SPA-tlight: Peter Avitable

This season, U.S. SQUASH has introduced the Squash Professionals Affiliate Program (SPA). With this program, U.S. SQUASH will offer personal liability insurance coverage to qualified squash professionals for coaching, access to a pre-screened, preferred network of health insurance providers, financial incentives for membership based on the number of members per court, discounted sanctioning fees, use of U.S. SQUASH for online entry offering discounts for players, waived sanctioning fees for U.S. SQUASH League and Ladder programs, free admission to the U.S. SQUASH Professional Development Conference (formerly “Coaching Conference”), the opportunity to sell U.S. SQUASH merchandise and co-brand in pro shops, and access to the U.S. SQUASH “Job Network” and “Professional Practices,” an online collection of best practices for coaches and pros, and regional professional mentoring, and support and advocacy for professional development at clubs.

Squash Magazine, as part of a monthly feature, will talk to a member of the program and get their take on the state of squash in the U.S. Peter Avitable, a professional coaching in the Albany (NY) area, talked about his development and the benefits of the SPA program.

DS SPAtlight Avitable pic squash 12.8How did you get your start in squash?
I played tennis in college at the University of Rochester and my coach there, Chris O’Brien, was also the squash coach, and a buddy of mine encouraged me to try squash out. So I picked it up and never looked back.

Where did you get your start in coaching?
I started coaching at the Westover School in Middlebury (CT) after college. There was an open position and I jumped at the opportunity and moved up there. I experienced ups and downs coaching there, but it slated in my mind that I enjoy coaching and wanted to continue coaching.

What is the most rewarding aspect of coaching squash?
No doubt the most rewarding thing about coaching is seeing the progress of the players. They don’t always see their potential and growth or the bigger picture but once everything starts to click for them it is definitely a great moment for me. And of course just spreading my love of the game to other people.

What pros would you say were the most influential in your growth?
Chris O’Brien was definitely the most influential coach to me. I didn’t fully appreciate his style at the time, which was packed with fitness and drills that I honestly thought at the time were not applicable to my growth as a squash player. Looking back, he really made me love the sport. He was so enthusiastic and was so into it which is something that I try to emulate now as a coach.

If you weren’t coaching squash, what would be your ideal occupation?
I would like to be involved in the music industry if squash wasn’t in my life.

As a SPA member, what do you think are the biggest benefits and why did you initially join?
The immediate benefits I saw from SPA were discounts on sanctioning fees and, because I am not associated with one particular club in Albany, it is great that the coaches that are part of the SPA program are listed on the U.S. SQUASH website with contact information. On a broader level, obviously organization is good and I think it will help bring squash coaches together and give a channel to share strategies and is a great network to be a part of.

When you’re not coaching or playing squash, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy listening to music and cycling.

Who today do you look at as the ideal squash coach?
Of course I have to go with Martin Heath because he is coaching at my alma mater (University of Rochester) and has done such great things for the program in such a short amount of time. He’s really building the competition there and has great insights to share with his players, obviously, because he has real experience being a top ranked player in the world.

What has been your proudest squash moment?
It was actually a coaching moment. One of my players, Catherine Jenkins, made it to the finals of junior nationals which was amazing.

Who is your favorite professional squash player?
I like David Palmer’s unique style and he has become strong mentally as well. If you watch some of his older matches, that wasn’t always the case but I really respect that he worked on it and of course he’s an amazing athlete and so fun to watch. I also got to play with him.