if you didn’t get to see the greats battle it out – even if you’ve never heard of the game – squash is a game that is pretty cheap to start playing, is fairly easy to pick up, provides a surprisingly good workout and is something that everyone should try.

Because the bulk of us couldn’t witness the minutes-long rallies and deadly finishes that were on show this weekend, the fact remains that we have one of the nation’s highest squash-court-to-student ratios, and if you haven’t yet experienced the excellence that is a solid game of squash, at least in the opinion of this writer, you haven’t yet fully experienced Williams College, the thrill of victory, agony of defeat or life. See you on the court!

Tom Kuriakose ’12 is from Paramus, N.J. He lives in Mills.