Mark Talbott a Stanford Cardinal
Coach of Reigning National Women's Champs Assumes New Challenge on the West Coast
Newport, RI — SquashTalk has learned that Mark Talbott, 44, the greatest American squash player in history and for the past six years the head coach of the Yale women's team that rapidly improved under his tutelage and won the 2003-2004 Ivy League and Howe Cup national team championships, has resigned his position at Yale effective July 1st, and will immediately take on the role of Director of Squash at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
His older brother Dave, a 21 year veteran of the Yale Squash program, has come to agreement with Yale under which he will add the Women’s Coaching job, at least for the next season, to his long-time role as Yale Men’s Coach.
Mark leaves in his brother’s care a program that moved from sixth in the 1998 season to first in the 2004 season, went undefeated last season, boasts the national intercollegiate champion (Michelle Quibell) and is packed with underclassmen.
In the letter he recently wrote to the Board members of the Skillman Associates (Friends Of Yale Squash) apprising them of his decision, Talbott made it clear that he felt that he needed to make the move to the west coast to provide an essential change for the upbringing of his children, both of whom are currently dealing with health issues.
BOOST FOR WEST COAST SQUASH
Stanford club squash programs, heretofore solid but unremarkable and mainly
focused on beating Cal Berkeley, can be expected to improve rapidly. Stanford’s
men's team was handily defeated by the Yale women's varsity during a west-coast
swing last winter. Now with Talbott's quiet insistence on excellence and
proven ability to recruit, and with Stanford’s tradition of athletic/academic
prominence, the Cardinal have a very real opportunity to become the first
major intercollegiate squash power not based on the east coast. The Stanford
move may encourage the developing University of Washington club program
to foray into intercollegiate play as well as put some new energy into
the long time program at Cal Berkeley, and the new program at University
of Utah. It will remain to be seen whether Stanford sees fit to elevate
squash from a club to varsity sport under the tenure of their new all-star
In making this significant career move, Talbott will be opening a new chapter on playing and coaching careers that are resplendent with success. After winning the U. S. Juniors in '78 and spending the next two years playing the international game overseas, Talbott returned to the U. S. in time for the opening of the 1980-81 World Pro Squash Association (WPSA) hardball circuit, in which he finished ninth, won WPSA Rookie Of The Year honors and gave signs of what was to come by defeating top-five-ranked Clive Caldwell, Michael Desaulniers and perennial No. 1 Sharif Khan to win a late-season tour stop in Washington. His break-out 1982-83 season featured an appearance in all 17 ranking tournament finals (losing only two of them) and launched a full decade as the No. 1 North American hardball player during the peak competitive period of that version of the game.
Highlighting this extended period were a sweep of the four Grand Slam events (the Boston, Canadian and North American Opens and the WPSA Championship) in 1988-89; his title runs in the '83, '86, '89, '91 and '92 editions of the North American Open, considered at that time the Wimbledon of squash; the four consecutive WPSA Championship crowns he won from 1987-90, the last of which constituted his 100th career WPSA ranking tournament win, a figure that no one else has even approached; his epic 18-16 in the fifth final-round conquest of 10-time British Open champion Jehangir Khan in the '84 Boston Open; several S. L. Green U. S. national softball titles and membership on a half-dozen U. S. international teams, on most of which he played at No. 1; and the several-dozen professional doubles tournaments he won as a top right-wall partner, first of Peter Briggs's in the mid-1980's and later of Gary Waite's in the late 1990's.
By that time, and although he was already involved in running the Talbott Squash Academy from his and wife Michelle's home base in Rhode Island, Talbott had in the autumn of '98 been appointed the head women's coach at Yale, moving to New Haven and joining his older brother Dave, who was beginning his 16th year as the men's coach. While his wife, an internationally acclaimed cellist, continued her musical career as a performer in Southern New England, the younger Talbott gradually transformed what during the several years before his arrival had been a middle-of-the-road squad into one of the contending teams in the Ivy League. Top recruits were eager to seize upon the chance to be coached by such a squash icon, and after barely falling short in a 5-4 defeat in the '03 Harvard meet to determine that year's Ivy League champion, the Yale women swept the board this past season.
It was a triumphant culmination to Talbott's six years of dedicated service and seemingly the start of a several-years Yale run, especially given the loss of three of the best Trinity players, including Helal, to graduation.
In letters sent out this past week to the Board of Directors of the Skillman Associates (Friends Of Yale Squash) by both Mark Talbott and Skillman Associates President Charles Kingsley, it was clearly noted that Talbott's decision to leave was not in any way related to any dissatisfaction with his employment at Yale; indeed, Talbott has characterized this past season coaching the championship squad as "the greatest experience I have ever had in squash"---a remarkable statement in light of his glorious playing career---and it is known that Thomas Beckett, Yale's Athletic Director, went way beyond the normal efforts in trying to convince Talbott to stay at Yale.
Talbott has already moved his family back to Rhode Island, where they still have their home and where he will complete the several remaining weeks of junior squash camps at the renowned Talbott Squash Academy before his planned move west early this autumn.
That family tradition of stellar citizenship and achievement at Yale was significantly enriched and enhanced by Mark Talbott's tenure there throughout the past half-dozen years, during which he became known for playing with his charges at any time of the day or evening that their hectic school schedules allowed, and during which the teams he led became known not only for their on-court excellence but also for their sportsmanship and their dedication to the program. Though Talbott has made the painful decision to leave behind the formidable program he largely created for the noblest of reasons and with the full support of a Yale squash community that understands the need for any responsible parent to put the highest priority on his children's health and well-being, there is no doubt that his loss will be sorely felt in New Haven this upcoming season and for years to come.
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