SPA-tlight: Craig Thorpe-Clark

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Craig Thorpe-Clark, Poughkeepsie Tennis & Squash & Bard College

Where did you grow up?
Melbourne, Australia.

How did you get involved with squash?
A club opened up just down the road during the start of the boom in Australia in the early 1970’s. Within five years there were three commercial clubs within 10 miles of my home. Lots of inter club matches. As a junior I was playing five competitive matches per week. That’s how we learned lots of competition.

Who was your first teacher?
The owner of the courts, Bob Tutton, got me going early on. A week after my first session he said, “what are you doing next Saturday?! I need a player for our team.” Len Steward, the Australian International, was very helpful to me in England.

Did you play other sports?
I tried a few things during school days, but once I had played squash it was all I wanted to play!

You were the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania for 11 years, and prior to that the head coach at Vassar for four years. Describe the biggest change you saw in the college game during your tenure?
Certainly it was the change from hardball to softball. There were a lot of lengthy (NISRA) coaches meetings, with very passionate coaches on both sides of the discussion. Softball was the way the juniors at the time embraced the game. They wanted to play softball in college. That was a big factor in the discussion, as well as the influx of foreign-born players. Now it seems every school has a few and the standard of college squash just gets better every year. The level of play is very impressive. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay involved with college squash, assisting with the Bard College program.

What was your biggest accomplishment as a coach on the collegiate level?
Just seeing your team exceed the goals they set for themselves and the satisfaction of teamwork. I enjoyed being president of the CSA and am excited for the continued growth of the game and the opportunities for student-athletes to play and compete.

Having been a club pro before, what has the transition back to a club, from college coaching, been like?
Certainly less paperwork, and more time on court which I thoroughly enjoy. Working with a wide range of players, both in ability and age, my youngest student in mini squash is 4-years-old and my most experienced player just turned 80. I really enjoy teaching the game and seeing others enjoy it as much as I do.

Name the top three historical figures you would most like to have dinner with?
My father (he died when I was very young so he would be my first choice), Sir Edmund Hillary, and Lyle Lovett!!!

Who is your all-time favorite athlete?
Lance Armstrong