SPA-tlight: Lynn Leong

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.

Lynn LeongSquash 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. Lynn Leong, former All-American at Trinity College and currently the head professional at the Lawn Club in New Haven (CT) talked about her development and the benefits of the SPA program.

How did you get your start in squash?
I started when I was about five years old in Malaysia. My whole family plays squash so it was not even something I thought about whether or not I was going to play. I played my first tournament when I was about nine years old and got absolutely pummeled in the U16 by the older and bigger girls. But after that I decided I wanted to be good and put time into it to be the best I could be.

What pros have been the most influential in your growth as a player?
My dad was my coach but also so much more than that. He taught me to respect people and the sport and all of my values. He made me the athlete I am today. He really showed me how to have discipline and that the amount of effort you put in is how much you are going to get out of something in squash and in everyday life.

What made you decide to come to America for school?
Actually, Louisa Hall’s mother, Ann Hall, was a guidance counselor at Episcopal Academy and she mentioned the idea to me of playing squash at an American college. By that time, I had taken three years off to train and decided to enroll at St. George’s School in Newport (RI) and then from there on to Trinity.

What was your proudest squash moment?
My biggest win ever was at the Asian Women’s Championship in Jordan. I had just lost in the finals of the British Junior Open in the U16 draw. I really wasn’t expected to do that well, as it was a huge women’s tournament, let alone win! I played No. 2 on the team and the win really just fell into my lap. I never expected to even come close. I beat a top-40 WISPA player in the finals, Misha Grewl. I was 14 years old and I think that was the biggest, proudest moment in my career so far. For my college career, I had so many memories but when we won nationals my freshman year it was amazing. The team really came together.

What is the most rewarding aspect of coaching squash?
I love seeing the juniors grow from not being able to hold a racquet to having rallies and then games and matches. The growth is really amazing and so rewarding.

If you weren’t coaching squash, what would be your ideal occupation?
Definitely something with photography. I don’t think I would be very good at a desk job because I can’t sit still. I love getting out there and interacting with people.

As a SPA member, what do you think are the biggest benefits and why did you initially join?
I joined to support U.S. SQUASH and I always try to promote the game however I can. It helps me stay in the loop with what’s going on in the squash world, with players and other coaches and there are great perks.

Who is your favorite squash pro player?
Michelle Martin (former World No. 1 from Australia) was such a huge inspiration for me. I used to watch her matches and she was so good and made it look so easy. Afterwards, I would want to get on court and work on every aspect of my game because she showed me just how high a level you can get to.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Well, I’m really committed to New Haven Lawn Club club and I love what I do. I would love to make the program grow and get more players involved here and in the greater New Haven area. Peter Briggs took me under his wing when I was working at the Apawamis Club in Rye (NY) where he is the head pro and showed me how great a squash program can be. He exemplifies a great coach, teacher and mentor and that’s what I would like to do up here, get a great program and motivate people and get people excited about squash.