Junior nationals this weekend. The vortex of youth competition has pulled just about every coach from almost every competitive program in the country into New Haven. There, the good hard lessons of being on court against someone you might not even know, wanting to win, not wanting to embarrass yourself, but perhaps only just holding in the emotional blitz are being learned. Perhaps. The bare, one-on-one nature of squash isn’t always pretty or gracious. But it is never dull, either.
As the draws narrow, the levels of confidence increase, the risks get more audacious and the resources that each player has carried with them into the weekend become more distinctive. It’s a distillation. And by the semi finals, a kind of quiet has begun to settle onto the army of players, coaches and families who are there. Some of that is exhaustion, and some of it is fresh disappointment. But a lot of it is the energy surrounding the final competitors, who are now the focus of so much attention. And it’s a thrilling experience firsthand – well worth the trip even if you don’t have a player in the tournament.
And the thing I love most is that on Sunday night, after they’ve driven home and had something to eat, two of those same kids are out on their home courts, playing with new dedication, doing goofy trick shots, rehashing controversial rallies. Committing themselves to next year’s event and already starting to work on their new game.