SquashTalk>Features>Player Profiles >Mark Talbott

Mark Talbott on the WPSA Tour ca. 1982, (photo courtesy WPSA archives)

Champion and Yale Head Women's Coach Mark Talbott
(note: sections 1 and 4 of this article courtesy Yale University Sports Information, sections 2 & 3 © 2000 Ron Beck)

Squash legend Mark Talbott, the world’s top ranked professional squash player for 12 seasons, begins his second season at the helm of the Yale women's squash program. In his rookie year he guided the Bulldogs to eight victories, including wins over Ivy League rivals Cornell and Brown.

Talbott, who held the No. 1 singles ranking from 1983 to 1995 and is now a member of the top ranked doubles squad, won 70 percent of the tournaments he entered as the World Hardball Champion and the American Softball Champion.

He captained the first USA Team to compete in the Pan Am Games in 1995 and is a three-time (1991, 92, 95) Olympic Athlete of the Year. Talbott, who won the Sharif Khan Award for Sportsmanship in 1991 and the United States Squash Racquets Association (USSRA) President’s Cup in 1989, was the World Professional Squash Association (WPSA) Player of the Year in 1983, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91 and 92. He was the WPSA Man of the Year in 1985 and the 1982 Rookie of the Year.

Talbott has won 170 professional tournaments. The major titles include five North American Opens, six World Professional Championships, three Canadian Opens, two U.S. Opens, three Boston Opens, three S.L. Green Softball Nationals and a pair of North American Open Doubles titles.

Who is this kid?

When Talbott first emerged into the squash scene, first as a junior and then an aspiring amateur, he was good but not great. One of his strengths was his family ties. The Talbott brothers were an incredibly close-knit group, and the support and enthusiasm of his brothers, who accompanied him to many tourneys, always gave him help, support and advice.

Talbott enrolled at Trinity college but wasn't happy with the college regimen. Then he disappeared entirely from the scene - noone knew to where.

As it transpired, he traveled the world. And a long stay in South Africa was pivotal to his squash game. Somehow during that stay, he gained a level of discipline and dedication and understanding of the tactics of the international game that allowed him to rapidly elevate his game.

He returned to the USA, emerged on the scene of the new WPSA pro tour, and the rest is history.

What was it about Mark Talbott?

What was it that made Mark Talbott a champion? It wasn't power, it wasn't dominant attacking or creative shotmaking.

It seemed above all, to be a mental attitude towards the game. This combined a calm, confidence, an understanding of the flow and an amazing patience and accuracy.

Mark often said it was simple - he started winning the events and then he got five rounds of practice a weekend while his challengers got one two or three. Well that may have been part of it - but it was more like an indefineable mental discipline.

This further translated into his defining characteristic - his extremely high level of sportsmanship and his positive manner on the court. And it's for that gift he gave to the game that he will be longest remembered.

The Legacy of Talbott

Talbott, the head of the USSRA nominating committee and the National Director of Junior Development, served as national coach for the 1994 and 1996 Junior Men’s World Team. In 1991, he created the Talbott Squash Academy in Newport, R.I., named the official national training center of the USSRA. It has earned the reputation as the finest junior and adult training center in the world.

Talbott, featured in numerous magazines during his playing career, including twice by Sports Illustrated, will have an office next door to his older brother, Dave, the Yale men’s coach for 15 seasons.

The Talbotts form a family combination that is full of Yale tradition and professional and international playing experience. Their grandfather, Nelson S. Talbott, captained the 1914 Bulldog football team and their father, Doug ‘47, was a member of the Yale swimming team.

Mark Talbott meets Jahangir Khan in New York at the Chivas Regal. (photo courtesy WPSA archives)