John Illig, squash coach at Middlebury College for the last seven years and for sixteen at Bates and Colby before that, died tragically from a fall outside his home on August 3. He was fifty years young.
As a college coach, Illig amassed 545 wins, served as president of both the men’s and women’s College Squash Associations, and was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference coach of the year in 2009.
But Illig was far more than a coach—he was a beloved human being with a passion for people and the great outdoors. While devoted to drawing the best he could from his players on the court, it was his vested interest in their goals and dreams that resonated. He was driven to inspire those around them to pursue their lives with the same determination, curiosity and passion that he chased his own.
One of a small number of people to tackle and accomplish the “Triple Crown” of hiking—by successfully navigating the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails (a mere 7,972 miles combined)—Illig carried his passion for hiking to his role as coach by leading his charges on an annual overnight hike in the Adirondack Mountains for team bonding, not to mention impressing upon his young players the beauty that is offered away from the courts.
To a player, the respect and admiration felt for Illig, both as coach and caring role model, will live on as they go forward and pay tribute to their mentor by carrying out their dreams and passions exactly as he would have wanted—full speed ahead.