"All art is quite useless" -Oscar Wilde

"Don't romaticise your 'vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle.' All that matter is what you leave on the page." -Zadie Smith

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting, struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness" -George Orwell

Friday, January 28, 2011

Squash and Moncton

From January 7-9 I had the opportunity to participate in the 2011 Canadian Men’s Team Squash Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick. Overall, it was a great experience, though I kind of fell behind in school and the squash was disappointing. As a member of both the provincial team and the Sask Squash board I was selected to write a report on the tournament. I decided to throw it on the blog despite it maybe being a little technical. Squash is an individual sport, and the squash tournament an overwhelmingly solo expedition. Because of this reality, team tournaments (they’re rare - I’ve only ever played in two), which encourage an atmosphere of camaraderie instead of individualism, are always good experiences.
Men’s Teams 2011 Report
Moncton was a fascinating place and, overall, the tournament a positive experience. Beginning with how the drivers met us in the airport, the fact that the community was excited about hosting the tournament was obvious. Everyone I came into contact with was very welcoming and accommodating. Justin contrasted their behaviour with that of Torontonian hosts, who really could care less about the player’s experience and the tournament’s success. Though the interactions made me realize the terrible state my French is in, a reality I actively try to not think about, everyone was wonderful. It seemed there always were people available to help, whether you needed a ride to the club or merely a recommendation on where to find a good pint.
 A highlight for me was playing/watching high-level squash, and interacting with the other players. The level of discourse at this tournament was remarkable – these people know both their squash and know how to talk about it. I heard enough insights into the sport, and its societal reputation, to keep me thinking for weeks.
One conversation stands out in my mind. Though it doesn’t really have much to do with this report, I figured that I’d share it. With two very talented players, Justin and I discussed the difficulties faced in broadcasting squash and brainstormed the reasons televised squash has never caught on. I could write forever on the subject, but will just outline the main points. Squash is a game of subtleties, and professional athletes play in a way that only those with squash experience are able to properly comprehend the athleticism and skill involved. Also, there are very few breaks in squash a squash match. The continuous play leaves no time for instant replays or in-depth commentator analysis. Also, the fact that squash is played in a box limits the potential for artistic/interesting shooting. All these problems can be overcome with time, effort, creativity, and money. It would totally be worth it too, if it mean making squash interesting to a broader audience.
We placed ninth, well below our seeding. We lost our first match to a very dominant Manitoba team. Afterwards, we lost 2-1 to both PEI and NWT. This result was thoroughly disappointing. It is true that we are a much smaller province with much fewer squash players, but, as a board, we need to discuss possible ways to improve future results. Options include modifying the current eligibility restrictions, or altering the selection criteria. A selection model similar to the Canada Winter Games team might be beneficial, where interested players adhere to a predetermined training schedule and submit their training details to the selection committee.
In closing, the club in Moncton was another highlight. Built by the squash community itself in an abandoned hockey rink, it serves as a good model for our member-run potential club. The members were both pleased with their club and eager to talk about its conception and growth.  Although I can’t speak to the financial state the club is in, I can say it, in no way, feels “run down.” It features three courts, showers, a small bar, a small weight/cardio area, and, well, everything that we need. Since its opening six years ago, its membership has steadily grown and it now has a full-time pro. The social atmosphere of the club was immediately apparent. It is a warm and welcoming place, full of people who love squash. It showcased the exact environment one wants to bring new players into, and will keep them there, allowing the sport to flourish.
-Noah Out

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