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Back in the saddle…

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

This past weekend the New Jersey Squash Club in Lawrenceville hosted the catchily titled New Jersey Open and saw almost 100 promising young players from far and near descend to battle out four skill based divisions. Congratulations to Coach Lefika Ragontse, the force behind the NJ Squash Club, who did an admirable job as Tournament Director in our current “unprecedented times” and ensured a smooth run event on four courts.

Full disclosure, I haven’t coached at a junior event since coffee with a friend was still a dime, or more precisely, last March pre pandemic. This has been the longest absence from the “coalface” for me since, since, since, since, well… cue the Frozen soundtrack and Kristen Bell (?) singing “The First Time in Forever”… You get the picture. Great to see people playing, a little jarring initially with masks, and I am still unused to limits of the number of people in buildings and whatnot… but it was overwhelmingly positive.

A few random observations from the weekend, in no particular order at all…

Wow, kids grow, and quickly. I may have one (maybe two) more grey hairs, but I’m pretty sure I’m still the same height… the kids on the other side have used the pandemic to become a bundle of inches taller… groovy, even if it makes some of you hard to recognize, especially in a mask!

In between game coaching is certainly more awkward in a mask. One doesn’t often consider how important facial expressions are, to encourage, to command attention or simply to assist the player emotionally regulate. Suddenly when you look a little like Darth Vader’s little brother, it ain’t so easy…

Cardio, while being important, is certainly more important in a mask. This is one of the seven most obvious things I suspect I’ve ever blogged, however that doesn’t make it wrong. I accept entirely the whole edict to wear a mask and that health is more important than anything and that, as both players are similarly handicapped, there’s a degree of parity. Having said that… it’s hard work out there and it does leave room for some new and additional tactical conversations. As a good friend of mind (former Manager of the Scottish National Team) used to say, “if you can’t fix it, feature it”…

It’s still a few months until the return of normal ranking events, JCT’s, National Titles and whatnot. I bring this to you to remind you that it’s far enough away to dramatically improve, but close enough that we all probably want to get to work… it’ll be here quicker than it seems!

Overall, the major feeling from players, coaches and parents was a joyful one. Happy to be back, happy to be playing, happy to see each other and optimistic that we get to resume the things that we love. Roll on the second half of the year and the resumption of the junior tour.

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