Will’s World The Master

By Will Carlin

As the summer goes by and another season is in the offing, I have been contemplating what I want to be when I grow up. As most of you probably know by now, I am not very mature, so when I finally grow up I will be old. That limits the possibilities, for sure, but I used to love those martial arts films where the young hero went looking for a sensei with whom to train, and they were all old—but wise—men who usually had long flowing beards and mustaches.

I want to be a squash sensei. Not a squash coach, mind you, but a sensei; they get to be called Master. My models will be a cross between the young Caine’s master from Kung Fu and the modern-day US President Jed Bartlett. (You know, on the television show The West Wing? Okay, I watch far too much television; I did mention my current immaturity, right?)

Ah, yes, I can see it now…I will be sitting at my throne awaiting visitors and one of my disciples (what’s a master without a throne and disciples?) will come in to help me with my first enlightenment-seeker of the day. I remember one time on The West Wing when Bartlett was preparing for a meeting, and Charlie, his aide, was helping him. I imagine my own meeting going something like theirs:

“Jordan Cooper of Massachusetts is first. Would you like a cheat sheet?”

“I don’t need a cheat sheet,” I will reply. “He won a bronze medal in squash in 2032; he played number one at Trinity, and he enjoys a good strudel. You see, Grasshopper, even though we only will talk for a few minutes, I will make him feel like a friend, and that is a little thing they call people skills.”

“Jordan Cooper is a woman, Master.”

“The man is an Olympic athlete, Grasshopper. I wouldn’t say that to his face.” The Master will need to be on his toes with upstart disciples. The Master also will not admit to any mistakes lest his disciples lose confidence.

“Er, you’re sure she’s a woman?”

“Yes sir.”

“Maybe you should make a note.”

“Yes sir.”

Like all the great masters, my dojo will be at the top of a tall, tall mountain on a craggy and extensive mountain range. The peak will be regularly covered in snow, and there will be blizzards and wind. You might be thinking Himalayas; I am thinking Vail. As I mentioned before, I will be old, you see, and Vail has chairlifts to the top. My dojo will be in the shape of a squash court, but probably a bit smaller (the real estate at Vail isn’t cheap). Might not even be able to play hardball.

As my visitors arrive, I will impart upon them my learned wisdom of the game.

“Master,” one of them might ask, “what is the secret to a deceptive drop shot?”

“Fish see the worm, not the hook,” I will reply. (Not bad, right?)

“I can’t seem to figure out what is wrong with my grip,” another might ask, “Can you help?”

“Confucius says: ‘He who asks is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask remains a fool forever.’”

“Um, okay. That’s why I am asking.”

“You will be a fool for the next five minutes.”

“Yeah, I got that part. What about my grip?”


I realize, of course, that this will be somewhat tiring. Another one of my wisdom pearls will be, “A superior thinker possesses the ability to anticipate the consequences of action or inaction.” My thinking is that the consequence of my not having a nice meal and a massage would be that I would be unhappy, so one of my disciples will be a massage therapist (the cooking part isn’t as important; Vail has nice restaurants).

When I get to the massage room, I might casually ask her (I did mention that my massage disciples would be women, didn’t I?): “Ladybug, did you know it is bad luck to throw a hat on a bed?”

“I didn’t”

“Yes. I think it is from an old Indian tradition. They wore all those feathers…I don’t know that they actually called them hats, but one thing is for sure: they weren’t tossing those feathers onto their beds.”

“Did the Indians have beds?”

“I think you are missing the point. You don’t want to throw your hat on a bed. It makes the spirits angry.”


“I’m sorry?”

“Why would throwing a hat—or feathers—on a bed make spirits angry?”

“Uh, that’s a good question, Ladybug, and I could tell you, of course, but I think it is better if you look it up.”

The key thing to being a successful squash sensei, of course, will be to have an answer to the question: “What is the secret to living a good life in squash?”

I have mine at the ready: “First you crawl, then you walk, then you run. And get a massage when you’re finished.”

I have to go now. Ladybug is waiting.