Carol Weymuller Open

I can hardly believe that when I wrote my last tournament recap (Nash Cup), the season was just beginning. Now, here we are in mid November, with squash season very much in full swing!

After Nash Cup

After Nash Cup, I was determined to fix what I felt had been lacking during my match with Nadine. I had difficulty controlling the ball on the hot court, and didn’t feel I could hang with her pace at the back of the court. For the next month, I focused probably 90% of my hitting on deep game variations, playing mostly against guys who hit the ball hard and take it early. This training tactic certainly paid off, as I went into my next tournament, Carol Weymuller Open, feeling fit and confident having improved this major part of the game.

I was fortunate enough to receive the wildcard slot for the Brooklyn-based tournament, meaning I was sure to come up against a more highly ranked opponent. Everyone in the draw was ranked in the top 50 (except for me, I’m currently #59), with the highest seed being world #3, Nour El Tayeb (EGY). My first round opponent was Nele Gilis, of Belgium. I’d played Nele once before at the 2017 Tournament of Champions qualifier in NYC, and lost in 3 games. (I think two of the games were close and one was not).

Carol Weymuller match – vs Nele Gilis (Belgium)

Fast forward to Weymuller first round. Nele is fit and fast, plays a lot to the back of the court, and has a very effective backhand drop/volley drop. Having played a lot of length games the past month, I was fairly confident I could hang with pace and pressure around the mid/back court. However, after an atrocious on-court warmup, and I didn’t feel like I could hit the ball to save my life. Fortunately, I know by now that that doesn’t mean much, and when I came back on court 90 seconds later to start the match, I’d somehow found my range. In retrospect, the awful warmup may have actually been a silver lining, and it forced me to focus on tactics and playing smart.

It was a very close first game, and I controlled most of the rallies for the first 3/4 of the game. Nele pulled away at the end, and I lost 11-9. In the second, I have absolutely no idea what came over me, but I think it was a combination of her settling in and playing better, and me going a bit passive. I lost 11-1. After tanking the second game, I was determined to change things around in the third (and was still feeling good physically), and put forth a pretty good effort. Unfortunately, I made a couple bad decisions when going short, and one or two bad tins towards the end of the game.  I lost that one 11-9. Agh!

After thoughts

In general, I felt I played well (for the first and third games). However, one thing in particular really struck me, and highlighted a crutch in my game. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel comfortable hitting a backhand volley drop (maybe because it was a glass left side wall- always tricky). This is probably one of my favourite go-to shots, and without it in my repertoire, felt a bit lost as to how to attack and take advantage of openings. Whenever I went short, I was going for a sort of mid-range kill shot, which worked sometimes, but felt forced and a bit anxious. I think the combination of being in a match situation, a faster court, and that side wall (something to practice and get used to), showed that I need to be able to have those shots under pressure and under all conditions.

When I compare this match to my level a year ago, I can tell there’s been a lot of improvement, mentally, tactically, and physically. It was even miles better than the previous month, against Nadine at Nash Cup. I was disappointed and annoyed to have lost, but didn’t feel it was a waste of time (which has happened before!). It highlighted holes in my game that needed to be fixed, which I’ve since taken into account and have been working on a lot more in solo practice.

All in all, it was great to be back in Brooklyn for a few days. Big thank you to Linda Elriani for giving me the wildcard slot and running a fantastic tournament, and to my billets for hosting. I hope to be back next year (maybe without the wildcard!).

Nash Cup 2018

Where has September gone?! I feel as though I moved into my new place in Stamford in the hottest weather ever, got settled, and now all of a sudden, pumpkin spice products are everywhere! I’ve also been traveling for part of the month, which always makes time seem like it’s going by in a flash.

My newest book… pretty fitting, in numerous ways.

Two weekends ago I traveled to Cincinnati to help coach a junior tournament, came home for two days, and then flew off to London, Ontario, last Wednesday for the Nash Cup! Nash Cup is always a fun way to kick off the PSA season. This was my third time playing the event, and can without a doubt say that it’s always a fun-filled time, thanks to the unwavering enthusiasm of the London Squash and Fitness club members!

Sam (who made it to the final!), me, and Phill

I was originally meant to play the wildcard, Paula Jenkins, in the first round, but after a couple withdrawals, I received a bye. This put me up against the no 2 seed, Nadine Shahin, of Egypt. I’ve seen Nadine play a few times, so I had a good idea of what to expect- fast pace, boasts from the back, and lots of low hard drives. After two practices, I began to adjust to the faster courts, but found myself struggling to control the hot and bouncy ball, mainly in the back corners.

The match started off well, and I felt mentally confident and composed. This attitude didn’t waver much throughout the match, which hopefully bodes well for this season, I think. Last season, I played numerous matches where I felt anxious and overburdened with random thoughts. During the match against Nadine, I mentally felt pretty good, but physically didn’t feel confident to execute exactly what I needed to do.

Wise words from someone… although I did find this sign sitting beside the garbage.

I found that when I stepped up and volleyed, I was able to control the play, but the combination of Nadine’s hard drives and the fast front wall limited the frequency and accuracy of my volleys. I also think I needed to be a bit quicker with my racquet prep and off the T, to make my drives from the back of the service box a bit more consistent. While a lot of the rallies were close, I ended up spraying too many drives a bit too loose, which gave her the chance to tee up and hit some kills (or wicked boasts). Speaking of boasts… in the third game, Nadine began to boast much more from the back of the court, because I wasn’t hitting good enough length, and I just wacked them cross court- right back to her. And yes, “wacked” is a very technical squash term, here meaning “smacked the ball without much thought, usually when rushed”. Let’s just say I’ve been spending some time working on the counter drop this week.

In the end, I lost 3-0, all games about 11-6 or 11-7. I didn’t feel that the match was out of reach, but was very aware that I have a couple things I need to fix. More than anything, it was a good test to see how I held up mentally in competition (after an anxious and burnt out 2017-2018 season), and also how my technique/tactics fared after summer training.

Squash aside, Nash Cup was fun as always. I love catching up with some of the Canadian locals, and they’re always so generous and kind. (If you’re not careful, this can get you in trouble on the Saturday night!).

Much needed

Big thank you to Brad and Jen, who hosted me for the week, and to the promoter (Jay Nash) and volunteers/staff who helped run the tournament. You guys are the reason why people loving coming back to this tournament!

I’ve got 3 weeks now until my next tournament, Carol Weyemuller, which will be held in Brooklyn. Time to get back to training!

 

Life Update: From NYC to Stamford

Happy Tuesday! My week is off to a pretty good start. Despite a late start to the day, I managed to get some training in yesterday and coaching in the evening. I’ve got a few minutes this morning before I head off to practice, so I figured I’d try and finish write the life update blog post which has been in the making for a while. Until my new visa and job had been confirmed, I thought it would be best to keep them off the blog, but now that everything has been finalized, and I’m in the clear!

As you may know, I was working as a personal trainer/fitness coach at Body Space Fitness for most of my time in New York City. I also coached squash out of the Princeton Club of NY, which is where I did nearly all of my on court training. A little while ago, I quit BSF, and began coaching/playing pro full time. (This is partly how I racked up 17 tournaments last season…!).

In January, my coach, and then-head coach at the Princeton Club, John Musto, was offered a job as the Director of Squash at Chelsea Piers CT, located in Stamford. Having worked with me at PCNY for a couple years, he was able to put in a good word for me at CPCT, and offered me a coaching job starting this summer. So, in July, once my new visa came through, I became a full-time employee of Chelsea Piers Connecticut! Since my apartment lease wasn’t up until August, I stayed with a very kind family in Greenwich during the weekdays, and went back to Brooklyn on the weekends. This cut down my commute a ton, and it also meant I got to bike to/from work! I’ll take 26k of cycling/day over 4 hours of commuting any day!

Once my lease finished up at the end of August, I moved up to Stamford. I’m currently living with two other squash pros who work in the area, and so far it’s going well. The suburbs are certainly much quieter than the city, but it’s nice to have more space to move around… and for less rent!

As for the work/training up here, it’s going to be a very productive setup. There are lots of training partners in the area, my coach is here, and Chelsea Piers is a world-class facility. There are 11 singles courts, 1 doubles court, an enormous gym, plus a billion other sports arenas (hockey, skating, gymnastics, soccer, tennis…). One day during summer camp we took the kids upstairs to play soccer on the indoor turf and I was in heaven. My favourite sports all under one roof!

While the city was very fun and exciting, Stamford will likely prove to have fewer distractions, which will be good for the pro athlete lifestyle. I am pretty responsible when it comes to no late nights/drinking during the season, but I think I’ll be much less tempted to go out in Stamford than in the city (for obvious reasons!). Furthermore, having all the Chelsea Piers facilities at my fingertips will cut out the commute time of to/from the gym/courts.

Canada

One of the highlights of the summer was my two week visit to BC in August. Part of the reason I went home was to “activate” my visa, but also to celebrate my moms birthday! While I was there I also played a local tournament, Sun and Surf, in Vancouver, which I used to play when I was a junior in BC.

I came up against very tough competition, as I played in the Men’s Open, but had a great time and realized there were a few things I still needed to really focus on and sharpen up before the season. The guys play consistently at a faster pace, and since I hadn’t done quite enough on court fitness training or full matches yet, I found it difficult to keep up while playing well. When I stopped trying to outhit them, and play instead play smarter, I found I did better (surprise, surprise), but it took me a couple games to get that idea through my skull.

Upcoming season

My first tournament, Nash Cup, is in a week and a half’s time, in London, Ontario. I don’t really feel I’m fully ready for the season/tournament play yet, but am going to go into the tournament prepared to use what I have. For the most part, I plan to train through tournaments this fall, and probably not compete quite as frequently I did least season (17 tournaments was too many). In having more training blocks, I’m hoping that I can focus more on the process, and that that will lead to results, general enjoyment, and less stress about outcomes!

That being said, I’m off to go bike to Chelsea Piers for some training!

How I Trick Myself into Having a Good Workout (When I Would Rather Not)

As a professional athlete, it goes without saying that I work out quite a bit. If you enjoy exercise, this probably sounds like a dream. However, no matter how much you enjoy training, I’ve found there are always going to be days when you struggle to motivate yourself to work up a sweat.

I usually train twice a day (sometimes less, sometimes more), and am on my feet coaching a good bit as well. My daily life basically consists of a lot of eating, training, and motivating. However, after I’ve trained in the morning, then coached clients, I occasionally hit a little slump (for me it usually occurs after lunch). I am grateful that my afternoon workout is a habit and a part of my daily routine, but I also know that simply going through the motions is not the best that I can do. Furthermore, 98% of the time I love training. So why not find a way to enjoy the process?

I love fitness, but there are some days where mentally, I am not jumping into the gym with 110% enthusiasm. Fortunately, I’ve worked out a few tricks to get myself into a good workout mood, so that I can try to make the best of my session. Whether you’re an athlete, ex-athlete, or just someone who likes (or needs) to exercise, hopefully you can put these tips to good use. We all have days where we need that extra bit of oomph, and while it’s much easier to say “no” to a workout, or to back down on that last set, you’ll always be glad you said yes!

1. Get Some Tunes

I’m convinced music is the ultimate motivator. On several occasions, I’ve switched the music in the gym to an upbeat playlist, or put on some tunes to solo hit, and it has completely changed my attitude. Same exercise/drill, new me!

If I am dreading or procrastinating a workout (and if I’m not already at the gym) I create a new playlist to get me excited to move. I’ve found this works especially well with running and indoor cycling. Plus, if you make a playlist consisting all of songs you’re really pumped about, it’ll give you that extra motivation to push hard throughout the entire workout.

2. Get Moving

A body at rest wants to stay at rest. A body in motion wants to stay in motion. For me, this statement is so true! If I am feeling mentally “blah”, I hop on a piece of cardio equipment for at least 10 minutes to get my heart rate up and sweat a bit. Unless I am truly exhausted (in which case I should just take a day off), this method works every single time. Once my blood gets flowing, my mind snaps into gear, and I am ready to start training.

I’ll usually hop on the bike for 10 minutes for a low impact cardio warm up

3. Get Some Company

Playing an individual sport like squash has its pros and cons. On the upside, you only need one other person to hit with to have a good session. The downside is that in unlike a team sport such as soccer, there is seldom a larger peer/training group to serve as a constant motivator.

When I have a tough or particularly monotonous workout planned, I coerce a friend to do it with me. (I have a handful of trusty friends who will willingly suffer with me). If possible, I schedule the session ahead of time, so that I don’t have the chance to back out last minute. Having someone else there not only gives you some accountability to start the workout on time, but also incentivizes you to stay focused through the entire workout.

Next time you’re feeling indifferent about your workout, try out one (or all) of these tips to get the most out of your training session. Good luck!

Bermuda Exhibition

When I lived in Victoria, I probably couldn’t have told you exactly where Bermuda was on the map. Well, now that I live on the East coast, I can tell you that it’s actually pretty convenient to get to (by plane)! Only an hour and a half plane ride away from New York, Bermuda is just as easy for a weekend getaway as anywhere in the States, yet seems further away and more exotic because it is completely isolated. In other words, if I didn’t have a reason to go to the small country, I probably wouldn’t make it out there.

A couple months ago I was fortunate enough to play a PSA event in Bermuda, which was a lot of fun and a great opportunity. While the PSA event was a blast, I also had to focus on actually playing squash, as opposed to hanging out at the beach and sight seeing. So when Patrick (the promoter and head pro at the BSRA) emailed me at the beginning of May to invite me over for an exhibition, I jumped at the chance. A free trip to Bermuda?! Sign me up.

I arrived late Thursday night (June 7th), and left Monday afternoon (June 11th), which gave us a full three days to pack in lots of beach time and a little squash. Island life runs at such a different pace than New York City, and I welcomed it with very open arms.

Friday

Friday started around 8:30 am with some instant coffee and a veggie egg scramble, before it was time for us to make our way down to the squash club. Despite no previous scooter-driving experience, Nikki and I had rented a little two-seater (like a vespa) for the weekend.  Since she had arrived a little earlier than me on Thursday, Nikki took the driving test – which consisted of driving around in a very tight circle- with the intention of me also getting my license. The original plan was for both of us to test drive the scooter, and determine who was better and would be the designated driver. However, we ended up running a bit behind, so I put my life in her hands and hopped on the back, hoping for the best.

Although we made a couple wrong turns, we managed to arrive at the squash club successfully without any crashes. We met up with some of the other squash players, and helped organize a few things before driving to the iconic Horseshoe Bay beach. After roasting on the beach and chilling in the clear blue water, Micah took us to Pompano Beach club for lunch.

The food at Pompano was good, but the views were the absolute highlight. Micah called it the “best lunch spot in the world”! (Can you tell he’s a true Bermudian?). We hung out there for a little while before going back to the squash club to run a junior clinic around 5 pm. The courts were extremely hot and humid, I began to get worried about playing a match in those conditions the following evening. Fortunately, I was told my court was the most sauna-like of all the courts, and it wouldn’t be so bad for the exhibition.

After the clinic, the squash players and some club members went to a happy hour downtown, followed by a late dinner around 10 pm and some drinks at a club afterwards. I’ll just say that a lot of fun was had!

Saturday

Although we were pretty tired from Friday, Nikki and I got up at a reasonable hour of 9 am, as Micah had organized a boat trip for us around St. David’s, a more remote part of the island. Micah’s friend, Jeffrey, was extremely generous and took us on a 5 hour boat tour to show us reefs and secluded beaches.

Although we all chipped in money, Jeffrey went above and beyond to take us out on the “Honey Badger Express” to show us some great spots for cliff diving (which I did NOT partake in), snorkelling, and swimming. Jeffrey even surprised us with a fresh Hogfish which he BBQd right there on the boat, as well as burgers.

The boat trip was easily the highlight of my trip. I’ve never swam in water so warm and clear, and could have definitely spent another couple days on the boat exploring other parts of the island.

After having an hour or so to relax at home, Nikki, Ian (our homestay) and I headed to the club for our exhibition match. Nikki and I were the third match to be played, which meant we had a bit of time to relax and get ready. The exhibition was only a best of 3 to 11 points, so we tried to make the rallies fun and entertaining. Neither of us had really been playing since the season ended, and were surely both tired from a late night and long day, but still managed to put on a good show… I think!

All four matches were finished by 9 pm, and while most of the crew took to court 5 (the bar!), I decided to make my way home for an early night. I was exhausted and wanted to enjoy our last day in Bermuda without being too tired and hungover. I think that Princeton reunions the weekend before combined with the couple of days of fun in the sun really took it out of me!

Sunday

Sunday was the only day the weather was suspect, and we ended up getting poured on a few times. Rain showers in Bermuda can be weird, because it’ll downpour cats and dogs for 10 minutes and then almost immediately clear up. Even weirder- one part of the mile-wide island might get hit, but the other side could be completely sunny and dry.

Despite the weather, we managed to pack a lot of activities in. We hung out at Tobacco Bay (another less-touristy spot) for a few hours, got some food and ice cream, checked out the caves at the Grotto resort, hit up another beach club, and played some 2 v 2 beach soccer. The quality of the soccer was extremely questionable at best, but it was a fun (and difficult) game.

Nikki and I had a low key Sunday night at home with our billet, Ian, before grabbing ice cream (for the second time that day), doing some emails/catching up with life, and calling it an early night.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I got to know a few other pros I hadn’t really met before, and got to tour around Bermuda with our local squash tour guides! Big thanks to Patrick for setting up the exhibition, and Micah for his organization, especially with the social stuff. Bermuda is such a fun tiny island and I would love to go back!