SPA-tlight: Brian Mathias

When did you first get interested in coaching?
I was very fortunate to have three mentors who drew me into squash and helped me to pursue it as a career. I watched my big brother Ted compete and coach with great success. I played in college for Richard Millman, who really deepened my appreciation for the game and encouraged me to get my level 1 certification. 

Brian Mathias

Upon finishing school I was offered a job by Bryan Patterson and, with his guidance, I discovered my passion for coaching.

When you started coaching, was it your vision to turn it into a business?
Not at all, that came later. But I think there is always an entrepreneurial component to being a teaching pro, whether you’re doing it under your own banner or under someone else’s. You can only sustain a loyal customer base by delivering good service consistently. And of course it doesn’t hurt when your industry experiences sustained growth over multiple decades, as has been the case with junior squash in the U.S.

What are the biggest differences between teaching a beginner junior and a beginner adult, if any?
Children and adults approach the game completely differently. Kids want to have fun. They are spontaneous and absorb physical behavior without much conscious effort. They feed off of emotion. Adults, on the other hand, are more invested in the learning process from the outset, and they can take a more analytical approach. But they are also more self-conscious and more set in their ways from a physical standpoint.

How has your vegan diet changed you physically and mentally in regards to squash?
About two years ago my family “went vegan” and it has been a great experience for all of us. I sleep better and I have more sustained energy throughout the day. I’m lighter and sharper on court. (I’m still a snail getting to the front corners, but some things are beyond help!) I’m just a decent player, but I would love to see elite players experiment with this and weigh in. My hunch is they would find a lot of performance benefits. The trick for anyone is getting past the inconvenience and the myths. Our food supply is so saturated with processed animal products—and with the message that you need them for optimal health—that it’s very challenging to adhere to a balanced diet that excludes them. But my wife’s energy and health during her second pregnancy has been much smoother than her first (which was before the change in diet). My two-year-old son is big, strong and healthy and has never had a glass of milk or a recommended daily allowance of chicken fingers. Go figure. It turns out you can get everything you need from a whole food, plant-based diet. That’s another article though.

Your wife is a squash player. Do you ever get on the court together?
We do enjoy playing together when we get the chance. Lucia is a great athlete and a fierce competitor, but she’s generous enough to let me win once in a while.

You are also a musician. Any lessons from playing on stage that translate to the squash court?
There are endless similarities between squash and music. “Squash is music.” Gamal Amir says that. Performance, improvisation, flow, rhythm, tempo, groove…the language is the same. Both are forms of self-expression, and you won’t make great examples of either by holding anything back.