Carol Weymuller: Squash &
May 21, 2007, By Rob Dinerman on SquashTalk.com, Independent News; © 2007 SquashTalk LLC, all Rights in all media reserved.
COACHED AT HEIGHTS CASINO, GENESSEE VALLEY CLUB AND, CURRENTLY, HOBART
|Carol Weymuller (Photo © Debra Tessier)|
This highly decorated and tremendously popular squash icon recently completed her 12th season at the coaching reins of the men’s squash team at Hobart College, whom she guided to consecutive top-12 season-end College Squash Association rankings (No. 11 in 2004, including wins over Brown and Amherst in the postseason tournament, and No. 12 in 2005) during the early 2000’s as one of the very few women in intercollegiate history to achieve such coaching success with a men’s team.
Carol Weymuller’s praiseworthy Hobart coaching record, however, as well as the competitive marks she made first in tennis (including three 1960’s Orange Bowl Junior titles, membership on several Wightman Cup rosters and a spot in the main-draw of the first-ever U. S. Open at Forest Hills in 1968) and later in squash (highlighted by national rankings in the second half of the top ten throughout the late 1970’s and membership on four U. S. squads that competed in the biennial World Team Championships from 1977-83) will always take a back seat to what would become her and husband Fred’s foremost career legacy, namely the junior program that they formed, nurtured and made into a colossus at the Heights Casino Club in Brooklyn Heights during the 1970’s.
|Carol Weymuller facing legendary Heather McKay in 1979. (Photo © SquashTalk archive )|
This latter phenomenon was destined to transform both the culture of the club itself (which, like virtually all of its counterparts had previously been oriented primarily to the needs/interests of its adult members rather than their offspring) and, more broadly, the entire squash environment in this country. Prior to 1970, when Carol Weymuller began her decade-long tenure at Heights Casino, initially solely as a tennis pro assisting Fred, whom she married in 1972, Philadelphia had been the only area in the United States where any formal program to introduce youngsters to squash was in existence, primarily at the Merion Cricket Club, which unsurprisingly produced a majority of the players who won the U. S. National Junior and Men’s championships during the pre-1970’s period.
Against this entrenched, decades-long backdrop, enormous credit must be given to the Weymullers for having to a major degree fueled the squash boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s by leading the way and helping provide the manpower needed to fill the high-school and college varsities, tournament draw sheets, court bookings and league rosters that played such an important role in the sport’s dramatic expansion. Beginning with only a handful of somewhat reluctant teenagers, the Weymullers through word of mouth swiftly built up the program to the point where at its late-1970’s peak there were approximately 150 grade- and high-school participants involved in some 250 squash/tennis sessions every week (the Weymullers encouraged their charges to be, as they termed it, “bilingual” in racquet sports), overloading the venerable club’s two singles courts (and two tennis courts) to the point where the Weymullers had to adapt by overseeing early-morning sessions from 6:30 – 8:00 every weekday before school along with the afternoon lessons/clinics which often went well into the evening hours.
|Alicia McConnell, one of Carol's most famous proteges (here pictured against Nina Porter) , won the Weymuller WISPA event seven times. (Photo © SquashTalk archive )|
Accomplishing this feat required the vision to see where squash was potentially headed, the physical energy to arrive at the club by 6:00 a.m. and often not leave until as late as 11:00 at night (not to mention devoting entire weekends to junior tournaments), the diplomatic acumen to persuade the adult members to sacrifice a fair amount of their own access to the courts and the charisma to inspire the kids themselves to devote their energy to the tennis and squash programs that the Weymullers instituted. Fred and Carol Weymuller took pro-active stances on other fronts as well during that time: they were among the first to foresee the eventual advent and takeover of the softball game, even during the hard-ball-dominated 1970’s, and in 1979 they took six talented Casino juniors to Australia to compete for six weeks at a time when an excursion of this nature would have been unthinkable in the ensconced American squash environment.
Inspired by that adventure, less than a year later Carol Weymuller took the first American junior girls team over to Sweden to play in the unofficial first World Junior Girls Team Championships, which, shockingly, the U. S. won, led by future USSRA Hall Of Famer Alicia McConnell, one of the most gifted Weymuller protégés, who took the Individual crown. McConnell would then lose in the team final to Katja Sauerwald, the player she had defeated a few days earlier in the Individual final, but her teammates Kathy Castle (now better known as Kat Van Blarcom) and Karen Kelso came through with victories to give the Americans a 2-1 win over Sweden in the team competition.
|Berkeley Belknap (r), another Weymuller protege. (Photo © Debra Tessier)|
McConnell was perhaps the most prominent of, as noted, the many dozens of Heights Casino Weymuller “alumni/ae” to achieve noteworthy distinction in squash in college and beyond: others (but by no means all) on this list include Harvard ’85 captain David Boyum, who rose as high as No. 7 on the WPSA men’s pro tour and reached the finals of the 1983 U. S. Nationals and the 1990 North American Open; McConnell’s older sister, Patrice, a three-time Princeton captain; Boyum’s younger sister Ingrid, the Harvard ’86 and ‘87 captain and a Junior national champion; the Belknap sisters Lee, Berkeley (’91 Intercollegiate Individual winner) and Mary, captains at Franklin & Marshall, Yale and Princeton respectively in the early 1990’s; Tom and Kerry Clayton, the only brother/sister duo ever to be captains of their respective Yale varsities in the same year (1988-89); 1985 Intercollegiate Individual champion Mary Hulbert; Yale ’92 captain Garrett Frank; and Eric Vlcek, a six-time U. S. National Doubles champion.
| ... In
short- I consider Carol like my second mom. I spent many of
my high school weekends with her traveling to and from squash
tournaments . She
pushed and stretched me to do my best but also comforted me when I needed it. She would meet me at any time of day to play- at lunch time, at the crack of dawn, late at night. She always had fun/ challenging drills for us to do. When I look back on my time with her and Fred I think of not only all of the hard work and training but also of all of the laughs and hugs we shared. She is an amazing woman and leader and should be a role model for all budding squash coaches.
- Blair Irwin
By the time that McConnell and her mates had accomplished their heroics in Sweden, the Weymuller era at Heights Casino was fast approaching its conclusion, but Carol Weymuller’s career as a player/administrator/coach was still very much in its prime. She would serve as team captain of the U. S. squads that performed in the World Team Championships in Toronto in ’81 and in Australia in ’83; as President of the Women’s Division of the USSRA from 1981-83 at a crucial time in the wake of the merger between the USSRA and the United States Women’s Squash Racquets Association (USWSRA) a few years earlier; as Tournament Chairman of annual pro women’s events first at Heights Casino, which named that tourney in her honor in 1981 and which continues to this day on the WISPA circuit, and then in Rochester, both of which became important stops on the WASPA women’s pro circuit during the mid-1980’s; and as coach of the World Junior Team in Ireland in 1985.
By this latter juncture, she and Fred were well along in the 13 years they spent (from 1980-93) at the Genesee Valley Club in Rochester, where they reprised their Brooklyn mission and similarly established a solid junior program that likewise produced a number of prep-school and college team standouts (among them current USSRA CEO Kevin Klipstein; Princeton star Blair Irwin, who went undefeated in dual-meet play in her college career as a prominent member of two late-1990’s Tiger Howe Cup titles-winning teams; the Gabel brothers, Chris, Jon and Harrison; Junior national champion and Yale standout Whitney Stewart; and ’06 Princeton captain Dent Wilkens) as well as a host of enthusiastic recreational players.
While the Weymullers were thus fully immersed in the promotion of squash (and winning numerous accolades for doing so, most importantly the President’s Cup that the USSRA awarded them in 1994 in grateful recognition of their years of service, as well as the Achievement Bowl and the Feron’s National Sportsmanship Trophy that Carol Weymuller received in 1980 and 1988 respectively), Carol Weymuller was also maintaining her long relationship with the regional and national tennis associations as well, especially her 37-year association with the USPTA (whose women’s annual tourney she won in 1973 and whose Women’s Committee she chaired during the early 1970’s) and the Eastern USPTA, which gave her a lifetime achievement award a few years ago. She has coached the varsity tennis team as well as the men’s squash team throughout the dozen years of her tenure at Hobart.
|Carol, on hand to present the eponymous trophy in Brooklyn. (Photo © Heights Casino )|
Now 58 years old and showing no signs of slowing down, Weymuller continues to return every year to Brooklyn Heights to personally present the Carol Weymuller Cup to the winner of the tournament that she and Fred started nearly 40 years ago; her appearance is still a much-anticipated highlight of the weekend, which has been a softball event since 1993 and which draws most of the top women players in the world. An involvement in racquet sports that began when at age 10 she was urged to hit tennis balls as a form of physical therapy while recovering from a fractured arm has metamorphosed into a lifetime commitment that has significantly influenced the configuration of American squash while bolstering the careers of literally hundreds of grateful racquet-wielding athletes, while blazing a junior-squash trail upon which dozens of clubs throughout the country have wisely decided to model themselves.