SPA-tlight: Roland Ladontant

Ronald Lafontant, Head Pro at the Harmonie Club in New York

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Manhattan and grew up in Wakefield, northeast section of Bronx, NY.

How did you get involved with squash?
I started playing squash in college at the University of Pennsylvania. I tried out for the tennis team but our coach thought I was better suited to squash. He felt I needed some walls!

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.47.03 PMDid any other family members play?
No one else in my family plays. Squash is not that big in Haiti. Dad did play soccer for the national team.

Who was your first teacher?
My first teacher was Penn’s coach, Al Molloy. Freshman year he showed me the basics then put me in court No. 10 by myself to hit rails. That first year I never got to practice with the other members of the team. Monday through Friday I would spend 90 minutes playing against myself then do sprints with everybody else. On Saturday I would get to compete. It certainly built character.

Do you still compete?
I limit my competition to club tennis doubles tournaments. The body is getting old and cannot take the pounding of competitive squash. It is especially difficult if I want to teach and play our members whose sole goal in life is to see me sweat.

How long have you worked at the Harmonie Club?
I started at the Harmonie in 1995. I’m only the fourth pro since our courts were built in the 1920s. Not much turn over at the Harmonie, which speaks volumes as to how special the place is. I’m pretty fortunate to have landed there.

The differences between coaching an adult and a junior?
Juniors can generally improve faster than adults since they don’t have as many preconceived notions and bad habits. They also have much time on their hands not having to feed their family. Aside from that, I find there is not much difference between coaching adults and juniors. I try to emphasize the fundamentals to both and make sure that the game stays fun.

Among others in the U.S., whom do you look to as the ideal teaching pro?
It’s hard to pick out one individual pro as the ideal. I have tremendous respect for my peers that have been doing this for awhile. Peter Briggs, Pat Canavan, Richard Chin come to mind. My late coach Al Molloy is always the bar that I set for excellence in coaching. Bob Callahan & Gail Ramsay (men’s and women’s coaches at Princeton) are close seconds.

Who is your favorite touring pro to watch?
Although he is no longer competing, Jonathon Power is by far the most exciting and entertaining player of all time. Never a dull moment when that boy is on the court.

Do you follow any other sports?
I don’t follow much sports other than golf. Not your typical guy in that respect.

What is your favorite shot to hit?
Any shot that makes my opponent run! A perfect lob into the back corner of the court is one of life’s finer pleasures.