Reflecting on my college squash days nearly thirty years later, what immediately comes to mind are the road trips. Ten passenger vans driven by the coach. If an assistant coach joined, it was four of us in the back row. Squash bags were everywhere, under seats, on laps, and used as pillows during the long drives back to Ithaca on Sunday night.
Today, chartered busses with professional drivers, bathrooms and wifi are a more standard mode of transport, and most teams travel with the men and women together.
Speaking of the women’s team, Cornell only had a club team then. While they were a spirited bunch and included alongside us in every regard, they were otherwise generally not noticed by the university or anyone else—that has changed for the better too.
Parents? They were at home. I believe we called them from school on occasion, and sometimes they’d learn whether the team won or lost. I don’t recall seeing parents of our teammates at matches other than a handful of occasions in four years, usually when we competed in a teammate’s hometown, though my own grandparents were known to show up in New Haven periodically.
Something however that doesn’t appear to have changed is the international makeup of the team. First, we had the Canadians. They could play, and they did, near the top of the ladder. Rich Low, the converted badminton player from Malaysia and founder of Plow, maker of luxury bedding products (we could have used some in the vans), could leap up and touch the sky, and hit an overhead volley nick from anywhere on the court. We had a first-generation Guyanese at No. 1, a first-generation Brit, and second-generation Koreans, Chinese and Germans in the heart of the lineup.
Finally, we had the Indians anchoring the team and the B squad. Sammy, Swappy and Anuj, who weighed all of 120 pounds wet but hit a devastating fadeaway three wall nick. He was good for a win at No. 9, most of the time anyway.
I don’t really remember where the team placed each year, though we were considered “good”. We trained, won and lost together, challenged and learned from each other. We struggled, failed, prevailed. We valued and respected each other. We enjoyed each other’s company, and we still do. Mainly what I’ve retained from my college squash experience are the lifelong friendships with people who are from, and now live, all over the world. What a rare and invaluable gift.