Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The History of Eau Claire Men's Squash part 4...(I think)

After reading thru the previous posts, I realized that I neglected to mention what playing C level tournaments was like. So here it is, first off, I've only ever played in two D level tournaments, both of which I lost both my matches and that was it. After taking a few lessons and winning the geologist tourney in the C division, I thought that the C division is where I should be, regardless of having never won a D tourney, maybe I jumped the gun on this and looking back, I may have done it differently.
At that point in my squash development, I had the opinion that playing up was the best way to improve and really push myself to play my best. And it was in playing C tourney's that I met now teammate Paul Adamiak. Paul had played as a junior, was incredibly fast and fit. I remember playing him at the Winter Club in a C tourney and pushing myself so hard that I could barely breathe (not much has changed playing Paul). Although Paul played from a very young age, he had commitments to his gymnastics and was still looking to refine his squash tecnique. I don't remember the score of the match, but I'm sure that I lost. But it was a glimpse into my future and it motivated me to really take squash seriously. At that same tournament, I watched Brad Steiner play on the show court against a young Dave Letourneau and couldn't believe what I was watching. This old guy played shots I had never seen before. Brad was a wizard with the racket, moving the ball from corner to corner, boasting off side walls, rolling out of nicks, he hit hard or he hit the ball so slow and high it looked like the ball would never come down. It was incredible, and within minutes of him coming off court, I was walking with him to the locker room, picking his brain. Brad said he saw some of my match and I could tell he was just trying to be polite, but said "you're a good athelete and if you keep practicing, you'll be playing with the big boys." or something funny like that. Brad is someone that I've always held in high regard, as a player and a person. There are few people in the world of squash who are as nice on court as they are off court as Brad Steiner and although I'm not there, I think everyone should be like Brad.
The transition from C to B was quick after meeting Kevin Doucet. Learning to hit the ball to length consistently is the biggest skill necessary to win at the C level and play at the B level. For anyone out there looking to just up from the C division, trust me. Length is your ticket outta there! Unfortunately, there is a huge paradigm shift from just being able to hit the ball and being able to hit the ball and put it where you want. When I first started playing squash matches, I always thought that hitting it hard and low or hitting a good drop shot was the way to win points. It wasn't until I realized that hitting it hard and low and hitting good drop shots wasn't that easy, and once I learned to set up loose shots with good tight length, thats when I could now start dictating play with low hard shots and easy drop shots. Learning to move an opponent around the court, is so much more important than playing a winning shot, cause if you can do that, that's when opponents get out of position, that's when mistakes are made, that's when winning starts happening. It's so easy to say this, but when
I'm on court, even now, I can get caught up in the bashing and dashing, but if I can keep my mind collected, the first goal is always to get my opponent into a corner and get myself into the middle.

Ok, so far I've met Paul, Trevor, Kevin and Derek. And having won a handful of C tourneys and playing a lot of C semifinals and consolation finals. That's when I moved up to the B division. In retrospect, I should have played more B division tournaments, but early success at B encouraged me and mayber I was capable of way more. I had won the geologist and the oilmens in the B division. and made the B final in 3 other tournaments, as well I beat Trevor in the B div at the Eau claire club championships(which I have on video - possibly the last time I ever beat Trevor). At the end of the season I took up running (which I will never promote to anyone). and then september rolled around and Trevor, Luke and I had recruited Derek and Daylan to play interclub with us at level 4. Paul was a bit wishy washy, but he ended up playing for us full time before the end of the season. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be our history in the making. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Squash Politics

At the end of the 2011-2012 season, our team finished 7th out of 8 teams, finishing 16 points ahead of the 8th place team, and only 8 points separated the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place teams from us.

During the season, we shot ourselves in the foot by accomodating other teams that could not field a full team on our scheduled night to play, likely giving up precious points. Lesson learned.

We had expected to be relegated back down to level 2, but only 1 team from level 2 had been slated to move up, so we had be given another chance to stay at level 1. But what we didn't know is that bow valley club had recruited so that they could field a team at level 1. It is notable that bow valley finished 6th at level 2, 14 points behind the 2nd place team that decided not to move up and 24 points behind the 1st place team.

Now it seems that instead of granting any team a free pass, it would make sense to allow a playoff between Eau Claire and bow valley to see who gets that final spot in level 1. Initially bow valley had suggested a playoff and subsequently rejected the playoff because of the stipulation that they would have to field a level 2 team. It seems that the majority of the recruited players could return to their previous teams at the winter club or glencoe or back to their level 2 team where they would likely be more competitive.

Sure, it sucks to get the short end of the stick. There is nothing fair about how this entire situation was handled and it sucks that the Calgary Interclub Squash League has f'd us over.

Unfortunately, we allow this to happen and we wonder why squash isn't ever going to be a sport widely accepted by the general public. Perhaps squash was never meant to leave the private clubs. I guess that's it.     

Friday, May 25, 2012

The History of Eau Claire Squash cont'd

Part 3 – the leap up.
5 years ago they restructured interclub and removed the “A” level, and just went with numbers. On the Eau Claire Y’s top team they had lost 2 key players with Andy moving back to England and Jim sailing around the world. So Luke and I moved up to join Trevor, Dale and Guy at level 4(formerly level 3) interclub. This was an eye opening year, Dale and Guy were so good, in my mind, everyone at level 4 was so good. I couldn’t even imagine beating Dale or Guy. The ball always went where they wanted it to go. Even Trevor couldn’t beat them, but at this point Trevor and I were pretty close in our level of play.  So Dale organized everything at the Y and he had me helping him out. So I went and got my level 1 and 2 NCCP coaching certification. It was a couple weekend courses and that’s when I met a handful of juniors who were amazing at squash including 14 or 15 year old Danielle Letourneau, Cale Williams, Erin Roberts and Emma Yong, and I did my level 2 with Lisa Henderson from Red Deer, Matt Teel of Medicine Hat and Thea Wilson Scorgie from Edmonton. All of these players were ridiculously good at squash, at least much better than I was and I couldn’t even imagine how early they started playing squash. Both sessions were run by Kevin Doucet, who went through teaching the basics of squash. How could I teach this stuff, if I couldn’t do it myself?

Going forward, Trevor and I were on the same team now, and both playing tournaments, but we weren’t training together and we certainly weren’t friends. I also met Derek for the first time at the Talisman tourney.  Also, I met the kid that would eventually become a great friend and the really be the first person to help me really improve, Ian Laycock. Ian was attending Mt.Royal and taking geology courses, and John Cox a prof at Mt.Royal invited him to play in the geologists tourney. Ian barely broke a sweat and demolished Dave Safton in the final, and nobody in the tourney even understood how good this kid actually was. Ian agreed to do an exhibition match with Paul Oppenhiem at the Y in our year end tourney. And that year, I was taking lessons with Ian, Paul and Derek under the guidance of Kevin Doucet. Also attending lessons with us was Alex Paisley, Brendan Pruden and a bunch of other guys. I remember being so intimidated by how good everyone was, how hard they hit, how fast they moved and how young they were. I was the old guy at 27 years old. That interclub season would be Dale and Guy’s last, Dale going off to get married and Guy taking time off due to health conditions. But we went out on a high, winning the season and the playoffs.