Two consecutive national championships. Ditto for Howe Cup titles. But the women’s squash team has no intention of resting on its laurels.
During winter break, the Elis traveled across the pond to England, where they trained with renowned international squash coaches and played several exhibition matches in preparation for their upcoming season.
In just 10 days, the Elis (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) endured a grueling 18 practices as they traveled to three towns with famous squash clubs. Each guest instructor stressed different skills and strategies to ensure that the two-time national champions are ready to face Williams and Dartmouth when competition resumes at the Brady Squash Center this weekend.
Players said they thought the trip was a success because it exposed them to various coaching styles and new feedback on their games.
“At all three places we trained with coaches who have also trained world champions,” Elisabeth Hill ’08 said. “They helped us improve defensive, deceptive and strategic aspects of our play.”
The Bulldogs’ tour included stops at Chingford, Nottingham and Pontefract, where they had morning drills and instruction before competing against English players of all talent levels.
In addition to technical fine-tuning, team members also focused on mental preparation by setting personal and team goals for the rest of the season. Squash players compete individually, but Amy Gross ’06 said they must also focus on their teammates’ personal objectives.
“We need to understand each other’s goals, which are not necessarily the same,” she said. “I think it’s very important to have even a small one that everyone wants to achieve as well. It builds success and commitment in the long run.”
The tour exposed the Elis to squash beyond the collegiate circuit in a nation where squash is as familiar a sport as baseball and football is to Americans.
“England is the home of squash,” Yale head coach Dave Talbott said. “It’s fun going to a country where it’s a viable sport. It’s not an elitist game in most other countries besides the United States. In England, every town has a club and everyone plays. It’s fun for our kids to see the sport in that light.”
The training trip begins a hectic two months for the Bulldogs, who return to home action for nearly all of January. Last year they shut out Dartmouth, 9-0, and Williams is still looking to build a solid squash program. These matches will serve as tune-ups for tougher contests later in the season, such as Trinity on Jan. 25.
“We want to start off strong,” Gross said. “I’m pretty confident about both of the matches. We hope we’ll see how our training has benefited us.”