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!

Queen City Open (Regina) and Texas Open (Houston)

Queen City Open

My final two events of the 5-tournament road trip were tough. My back was still bugging me a lot, and my movement was very compromised. Every morning I would struggle to get out of bed, let alone have a reasonable practice hit. Fortunately, as I’d move and warm up throughout the day, my back would feel a bit better, and after a good warmup and an Aleve, I’d be able to compete without too much pain. Funnily enough, even though the pain wasn’t as acute, my body still wouldn’t let me move in certain ways. In particular, any balls to the backhand and anything low were really hard to retrieve. My reaction time was also really slow, which made me feel like a bit of a boat out there on the court (ie. slow to turn).

Playing Jaycee in my first round match

One positive takeaway was that I had to be conscientious and smart about my tactics. I found that cross courts often got me in trouble, so I kept a large percentage of shots straight down the wall. In addition, since I was hesitant to cover the front, I had to be careful and tactful about when to go short.

About to serve to Nikki (Quarters in Regina at the Queen City Open)

My first match vs Jaycee was tense. was a bit nervous about my back going into the match, but after I realized I probably wasn’t going to make it worse, I tried to settle in. Jaycee played well, and I managed to win in 4 games. Aside from one game where I stepped up on the T, I was pretty passive for most of the match and let a lot of balls go to the back.

In the quarters, I drew Nikki Todd, a Canadian teammate. It had been about a year and a half since we’d played in competition, and knew I’d have to bring my A game. Also, as a Regina native, she was the home favourite. I think I played about as well as I could have given my back, but wish that I had been more confident to attack short. Nikki is very quick, and I was very aware of her ability to counter attack off of my weak short shots. Instead of giving her that opportunity, I played a lot of balls to the back- when in doubt, a tight, straight volley helped keep me from scrambling. The games were all close and competitive, but I ended up going down 3-0.

Aside from losing, Regina was pretty fun. My billets were great, and I really enjoyed getting to know the Queen City committee members.

All of the athletes participating in the Queen City Open

A few of the pros were also asked to work with some of the local juniors in a Saturday morning clinic. They were all very enthusiastic!

Novum Energy Texas Open

After the Queen City Open concluded, I flew to Houston for a 25k in some warmer weather. I can’t tell you how nice it was to finish off with a tournament in a summer-like conditions!

The first two nights Danielle and I stayed with a billet, Melissa. She and her family were incredibly welcoming, and we were sad to leave to go to the hotel! Since us athletes cover our own accommodation (and transportation), we are always grateful when the tournament promoter covers hotel rooms or arranges homestays. In this case, billets were arranged for qualifying dates, and hotel was covered for main draw players. I was in the main draw, but arrived during qualification, and was therefore put up with Melissa for a couple nights until the hotel bonus kicked in.

My first match was against #4 seed, Mayar Hany of Egypt. Mayar had just been in Regina for the Queen City Open as well, and had won the entire event. I knew I could look at this one of two ways: 1) Mayar could be confident because she was playing so well, or 2) she could be very, very tired from having played so many tough matches. I disregarded both thoughts, and just tried to focus on my own game.

I think Mayar was half asleep in the first game, and I won it narrowly 12-10. After that, it was as though I had awoken the sleeping giant, and I proceed to tank the next game, losing 11-0. Yikes. I don’t think I’ve ever been bageled before (ie. losing 11-0) in competition, and that got in my head a bit. The next two games were better, but I didn’t feel as though I was hitting the ball well, and was always on the back foot. She hit some ridiculously good boasts to the front left corner, that I just couldn’t retrieve (partly limited because of my back, but they were also great shots).

It was a frustrating match, because I felt that if I had played well and been healthy, the score could have been different, but at the same time I was relieved to be done with tournaments. After 5 tournaments in a row, my mind, and especially my body were in desperate need of rest.

Overall, Houston was a good experience. I really enjoyed meeting the promoters and sponsors of the event, and hope to return soon! The squash community in Houston is very enthusiastic, and I see great potential for either an urban program or simply more tournaments. The complex that we played in (the Metropolitan club) was right downtown, and was huge. Immense workout facility (weights, treadmills, basketball court, crossfit studio), as well as 5 squash courts, probably a dozen tennis courts, and a restaurant/bar. The saying “everything is bigger in Texas” is true!