SPA-tlight: Brian O’Hora

Brian O’Hora, Head Squash Professional, Results Gym, Washington, DC

Brian O'Hora, Head Squash Professional, Results Gym, Washington, DCWhere did you grow up?
I grew up in Sutton on the outskirts of Dublin, and as a family we moved around quite a bit.

How old were you when you first picked up a squash racquet?
I believe I was nine. There was a girl in my class who played. I was curious and told her I could beat her. Next day we headed to the courts where she beat the socks off me. I think I got the squash bug then.

Who was your first teacher?
Eoin Ryan was the coach at SLTC (Sutton Lawn Tennis Club) where I grew up. When I was a kid I idolized him. Good role model to have when you were as mischievous as I was. He was also my national coach when I played for Ireland at U-19 level and at senior level. He’s a very good tactical coach.

Describe your junior squash experience.
I had such an amazing time as junior player, I did so much traveling around Ireland and Europe. We used to go as a big group of players from my province (Leinster) to all the events around the country. We stayed with friends and pretty much looked after ourselves all weekend long. I represented Ireland at every age group as a junior. Each year we had home internationals where Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales would compete against each other. At U-19 level we played European Junior Championships. One of my greatest memories was getting my first Irish track suit for my first U-12 home international. I still have it back in Ireland.

Did you play other sports?
I started playing tennis from the age of about three. I played a lot of Gaelic football too (sort of a mix between soccer and rugby). Once I started to progress in squash that fell to the wayside. I did some track and field and competed in javelin a little bit in college. I did a semester at Cal State Long Beach in 1999 and played on the wing for the college rugby team. I absolutely loved it. So many injuries though. Squash and rugby definitely don’t mix well.

What do you enjoy most about coaching a high school team?
I love all of it. I’ve been coaching Gonzaga High School now for 11 years. Most of the kids I get have never played before they get to high school so they’re pretty raw. It’s great to see them get the squash bug and jump on the court at every opportunity. They progress very quickly, so you get more of that instant gratification which is a little slower with the better players. I’m also a big kid myself, so I find it easy enough to relate to them.

Do you still play competitively?
Not at the moment, unfortunately. I had wrist surgery about 18 months ago and it’s still giving me a bit of grief. It’s on the mend so hopefully I get back playing a wee bit in the New Year.

Do you use any of what you learned from your coaches and apply it to your lessons?
I’ve had very few coaches but I still apply some of the things I learned from Eoin Ryan. When I first started coaching in the US I hadn’t really done any coaching before. I contacted Mark Talbott from Long Beach (CA), where I was doing a study abroad. I was doing my undergrad in Cardiff Wales at the time. He employed me as a coach at his summer camp in New Port, RI. He had no clue of who I was (even though he said he did). Aidan Harrison and Paul Ansdell were the head coaches for the first few weeks and I learned a great deal from them.

Describe the state of squash in the DC area?
DC has a very active squash community. David Keating is doing a great job of promoting squash as president of NCS Squash. He recently organized a junior gold event which brought over 220 entrants to five clubs in the DC area. We have six local league divisions, our women have won several Howe Cup Championships in multiple divisions, and we produce a good group of elite juniors every year.

We have GW now pushing the top collegiate teams in the country. Wendy Lawrence has done a brilliant job there and has brought the men and women’s team from relative obscurity to No. 15 and No. 12 in the nation respectively. Georgetown now has a men’s and women’s club team. The men are ranked No. 4 in the country and the women are No. 2.

Singles or Doubles?
Singles. Unfortunately we have no doubles courts in DC.