The famous Australian writer Clive James famously remarked “the inevitable effect of a biographer’s hindsight is to belittle the subject’s foresight.”  In much the same way, any remarks post event frequently act to state what is now the glaringly obvious, but which was perhaps not quite definitively advocated earlier…

Let’s start with Woody Allen and his observation that nine tenths of success is showing up.  it’s cold and flu season people, and we had several of our best and brightest having to withdraw from the event at the last minute and several more in MA who were well and truly under the weather.  Sometimes bad luck is bad luck.  But I would like to encourage everyone to a little more careful at this time of year. Washings hands, avoiding classmates who are obviously ill and generally being more vigilant in all aspects of your interactions.  No amount of good training can get you past illness, so let’s play the odds and be careful.  Shout out to our withdrawals and a reminder that the next JCT comes up January 18 – time to recover, time to prepare, but no time to dawdle – and you can show everyone what you’re made of then!

It is increasingly apparent that the overall level of junior squash continues to rise.  This is a statement which almost defines the word “cliche” – an opinion which is overused and potentially portrays a lack of original thought.  That doesn’t make it wrong however.  Up and down the draws, I was impressed, particularly in the girls divisions where the overall level of athleticism, ball control and grit were admirable.

I would hesitate to guarantee that the top juniors are better than previous iterations of the event, however I am certain that there are more “good average” players.  Draws were deeper, and the sheer number of well prepared young women was remarkable.  To my eyes, a halcyon era and a call to action for our Scozzie girls crew, who are already remarkably dedicated, that they need to further raise the bar.

My next observation was a respectful warning that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Don’t assume a players competency by nationality or manner of dress.  As the French might say “it is easy to lie when you come from afar” (editors note: I may have made that up) – which may sound a little unduly harsh, but is a simple way of pointing out that almost everyone is tempted to assume imports and visitors have a degree of competency which may or may not be matched by the facts.  In the 1990’s, if you were an Australian playing in Europe, the locals would assume you were a ninja.  I took great delight then, as now, in pointing out that Australians had great players, and at that stage almost half of the top 20 in the world, however they also had lousy ones and a passport was no guarantee of squash pedigree.  They may be from far away, they may be excellent players, however let’s be careful with causation and correlation – you get champions and chumps from all over the world.

Robert E. Howard wrote the “Conan the Barbarian” – and was in interesting author, writing what may be called “great” pulp fiction, which is considered by some, but not by me, as being a curious oxymoron.  My favorite Conan quote has always been “if a man is strong enough he takes his customs with him”.  Honesty and integrity are paramount and integral to our program and our sport.  We call our balls down or out.  We clear the ball.  We play hard, but fair – both important.  We keep our own house in order, we control our own behaviors and not become involved in others nonsense.  We stay in character even when some others at the Open do not.  We remember this always.

Final thought of the day… “A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for”.

Congratulations to all 25 S2ozzies who participated in the Open, a brave decision in as much as four venues and a sizable trip from Philly make it logistically challenging.  Similarly the event is more than trifle daunting competitively, with 750 players from all over the world.  The Open however gives us two excellent opportunities to improve as squash players.  First and foremost it gives us an opportunity to play new players and test ourselves against a wider range of opponents than we might normally encounter.  Secondly, and just as important, we can learn so much by observing, we can learn what to do, sometimes what not to do, but the sheer size of the event, difference in players and general brouhaha is a priceless and inspiring opportunity for all players.  Maybe we can all plan to descend “en masse” next year… 🙂

Bigger things ahead…