Publishers Note Aging, um, Gracefully?

By Jay D. Prince

Okay, I’m officially feeling old. Or maybe I’m feeling experienced. Or maybe it’s the feeling that comes with playing this game for a lot of years. I’m really not sure.

But there was a time in my squash-playing life when all I wanted to do was get good enough to be competitive with the best players in my club. Even loftier than that, I wanted to start beating some of those players. That was 15 years ago when I was still relatively new to squash. But the same was true when I was a junior tennis player. All I wanted to do when I was 8-years-old was beat my parents, every kid in my age group (that would have been U10), and some of the kids who were a few years older than me.

Eventually, I managed to accomplish those goals in both tennis and squash. While there are still a couple of players in my club that hold a significantly better winning percentage over me than I might like, I have knocked just about all of them off at least once.

Now the tables have been turned on me. When I arrived in Seattle after college, I was 23-years-old and entering the prime of my athletic life. At that time, Christopher Jung wasn’t even in the thoughts of his parents yet, and Claire Rein-Weston was being fitted for her first diaper. Their entire lives were in front of them, including choices they may or may not make regarding sports.

As a kid, Claire was a phenomenal athlete and a budding star on the soccer field. But somewhere along the way, she got hooked on squash and parlayed her talents into a spot on the US Junior World Team and four years of playing No. 1 for the Princeton Tigers.

Christopher is still a kid, but his squash learning curve feels more and more like a vertical line. Not only is he rapidly becoming one of the best junior players in the country, but he’s on the verge of looking at every player at my club in his rear view mirror.

Before Claire went to Princeton, I hit with her a few times. She was obviously going to become a good player, but I could still hold my own even if we played a game in which I had to win points by hitting the ball past the T.

A little over a year ago, I beat Christopher in a tournament at a time when he was just starting his meteoric rise in this game. I think that stunned him a bit, but it sure felt good to me.

Claire is back in Seattle and playing squash regularly. She and I have been playing once (sometimes twice) a week, but like I said earlier, the tables have been turned. She’s killing me. But it’s one of the best hours of my week because she plays fair, she’s tenacious, she never quits, and she seems to have a blast playing.

Christopher now makes me feel like I’m closer to 65 rather than 45. In a league match last spring, he crushed me in about 15 minutes. And yes, that included the 90-seconds between games that I was milking for all they were worth. I do my best to distract him while we play, because it seems to be all I have left in my seemingly feeble attempts to beat him. I’ve even resorted to playing games that require him to play international scoring to nine, while I play point-a-rally to nine. I’ve managed to win a few games that way.

When Claire and Christopher were much younger, it never really occurred to me that someday they’d be gunning for me (and every other A-level player at my club). And I never really anticipated getting to a point where my body would be feeling like I’d already played five games when, in reality, we’d only been playing for five minutes.

But despite the aches and pains, not to mention the 190+ beats per minute that my heart is hammering out, squash is helping me feel young. And it’s pretty awesome to watch the development of two local players who have so much potential. And to top it off, they’re both great people with positive attitudes on the court.

You gotta love this game. Now where did I put my ice pack?