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Some Game!
…University recruiting…English Open

Global Gallery, Aug
6, 2004

Martin Bronstein, writes this month from his
home in London.

© 2004 All rights
reserved. photos © 2004, Suashtalk, D. Tessier,

I’ve
just finished reading an eye-popping book. Maybe to North American readers
who have been to university PLAYING THE GAME by Chris Lincoln would bring
no surprises, but to everybody else it introduces and explains in detail,
a surreal world.

In Britain universities simply don’t
give scholarships, grants, loans or summer jobs to students who happen
to be good at sports. In Britain, you go to university and if you are
any good at a sport, you play for the university. There might even be
a coach, but don’t bet on it.

In the States, sporting success is crucial
to the reputation of the university. To that end a huge coaching staff
(any sport) spends more time scouting and recruiting than they do actually
coaching. (That, by the way is a quote from the book.) At the end of their
workday, the coaches go home and make a dozen phone calls to prospects
all over North America, trying to butter them up until the legal time
arrives when they can make offers. The competition between the Ivy League
outfits is fierce and now NESCAC and other universities are muscling in.

Chris Lincoln has done his homework
and has managed to talk to an awful lot of people involved in this ‘game’,
which is more complicated than chess, bridge, backgammon and Texas Hold
‘em combined. Many of them were surprisingly open about the ways
the rules are bent. The rules governing the recruiting process are labyrinthine
even down to how many phone calls a coach may make each week to any given
prospect.

The part of the book that will fascinate
squash players is Chapter 11, Better Than Harvard, Princeton & Yale.
It relates how Paul Assaiante, the Trinity squash coach, took his university
from an also-ran squash force to six straight national men’s squash
championships. In those six years they chalked up a Jahangiresque winning
streak with a 108-0 record. And it all happened because the president
of Trinity, Evan Dobell, whose main job was fund-raising, wanted to walk
into boardrooms all over the country and say “We beat Harvard, Princeton
and Yale”.

So Assaiante was given the budget and
he recruited from not just the US and Canada but from the rest of the
world with England, India and Egypt supplying some superb talent. (Paul
was also the US men’s team coach and so he had a head start having
participated in many world championships and thereby getting a very good
handle on both seniors and juniors from around the world.) Mind you, he
got some hard looks and harsh words from the Eastern seaboard snobs and
questions like ‘And how many of your top six speak English?’
were not uncommon. And yes, Trinity did ‘help’ those elite
squash players. But the results spoke for themselves and the influx of
foreigners (everybody’s doing it now) has raised the university
game to new levels.

Sometimes Lincoln has put in too much
detail to soak up, but if your son or daughter has a talent in any sport,
this book is a must read. For we Brits though, it produces a real shock
to the system.

[Playing The Game by Chris
Lincoln, published by Nomad Press. Available
from Squashtalk
$16.95}


RICKETTS RETURNS

The
good news is that Anthony Ricketts, the former world number six, is finally
getting back to the circuit after eight months out. He’ll be marking
his return at the Mamut English Open later this month. He was felled by
a knee ailment last December just at a point when the Ricketts express
was charging up the rankings, when Ricketts was controlling that volcanic
temper of his and demonstrating to all and sundry that he could not only
hit the ball hard, he knew when to defend and when to attack. His fitness
level was such that he could stay with anybody in the game.

It was a cruel time for the knee injury.
We hope his return is more successful than that of countryman Dan Jenson,
another super all round player who, in January 1999 had worked his way
up to world number five, ready to challenge those above him: Peter Nicol,
Jonathon Power, Ahmed Barada and Paul Johnson, when he was beset with
injury. Now, five years later Jenson is still fighting to get back to
the top but after some fierce campaigning and being forced to fight his
way through qualifying he is back up to number 21, But next year Jenson
will reach his 30th birthday and those five years out may just be too
much of a gap for him to attain his true position in the sport.

But at least he is still playing.
Peter Marshall, whose fight with chronic fatigue syndrome is well documented,
never recovered and after a dreadful four year battle finally had give
the sport up. Now he is coaching and Irish number one John Rooney is finally
buckling down under Peter’s guidance and producing results that
he should have produced four years ago.


TOPLESS IN BRIGHTON

Sadly Alan Thatcher’s attempt
to bring squash to Brighton Beach on England’s south coast, was
left naked and open to the elements when the company contracted to supply
the marquee to cover the fourwall glass court failed to deliver. So a
brave new tournament for both men and women had to be cancelled at the
very last moment, always an expensive operation.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen
next year, Thatcher and his colleagues have ordered their own ‘dome’
with transparent sidewalls, which will be a first. We wish his brave attempt
good luck in 2005.


THE MEXICAN UPRISING

Are Canadian and US bigwigs in the squash
world walking around with worried looks? Have Mexican restaurants been
boycotted in North America? Are heads rolling in the governing bodies
after the shock results of the last Pan Am Games when the only gold won
by the powerful North American countries went to the American women’s
team? Mexico put on a strong showing and even Argentina took home gold.

Now I know that Canada did not send
its top men, but why not? There was not a whole lot happening on the PSA`scene
and I’m sure Power, Ryding, Razik et al would have been happy with
some match practise while bringing some glory to Canada (who can no longer
count on their hockey team to beat the world). There was not one Canadian
man in the second round. Ditto their top women.

Meanwhile Julian Illingworth, Chris
Gordon and Preston Quick were all eliminated before the semis. Meredith
Quick managed to make the final but got beaten by Samantha Teran.

I suppose the real question,
is what is happening in Mexico, a nation not know for being a hotbed of
softball squash.

CONFUSION, NOTHING,
BUT CONFUSION.

My apologies to Peter Monkhouse who
runs a huge British direct mail and internet business (SportDiscount)
selling sport/squash gear. His electronic biz is called e-Squash and I
got this confused with iSQUASHmedia and iSQUASHmarketing which is Paul
Walters’ attempt to take over the world. (Anything with “i”
in front of it is Walters. Except, of course, I Claudius).

Peter pointed out that Walters
has nothing to do with e-squash whatsoever. Which is a relief.


ENGLISH OPEN OPENS THE SEASON

Next week I shall be heading north to Sheffield for the Mamut English
Open, which not only opens the new season, but is the first real tournament
for many a moon. In fact, it seems so long since I’ve been to a
proper knock out tournament, I have taken to reading the rule book in
bed at nights. More confusion.. However my reports from Sheffield will
start on Wednesday. All on SQUASHTALK. SO REMEMBER TO LOG ON.