By Bill Buckingham
Four months ago I was a squash authority. I was introduced to the game in 2001 when Yale coach Dave Talbott called my office looking for some assistance with a national event he was running that winter. In my capacity as Sports Marketing Director for Greater New Haven, one of my roles was to help sporting event organizers with their tournaments. Despite having little to no knowledge of squash, I told Dave I would meet at his office and see how I could assist. What I also didn’t know was that meeting would dramatically change my life. My office at the time was about a half-mile walk to the Brady Squash Center, but it’s important to know that back in 2001, although it was a beautiful fall day, I drove my car to the meeting.
Like many guys my age, it had been a good number of years since I had been to a gym. My weight had ballooned to an all-time high of 243 lbs, and the last thing I wanted to do was hoof it up Elm Street to this meeting with some guy I didn’t know to discuss a sport I had little clue about. My goal was to have a quick meeting and get to my favorite deli before they ran out of their meatball parm special. Well, long story short, before leaving the Brady Squash Center that day, Dave had given me a racquet, signed me up for a gym membership and his brother Mark had shown me a few basics of the game on the glass show court. Abhorring treadmills and bicycles, I figured why not give this a shot. I had played tennis when I was younger and had a brief fling with racquetball in my late twenties. How different could squash be, right?
Like many squash neophytes, the first few months were full of aches and pains, stops and starts, and many mornings of barely being able to get out of bed. (I actually considered buying my first pair of velcro-tie sneakers, but couldn’t find any with non-marking soles!) Halfway through my first year I’m fairly certain I set the U40 record for most braces and supports worn on a squash court at one time. I persevered, and within two years was playing five to six nights a week, twelve months a year. Squash had become a huge part of my life, and 45lbs lighter, the Brady Squash Center my second home.
Four years later, extremely confident that I now knew all there was to know about squash, I received a rude awakening when signing on to become the new Membership and Communications Manager for US Squash in New York City. Once again I was a novice, surrounded by co-workers who had grown up with the sport, and any squash knowledge I had paled in comparison to the wealth of experience they possessed. In the past four months I’ve learned more about the game from them than I had in the previous six years.
This past Saturday evening, I once again found myself in the glass court at Yale where my squash life had begun, listening as some of the foremost authorities on the game discussed squash techniques, strategy and philosophies at the 2007 US Squash Coaching Conference. With the responsibility now on my shoulders to communicate the passion we at US Squash have for growing this great game, and why affirming that passion by becoming a US Squash member is so important, I looked around and realized I had something in common with all of these people. No matter what the level of coaching expertise or playing ability, we all shared a love for a sport that had changed our lives.